Faithful Finances & Sacred Stewardship

My Dear CCCA Congregations, Clergy, and Faithful Members,

Of one thing I am absolutely and unequivocally assured: the God of the Ages who creates, redeems, and sustains us, will make a way for the Church, the very Body of Christ, to extend the mission and ministry of Christ to all the world until that time when God chooses to bring ultimate redemption to creation.  Now, exactly *how* that mission and ministry will be fulfilled is not known, by anyone, and will always be a partnership, a dance, a co-creative endeavor between God and God’s people (see Genesis 2:1ff)

In the same way, I believe that God is working powerfully through the Christian Church (Disciples Of Christ) Capital Area to care for our congregations and pastors; to train, equip, inspire, and network people of faith; to discern, support, and assess those called into ministry; to connect the local church with the universal church; and to manage and sustain our camp and conference ministries.  However, *how* we do this is never static, and must be evaluated and renewed as situations and circumstances change.

We are in just such a time.  For the past few years the Capital Area has not been as diligent in communicating the unique and critical ministry of the Regional Church as well as the financial needs necessary to keep our ministry vibrant and accessible to serve all of our members, churches, pastors, and institutions.   As a result of this lack of adequate communication, support has not kept up with expenses, and we have become financially precarious.

We haven’t shared as clearly the fact that when our congregations and members give to the Disciples Mission Fund, you are giving to an incredible array of ministries (72 to be exact!) that extend “from your doorstep to the ends of the earth” (Matthew 28:16-20) including the Christian Church Capital Area!  Did you know that in 2016 our Region received $86,813 (down from $93,233 from the year before) as our portion of the Disciples Mission Fund offerings?  We are grateful to all the congregations and individuals who include the Disciples Mission Fund in their outreach giving!  To learn more and to give your offering if you have not yet, please go online to: http://disciplesmissionfund.org/what-is-dmf/

Likewise, we haven’t been as bold in encouraging our congregations to receive the Disciples Christmas Special Offering, most often received for two weeks in December.  Every dollar given to the Christmas Special Offering returns to the Region in which it was given.  In 2016 the Christian Church Capital Area received $22,383 (up from $21,873 in 2015) from the Christmas Special Day Offering.  We are grateful to every single person who placed an offering in the Christmas Special Day Offering Envelope and gave to the ministry of the Capital Area Region.  To learn more and to give your offering if you have not yet, please to online to: http://disciplesmissionfund.org/special-offerings/christmas-offering/

Finally, we haven’t been as efficient in inviting individuals from within the Region, and beyond, to give to our annual fund appeal.  This is our “over-and-above” giving opportunity that is available year-round to give directly to the ministry and mission of the Regional Office, and to sustain my ministry as your Regional Minister.  In 2016 we receive $18,958 for the Annual Fund (an incredible increase from $7,843 in 2015).   We are profoundly grateful to all who donated, either through our mail appeal or online, to the 2016 Annual Fund Appeal.  To give your over-and-above gift if you have not yet, please go online to https://docgeneralassembly.webconnex.com/caparea

We are diligently working to do better to educate, inspire, and make accessible to you the information you need to understand the ministry of the Capital Area Region and to show your support through your generous gifts.  Unfortunately, this has not been enough, and we have been operating the past few years by using the resources set aside for other purposes.  At the end of 2015 the Christian Church Capital Area was in debt $148,725, using as collateral funds designated for other purposes for the day-to-day operations of the Regional Ministry.  In 2016 the Regional Board voted to use two funds to help stabilize our Regional Ministry, one (the Wilhelm Park Christian Church Fund of $33,144) purposed for the work of the Regional Office, and the other (the Pershing Drive Christian Church Fund $96,348) repurposed by the wishes of the remaining trustee of the congregation.  While the use of these two funds went a long way to balance our debt to ourselves, at the end of 2016 we were still $47,310 in debt (to ourselves.) 

