When do we count members for Ministry Shares?

  738 views

I haven't found a clear articulation of the following on the CRCNA or Network website. When Synod approves the Ministry Share assessment in June 2011, is the assessment and/or related budget for 2012 based on the active professing members over 18 count as of August 31, 2010 - or August 31, 2011?

Timeline:

August 31 2010: Submission of Yearbook counts by local congregations

January 1, 2011: Ministry Shares approved at Synod 2010 implemented

September 2010 - May 2011: CRCNA Ministry agencies sets budgets and BOT arrives at a proposed Ministry Share assessment per active professing member over 18 - based on membership count as of August 31, 2010?

June 2011: Synod sets Ministry Share assessments

August 31 2011: Submission of Yearbook counts by local congregations

January 1, 2012: Ministry Shares approved at Synod 2011 implemented - based on membership count as of August 31, 2010 or August 31, 2011?

Posted in:

The Network hosts user-submitted content.
Posts don't necessarily imply CRCNA endorsement, but must comply with our community guidelines.

Let's Discuss…

We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.
Community Builder

The Ministry Shares assessment approved by Synod in June 2011 and reported in the July Financial Summary is effective starting January 1, 2012.   The 2012 assessment will be based on the active membership count of each church as reported for the 2012 Yearbook.

Thank you.

Is the process identified in your last sentence referenced anywhere in the Acts of Synod?

The reason I ask is that I have reviewed Church Order and Its Supplements [2011] & the Manual of CRC Government [2008] and cannot find any reference to this process. The only reference pertinent to the question that I can find is located in the MoCRCG in Article 2 b. 2). a).

If "The classical treasurer informs the church of its [ministry share] allocation on the basis of the [membership] count as reported in the CRC Yearbook," then the 2012 assessment would have to be based on the active membership count as of 2010, as Yearbook 2012 with the 2011 count would not yet be published.

Though I can understand that local churches could use their 2011 membership count to develop their 2012 budget and/or the CRCNA has the 2011 membership count in hand for budget expectations [the CRCNA's budget would have been drafted on the basis of the 2010 membership count], it would be helpful for the purpose of clarity if there is a reference to the Acts of Synod for the process.

Community Builder

The ministry share request is based on the professing member information submitted for the yearbook that coincides with the year of the ministry share.  In other words, the 2012 ministry share request was approved by Synod in June 2011 and is based on the information that appears in the yearbook dated 2012. 
 
The budgets of the institutions, agencies and ministries of the denomination operate on a fiscal year July 1 through June 30.  As such, the ministry share revenue that is included in these budgets is based on an estimate of funds coming from two ministry share years.  For example, the fiscal 2012 budget we are now working under assumes revenue related to the 2011 ministry share request received after June 30, 2011 and revenue from the 2012 ministry share request received before July 1, 2012. 

Thank you.

I understand the process and practice, but do not see where the warrant is coming from, i.e. a directive from the Acts of Synod. Moreover, the Manual of CRC Government in Article 2 b. 2). a) would appear to speak against the practice articulated above.

Based on MoCRCG in Article 2 b. 2). a) one might assume that Classical Treasurers throughout the CRCNA are utilizing the 2010 active membership counts from the published Yearbook 2011 to assign Ministry Share assessments for 2012 to local congregations, and local congregations are doing the same when establishing their 2012 budgets.

This variance in practice could do with some clarification, especially where warrant has been established in MoCRCG in Article 2 b. 2). a). as to what ought to happen.

It is difficult to ask churches to submit Ministry Shares based on their 2011 active professing member count when Yearbook 2012 does not exist, or there is not warrant established in the Acts of Synod.

I apologize, if I appear to be somewhat difficult on this matter.

Community Builder

Could you clarify why it is difficult for churches to submit Ministry Shares based on their 2011 active professing member count?  For example, our church would submit their membership count in September 2011, be working on their budget that fall, and then the 2012 budget including the ministry share amount would be approved later in the year or early new year.

