Last month the elders of Lake Baldwin Church sent a letter to the congregation, penned by Bart Johnson. He mentioned many reasons to be encouraged about the growth and health of the church, but he also shared concerns and information about a shortfall in giving. This post is a follow-up to that letter, to answer questions that might be on your mind.
What’s the latest on our church finances?
At the end of November we had a shortfall of $94,000 for 2017. However, we have seen a significant increase in contributions for December, and that deficit has been reduced to $54,000. We are praying for continued generosity as we hope to finish 2017 with our budget fully funded and be in a strong position for 2018.
Why the increase in expenses for 2017?
The increase is simply due to the filling of core staffing positions in 2017. We hired Joe White in 2016 and we raised capital funds for that position for the first year. We knew that this strategic “chess move” would be good for our growth, and we also knew that it would stretch us. The assistant pastor role is now being funded through our general offerings. The good news is that the growth of the church in attendance and membership (up 20% in 2017) is happening, just as we had hoped.
In July we also brought on Mark McKinney as youth director, and Heather Shiflett as director of SPLASH Kids. For the year prior to that we were not fully funding these positions. We are grateful for the “temp” staff that kept these ministries going (Lindsay Buono for youth, Jenna Nelson and Molly Tilley for SPLASH), but that was not sustainable for the long haul.
We are grateful and blessed to now have a full staff team, and every staff role is vital to the mission of Lake Baldwin Church.
One other significant item to mention is our commitment to give from our church budget to global missions, local missions, benevolence, and church planting. Just this year we are giving $18,000 to the Florida Church Planting Network to help fund new church planting, including two multicultural churches downtown.
Our budget is provided at the membership class and is updated each year. It is available upon request, and you can look for a summary in the latest issue of the Back Story newsletter.
Why has financial giving not kept pace with our budget and with our growth?
We are blessed to have many who give generously and consistently. While we have often been stretched financially, God has always provided.
However, we began to notice that congregational giving has not been broad-based during 2017. So we want to encourage everyone to participate at whatever level they can.
We can’t be sure why some are not participating in the grace of giving. It could be due to lack of teaching about giving, an assumption that others will take care of it, or a season of financial stress. Often there is a spiritual issue, an issue of the heart. That’s why Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Since we have a financial shortfall for 2017, does that mean that Lake Baldwin Church has a deficit and is spending money that we don’t have?
No, Lake Baldwin Church is not spending money that we don’t have. Over the years we have made a prudent decision to keep a 3-month cash reserve, so we are dipping into that reserve to cover our shortfall. Our only debt is our office mortgage, and the payment is less than we used to pay in rent. We pay our staff and all of our vendors in a timely way, and we continue to support our missionaries. Our hope and prayer is that God will provide for our church and replenish our reserves through December giving.
What has church leadership done in 2017 to guide the congregation on these issues?
First and foremost, we have prayed and called the church to prayer. We’ve also worked to consistently cast a clear vision to address the “why” of LBC. This happened last May when we talked about future growth milestones, along with information about giving. We also placed our vision before the congregation throughout August, with sermons and animated videos on the fourfold vision of Lake Baldwin Church. Along the way, of course, you’ve seen the monthly financial report in the Weekly Update and the Sunday bulletin.
As pastor I don’t prefer to call the congregation to periodic giving based on the emotion of the moment. This is essentially a discipleship issue that we talk about in membership class and preach on from time to time. We also offer teaching opportunities about stewardship through cohorts like Financial Peace University.
We also don’t wish to use pledge campaigns, and we want to be clear that the pastors, staff, and elders do not monitor your giving. Scripture calls us to generous, purposeful giving from the heart, and not under compulsion. Our primary aim is to preach the gospel, offering good news to the found, and trusting God to stir our hearts to give to the mission of the church.
What is meant by tithing? What if I can’t give a full tithe to the church?
Tithing is based on Malachi 3:10 and is a good rule of thumb used by New Testament Christians. It means returning to God a portion of all that he has given to us, and that portion is understood to be 10%. Tithing has the effect of distributing responsibility equitably. Those who have been blessed with greater resources end up giving more, while those with lesser incomes give less (while still giving 10%).
If you are not able to give a full 10%, I don’t think God would want you to feel discouraged or ashamed. One of my first pastors encouraged people to start with what they could (perhaps 3% or 5%) and trust God to grow that percentage over time.
Sincere followers of Christ might differ on whether the whole tithe should go to the local church. I like what John Piper says: “I can’t prove that, but here’s why I do it.” Galatians 6:9 seems to encourage us to give where we and our families are fed. It’s good to remember that other organizations can raise funds from anyone, but those of us who worship at LBC are the only ones called to give to this church.
LBC would not exist were it not for people who believe that they should give their tithe to LBC (and their additional offerings to other individuals and organizations).
What can people at LBC do at this time to make a difference?
First, I want to express appreciation for what you already do for the church. We thank God for your participation in worship, discipleship, service, and giving.
Please do pray about giving a generous gift to the church this month. And, as you plan your giving for the coming year, please set up a plan to give faithfully, from the heart. It would be a big encouragement if you would return the response card that you received with Bart Johnson’s letter.
Finally, please be praying as a church family for God’s provision. It’s amazing to see all that God is doing in the lives of people through our worship service and our various ministries. Our best years are ahead of us, and we want everyone to share in the joy of praying and giving.
If you'd like to make a year-end contribution or set up a recurring gift to Lake Baldwin Church, you can do so HERE.
Mike is the Senior Pastor of Lake Baldwin Church. Along with preaching, pastoral care, and forward-thinking leadership, Mike loves to invest in developing leaders for the future. Since the beginning of LBC in 2006, Mike and Molly have worked to create a culture where people can grow and use their gifts.