Monday, December 20, 2010


"Our church is going through a very difficult time.  We have an Endowment Fund - established some time in the 1960's when the church was flourishing.  As with many churches we are seeing a decrease in the number of members - death and relocation mostly.
We've received some new members and for them we are grateful.
We have two full time pastors who refer to themselves as co-pastors.  They have been instrumental in attracting new members and the youth are coming!
The problem is that we (still) have members who were here during the affluent years.  Then, the membership was composed of the wealthy and the locally renown.
That group of members believe the Endowment Fund is not growing as it should be but is instead being relied upon to grow our church (aiding in community outreach, food pantry, Christmas baskets, youth work opportunities within the church during the summer months, youth mission trips, etc.).  This group believes the Endowment Fund money is forbidden fruit and not to be used even when the need is evident!
We all realize that money earmarked or set aside for certain purposes should not be touched.  However, is it truly "Christian" to keep an Endowment Fund and never use it (?) especially when the local poverty level is nearly twenty-five percent?
I'm so sad for this ugly turn of events.  Unfortunately, if our co-pastors are forced out, I will be leaving too.  I simply cannot worship in a church that worships money."

One thing I thought of when reading this email was a brief article in The Presbyterian Outlook from last year, "Tips for Taking Hold of Financial Distress."

I find this a perpetually recurring a tough question for churches.  How can we pay for X (our building, our staff, our denominational per capita dues, mailing newsletters) when there is hunger in our communities, when there is cholera in Haiti, when there are human rights abuses around the world and here at home?  Well, sometimes we do hold too tightly to things we could/should let go.  But we do need to be careful about dismissing expenditures as unnecessary.

Because there's also a truth that some of the "less important" stuff goes into what makes us feel like - and function as - a community.  My husband works for a faith-based organization.  Every fall we used to have a company-wide picnic with entertainment, catered food, bounce houses for the kids, etc.  Until one year there was Hurricane Katrina and the fellowship committee decided that the money usually spent on the picnic could better be spent aiding the people and communities devastated by the storm.

How could that possibly have been a wrong decision?

But it set a precedent - there's always a pressing need - and the company picnic is no longer the tradition.  Since that time, company moral and team spirits have been plummeting, turn over has increased.  Is this coincidence?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

It's a tough question.  Your thoughts?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While endowment funds can be used for good and faithful purposes, they too often become the "embalming fluid" of the church. I often wonder what Jesus will say if he returns and our churches are banking large sums of money that could have been used towards proclaiming the Good News and meeting human needs.