It's been suggested that Ministry Shares be cut in half to encourage congregational growth (“More Dreaming,” Dec. 2015). This proposal seems to me to arise out of a fear that our shared resources are scarce and insufficient, rather than from the confidence that we have been abundantly blessed. Does the payment of Ministry Shares really hold congregations back? Must we choose between efficiently funding denominational ministries or growing our local congregations?
In my opinion, such a cut would result either in a proportional cut in the scope and impact of our denominational ministries or an increase in fundraising costs to make up the difference. We've prided ourselves in having a very efficient way to fund denominational ministries, so why decrease that efficiency? Let's be creative in communicating and funding our vision so that congregations don't have to resort to cutting effective denominational ministries in order to accomplish their local vision.
Here’s an example from my own church, a small congregation in upstate New York.
For much of its life, my congregation struggled to pay even the reduced Ministry Shares for small churches. We would budget for an amount below that reduced share; whatever surplus funds were available at the end of the year went toward paying our Ministry Shares. That was an approach based on fear and a belief in scarcity.
Two years ago we decided to budget and spend from a perspective of abundance. We committed to paying 50 percent of our reduced Ministry Shares midway through the year and the remaining 50 percent in December. We decided to trust that God would provide rather than worry that we wouldn't have enough left over at the end of the year to meet our commitment. Both years we've met our Ministry Shares obligation to the denomination as well as being able to fund our local ministries. And we’ve left fear and scarcity behind. The decision to trust God's abundant provision and pay our Ministry Shares obligations was an important step in freeing our church for further growth, not an obstacle to growth.
At least two other factors have likely contributed to my congregation's ability to meet its Ministry Shares commitments. First, our moderate level of indebtedness (total debt payments are under 7 percent of our annual budget). Second, nearly one-quarter of our budget income is received consistently each month through electronic funds transfer, allowing us to more accurately project income and plan payment of expenses.
While each congregation likely has different factors that may affect its ability to pay its Ministry Shares, I hope that my congregation's experience will encourage others to rethink their attitude toward funding denominational ministry.