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From the Moderator

Cassie Williams
January 6 2018

During my term as Moderator, I’ve learned there a couple of things I dread: 1) early Sunday morning (or really late at night) texts or phone calls from any staff member and 2) email messages from Lou and the Finance Team.

Until this summer, I’m happy to say that I’ve not had too many of either of these dreads cross my path.  Since about June, however, it’s been a little rough.  We had some hail damage, we had some vandalism, we had some television news cameras show up… and honestly, although I didn’t love it, I’m fine handling those things.  

But when you hear the words, “Don’t spend ANY unnecessary money until further notice,” you know ‘things just got real’ as the kids say.  And to add insult to injury, Lou was using his SERIOUS face.

Let me paint you a little picture of what weighed on my mind:

Over the summer, when the Finance Team would send out their monthly updates to the Council, I’d notice that loose money dropped into the offering plates (we call that “plate income”) was dipping lower and lower than in months past.  And, in fact, trending much lower than in past years.  As was the money that we use to create the budget every year. (Known to the Council as “pledge income”.)  Which didn’t really make sense to me.  There seemed to be plenty of people in church every Sunday.  And, in fact, there were – we keep count (in case you didn’t know that) and we compare things month to month, year to year.  THOSE numbers were not dropping in significant amounts.

In a bit of a panic, both Scott and I started researching.  Turns out – we aren’t actually alone in our worrying!  Churches, and non-profits of all types, are reporting this exact same trend in 2017.  The reason?  (According to nearly every article written)  People are actually feeling MORE empathy in our world today, and therefore are actually being MORE generous with their charitable donations.  They are just finding MORE worthy causes in which to contribute.

In short: Everyone is cutting their financial pies into MORE pieces – smaller pieces – to fill more dessert plates.

To be really honest, I found GREAT comfort in this information.  Which is ironic since I usually revel in our congregation being a little different than the norm.  But in this case, I really liked being part of the status quo.  

Except that the trend continued.  And continued.  

And by the end of October, we were behind in the budget.  REALLY behind.  Behind in the way that if it was your budget at home, you’d be eating Ramen Noodles until the New Year.

I decided not to panic – mostly because that’s not my style and also because people who have been down this same road before me told me not to.  “Let’s see what happens as the season turns.”   (By the way, this is really good advice for any number of situations.)

At the end of November, we caught up a little bit.  Not in huge amounts, but in the OK-you-can-have-a-hot-dog-with-your-Ramen sort of way.  But Lou still had his serious face on when he said, “We need to put out an appeal to the congregation.”  

OK, I lied a minute ago.  I have three dreads…  Asking for money.  Of any sort!  From any body!  Let alone from people I respect and admire.  But, I also know you do what needs to be done.

And so, for the gazillion-th time since I joined First Central many years ago, this Congregation astounded me.  No wait, what’s more than astounded??  Flabbergasted me!  Yes, flabbergasted.  Because when I read Lou’s most recent email, I gasped.  Outloud.  And my heart stopped a little and I got really, really teary.

First Cetnral’s 2017 budget balances.  And it balances with excess.  Not the we-can-eat-caviar-on-our-private-jet-now kind of excess, but a nice, reasonable cushion none the less.

Now, I’d like to take a minute and thank you, really thank you from the bottom of my worried, little heart.  Never underestimate the power of God’s people when called to do God’s work!  We close out 2017 in really good financial shape because of each one of you.  But please remember, there is always work to be done at First Central.  Always things to fix, update and care for.  And we launched a whole bunch of great ideas in our Long Range Plan last year.  . .

So let’s stay really focused in 2018!