November 26, 2016
The events of this fall brought several surprises. One of the surprises that caught thousands of people off guard had to do with who was elected president. Virtually every poll called the election wrong. Those doing the polling were all caught off guard and had missed something important.
So it is with this treasurer. As recently as the October 21 meeting of the Board of Directors of the Ohio Conference, I was projecting a future that allowed the Board to make long-term plans for all of its ministries including the camping program. As a result of my encouragement, they made some decisions that built upon the projections that I presented. What I did not know was that within the next two weeks that two associations — in an effort to balance their own budgets in this time of declining resources — would change their pattern of forwarding of OCWM monies to the conference in a significant way.
The end result was that the conference will receive $55,000 less in 2017 for its use than it is projected to receive in 2016. This loss, added to the loss from 2015, effectively means a 20% drop in monies to use for ministry in the Ohio Conference since 2015.
This past week I informed the Executive Committee that I am forecasting a deficit for 2017 of around $54,000. Since staffing costs are 73% of our budget, if we are to balance the budget it almost surely means a reduction in staffing. I also informed that same committee, that any further reduction in staffing will very likely seriously compromise our ability to run the summer camp operation. What they are aware of but many in the pews may not know is that, due to past reductions done to balance the budget, our total administrative staff now consists of the following:
• Interim Conference Minister, John Gantt (Full-time)
• Conference Administrator, Pam Brown (Full-time)
• Minister for Networking, Resourcing and Creativity, Nicole Havelka (Half-time)
• Financial Secretary, Carolyn Willis (Contracted for about ¼ time)
There are not many options open for balancing the budget based upon the expected income without dramatically changing how the conference ministries are currently managed and funded. It is clear to me that the Board of Directors will need to discuss the implications of the projected deficit at its December 9 meeting.
Lest some think that this is only a conference issue, this issue also profoundly effects the national setting as well. In an effort to balance our budgets at the association and conference levels, we periodically adjust upward the percentage of OCWM dollars that we need to retain to do so. As we have done so, the chart below shows what has happened over time to what flows to the national setting. I present this chart not in an effort to blame any part of the church for our present reality, but I offer it so that we can use the information in it to challenge us to think creatively of how me might all best serve the Beloved Community that God is calling us to be in the future. All of the numbers below are the percent of OCWM dollars used by either the associations, the conference or the national setting.
As the Treasurer of the Ohio Conference, I do have a vested interest in the work of the conference. But as a local church pastor who greatly appreciates the work of the national setting and what it has to offer to those of us in the local churches, I am challenged by what I see has happened over time. If I am challenged, my hope is that others might be challenged as well.