Pastoral Letters Concerning the Church of Peace Financial Problems and Building Concerns



Dear People of Church of Peace:

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ who claims us as his own and calls us his friends.

Jenny and I see a strengthening and promising ministry for this congregation in the community where it was planted and took root 141 years ago.  And by the grace of God, through the end of last year, the church was able to return to a balanced budget, maintain and build our ministries, and live within our means.  However, with the beginning of 2011, the Church Council noticed a downturn in our fiscal situation.  Our difficult challenges as a church are reflected in similar challenges playing out around our state, our country, and much of our world. 

While we cannot necessarily solve the world’s problems, we at least need to face our own.  Stated simply for Church of Peace:  How can we best use our combined resources so our ministry can continue and expressions of God’s love may flourish?  

During the last few years, as part of our effort to use the congregation’s resources more wisely, Jenny and I have worked closely with the Church Council and the Building Committee to rein in our excessive energy usage.  And, once our “financial house” seemed to be in order, I started working with the Building Committee to tackle the many repair and maintenance issues that had accumulated over the years.  (Church of Peace has a huge piece of property to care for, you know.)  We began prioritizing the projects according to urgency, immediate impact, and affordability.  Much was accomplished. 

However, as the list of planned and unanticipated repairs and projects continued to grow last spring, it became apparent to us that if nothing significant changed (i.e. related to energy usage and maintenance/repair issues), this “tidal wave” of expenses would soon threaten the ministry and future of Church of Peace.   

Any remedies we decide upon will be expensive.  Yet, our present facilities and their general state of disrepair project a struggling image to the community that inhibits significant numbers of new members from joining us in worship and ministry here.  If we do nothing and simply try to wish the problems away—which would be the easier path to take at this point—I fear we would be condemning Church of Peace to a bleak future of steady decline, as more time and resources were swallowed by mounting property concerns.

So… the question before us, once again, is this:  How can we best use our combined resources so our ministry can continue and expressions of God’s love may flourish?  Rev. James Martin

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Dear Friends at Church of Peace,

The Church of Peace is thriving in many ways.  We have vibrant worship, enthusiastic youth ministry, and children active in the life of our church. We care for one another within our church family and we have a highly-praised community ministry program.  Sadly, there is one aspect of our life together that threatens the stability of all of these – it is our financial situation.  This year, our General Fund has suffered; we have already borrowed $10,700 to pay basic daily bills.  Unless our members begin to support the church more generously, our good work in Christ’s name cannot continue to bless us and others.

Then there is the matter of building maintenance and repair. The number one question that I feel we should be asking about our building is “Is this building a net asset as we seek together to serve God faithfully?”

It is pretty easy to see that the sanctuary is an asset.  It is lovely and conducive to worship.  People of all ages feel God’s presence there.  The roof is new.   On a Sunday when worship is well-attended, we have enough room but not too much to spare. Yes, although it needs about $20,000 of repair on the window trims, its wiring is outdated, and it isn’t insulated well, the sanctuary is definitely on the list of assets we can use to serve Christ well.

Determining the value of the flat-roofed additions to our ministry together is more difficult.  Although these parts of our building provide us with plenty of room for all sorts of ministry, they present us with three BIG problems.

First of all, the additions are eating up our General Fund with their high utility costs. Some of the months last winter we spent over $80.00 per day on utilities because much of our building is uninsulated and our windows are, for the most part, old and drafty.  To spend so much money on utilities is an unfaithful use of the funds entrusted to us for ministry.  Christians support the church because of the good deeds that we do and the faith community we sustain; no one puts money in the offering plate in hopes that it will be burned up and blown out the windows. 
 
A second problem with the flat-roofed additions are that their need for expensive repairs takes an emotional and spiritual toll on the church’s present leadership and on our vision for future ministry.  It is impossible to walk very far in the building before some major problem becomes visible. “These bathrooms don’t work.” “This ceiling tile is brown because the roof leaks.” “It is drafty in here because the windows are not tight.” The run-down state of the building additions and the high price tag of repair saps hope from the staff and leadership. Planning for the future becomes difficult when it is clear that before long, the building costs will completely deplete our savings and take a higher percentage of our General Fund than they do now.  

A third problem with the flat-roofed additions has to do with attracting new members. Jesus said, “Make disciples.” One of our primary responsibilities as the Body of Christ is to invite others to experience the joy we know in serving Christ together.  Our additions do not give the impression of spiritual or financial health. Visitors perceive our building as run down, out of date, and ill-suited to the tasks of ministry. Furthermore, nowadays, young adults want their church building to look friendly and welcoming, not institutional or fortress-like. To neglect the negative affect the building additions have on potential disciples is to disregard Jesus’ commandment. 

Obviously, the answer to what to do about the decaying parts of our building is not an easy answer. But to ignore what is happening will bring about the demise of our congregation. So it is urgent and essential.  May God bless the Church of Peace as we meet this challenge in faithfulness and trust.  Amen.   Pastor Jenny Dawson