I had never seen such a big crowd before in the Village. The Grand Meeting Tent was bursting at the seams, and it seemed as if every villager had come to tonight’s meeting. I realized that this was the first time I had seen the entire village population all in the same place. The atmosphere was buzzing with excited conversation.
“Let’s call this meeting to order!” At this shout from Dave, the village treasurer, the crowd quieted down. “I want to thank you all for coming, and for showing how much you want to keep our beloved Tent Village thriving for future generations. I’ve talked to many of you since asking for this meeting, so I know there is a strong agreement among us that we need to stop regularly tapping the Endowment Storehouse for current needs while we grow it to the size needed to sustain the Village’s future.” Out of the corner of my eye I noticed villager Brian smile and nod in agreement. Dave continued, “Of course, that means we need to pare down our current needs to match up with annual villager contributions. So, anyone and everyone who has ideas on how to do that, please come on up and share your ideas.”
Over the next hour or so, a lot of people came forward to float their ideas on how the Village might reduce its expenditures to match its contributions from the villagers. From time to time, Dave was asked to consult the big Village accounting ledger, to answer questions on how much things cost. As I listened and watched the crowd’s reactions, it became apparent that this wasn’t going to be easy. While the Village carried out an impressive amount of charitable activities, thanks to villager volunteerism, most of that didn’t require much from the Village coffers. Curtailing charitable activity wouldn’t do much to reduce expenditures.
The more Dave shared facts from the big Village accounting ledger, the more it became apparent that there weren’t very many “extras” that could be easily cut. As the keeper of the Village orchard would say, the low hanging fruit had already been picked.
The Village budget was pretty lean, the result of good management and steady reductions as the population of the village slowly contracted. The remaining big expenditures were for upkeep and repairs, fuel for the fires and stoves, and modest salaries for the small handful of villagers who had agreed to give up their outside livelihoods to serve the Village community.
As the last villager stepped down from the podium, Dave stood up and addressed the group. “I want to thank you all again for participating. As we have just seen, it’s not going to be easy to find reductions to get our expenditures down to match our annual contributions. Next month, the Village Council will have to make those painful decisions, but before they do you will have a chance to express your opinion in a vote. Next week we’re going to hold an election so you can express your opinion on whether the Village should cut non-salary expenses, cut salaries, or cut both. Good night, and God speed.”
The villagers started shuffling quietly toward the exits. Unlike before the meeting, there was no talking. But then a child’s voice pierced the silence:
“Wait! Aren’t we forgetting something?”
Thanks to heroic levels of volunteerism, our budget at Prince of Peace is simple and impressively lean, especially in comparison to our actual outreach and ministry output which is impressively huge. 48% of the budget is salaries, benefits and payroll taxes for the tiny paid staff. 37% is administrative costs, utilities, property repair and maintenance, and mortgage payments. The remaining 15% (no small sum at nearly $100,000) funds the church’s outreach and ministry. And of course, the value of congregation’s outreach and ministry volunteerism far exceeds this figure.
We don’t have control over many of our big non-salary expenses (like the mortgage payment). To make a meaningful difference in balancing our budget, the spending that is within our control would have to be reduced, and in large amounts. These spending cuts would be noticeable, and perhaps painful. Picture our church campus in your mind’s eye with dying plants and unkempt bathrooms. These are daunting thoughts, but there is even a more daunting one … reducing church salaries.
These are not happy realities to face, but as a church family we need to face them together. It is the responsible thing to do.
Know well the condition of your flocks and give attention to your herds.–Proverbs 27:23