In addition to carrying this debt into 2017, the Regional Assembly approved a budget for 2017 which anticipates $138,840 in income and $211,430 in expenditures.  That is a deficit gap of $72,590.  The 2018 budget, also anticipating $138,840 in income but $218,253 has a deficit gap of $79,413.  Failure to address this situation immediately and adequately is not only untenable but unfaithful, as it builds distrust in donors who may wish to give to an endowment fund but are wary if they know it will simply be used for operating expenses.  Equally troublesome is that the monies are not being used as they were designated, for Congregational Assistance and Transformation, New Church Starts, Clergy Continuing Education, Seminarian Scholarships, Clergy Crisis and Stress, and other purposes essential to the ministry and mission of the Region.

The Administrative Committee of the Region has been considering many options to address the situation in a faithful, responsible manner.  The Regional Budget is already trimmed of any conceivably inessential costs.  In the midst of our prayerful deliberation, we did receive a word of unexpected good news: the Board of North Chevy Chase Christian Church voted to forgive for one year the rent the Region pays for office space in their facilities.  This gift, which totals $12,600, was gratefully received and helps in a significant way to give us a year to stabilize our financial situation.  But it is not enough.

In December, the Administrative Committee of the Capital Area Region made the painful decision, due both to the deficit as well as to changes in health care law, to reduce the number of hours of our Executive Assistant, Deirdre Harris-George, from 32 hours a week to 24 hours a week.  In addition to decreasing the number of hours she is available in the office, it also necessitates the changing of her job responsibilities.  This was necessary, but it is not enough.

Together both decisions do not close the gap between expected income and anticipated costs, nor does it reduce the debt we carry.  This is a cause for prayerful discernment and careful conversation.  The Regional Board was apprised of this situation on Saturday, January 28.  It is important that this discussion go beyond the Regional Board to the entire Region, and that is the purpose of this message.

What can you do?

Pray.  Pray mightily for the guidance of the Holy Spirit for me, your Regional Minister, and for the leaders of this Region, that we rely upon God and the wisdom, skills, and vision God has given us.  Pray also that we have the boldness to follow where God is guiding us.

Study.  Study scriptures about faithful finances and sacred stewardship.  For resources, please go the Center for Faith & Giving, found online at: http://www.centerforfaithandgiving.org/StudyResources/tabid/753/Default.aspx

Give.  If you have not personally given to the Region, either through the Christmas Offering or the Annual Fund in the last 12 months, please do so now using the links above or by sending a check to the Regional Office.  And if you can give a little more, please do so.  Consider making a monthly gift, which can easily be done at the CCCA Annual Fund website.   And if you want to know where your money goes, contact me and I will send you the most recent financial statement for the Christian Church Capital Area: AHarris@cccadisciples.org

Share.  Share the information in this e-mail with your friends, family, and congregation.  If your congregation does not include Disciples Mission Fun in their outreach budget, encourage them to do so.  As we invite faithful individuals to tithe for the ministry of the local congregation, so we should ask our congregations to tithe for the ministry of the larger Body Of Christ, which extends the grace, nurture, and service of the local congregation to the entire world.  If your congregation does not receive the Christmas Special Day Offering, talk to your pastor and ask if next year you can. 

Plan Ahead.  If you have a will, consider including your local congregation and the Region in it so that your resources can leave a legacy for the future health and vitality of Christ’s mission and ministry on earth.  But just as importantly, consider a life-income gift such as a charitable gift annuity or charitable remainder trust, which can offer income for you throughout your lifetime and then benefits your local church or the Region afterwards.  The Christian Church Foundation has a wealth of resources to help you make a difference with your financial resources, found online at: http://www.christianchurchfoundation.org

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  And please know, together we will confidently commit ourselves to being co-creators with God in something wonderful and new to live out Christ’s ministry for our new day.

Abundantly & Faithfully Yours,

Your Regional Minister,

Allen