Also, I tried to follow your reference to MoCRCG in Article 2 b. 2). a). and did not find an Article 2b.

Hopefully another network participant can assist with your questions and comments.

 

Hi Sheri...

I'm looking at the 2008 Revision edition of the Manual of CR Church Government on page 248 where 2) a. reads " The classical treasurer informs the church of its [ministry-share] allocation on the basis of the [membership] count as reported in the CRC Yearbook." As churches and classical treasurers only have the 2011 Yearbook in hand, and not the 2012 Yearbook, they would be using active membership data from the former.

This is not to say that a church couldn't possibly develop their 2012 budgets on the basis of the 2011 active membership count. 

However, based on what is set out in the MoCRCG and what I have seen in practice - churches are more likely to base their budgets on the current printed Yearbook as per the directive set out in the MoCRG, as do classical treasurers when setting the ministry share allocations for each church.

The result in practice is that local church and classical 2012 Budgets are probably based on the 2010 active membership count.

I think we are talking about two different Ministry Shares here.  There is the Classis Ministry Shares that are set at the classis level and administered by the classis treasurer.  And there are the denominational ministry shares, which are set by synod and administered at the denominational level.  It should be noted that the administration of the denominational ministry shares has changed within the last several years from what is published in the MoCRG on page 248.

The denominational ministry share per member rate is set each year by synod.  In the Acts of Synod, the new per member rates are published including the regional college amounts.  These are used for the coming calendar year.  In other words, the 2012 ministry share rate was published in the summer of 2011.  The requested ministry share contributions are then calculated based on the new membership information that is received by the denominational offices for inclusion in the Year Book for the upcoming year.  It would not be reasonable to expect the membership counts from the prior Year Book submission (reported in 2010 for the 2011 Year Book) to be used for the calculation.  If we consider a church that has had a significant change in its membership levels, especially a downturn in the membership counts, the church would be asked to contribute based on gifts from a population that is very different from that reported.

The Acts of Synod are silent on the details of the exact calculation, but simply indicate that the requested amount is based on the per member rate times the number of active adult professing members.  It is appropriate that the most accurated membership count be used for this calculation, and that would seem to require the most recent data used for the upcoming Year Book.

 

Thank you.

Unfortunately, I am still missing a reference from the Acts of Synod  2008 -  2011 for the grounds on which the administrative change is based.

1. per member Ministry Share rate: understand Synod sets rates in June and Classis in fall for the coming calendar year.

2. active professing membership rate: can appreciate both the arguments for "adminstrative change" or "reasonableness." 

3. MoCRCG on page page 9 indicates the manual incorporates decisions made by synods through to Synod 2007.

4. The question boils down to - when did Synod change the policy decision found in MoCRCG page 248, and what is the content of that decision on which the "administrative change" is based. 

5. If Synod did not make a change in policy, then however "reasonable" the above proposal seems - the "administrative change" is invalid as the directive 2. b. 2). a) on page 248 in the MoCRCG is still in force.

6. The policy directive is of long standing origin, as it also exists in the MoCRCG of 1987.

7. If there is such a change to be found in the Acts of Synod, it would be helpful. From your response above I would suppose it does not.

If you are looking for a reference to an Act of Synod regarding which year’s membership count to use, I am afraid you will not be satisfied with the answer.  Synod simply does not deal in that level of detail.  Nor should you look to the Manual of Christian Reformed Church Government for definitive statements of administrative process since as the author notes, it is a helpful resource to the user and is a commentary on the actions of synod.  It is not intended to be the detailed documentation of every administrative process.

However, perhaps the best reference to an Act of Synod that will help your question can be found in the Acts of Synod 2009 Article 29 I. B 1.b.(page 580) which states:

"That synod encourage local churches to use the recommended contribution amount as determined by the ministry-share system as a starting point as it evaluates its ability to participate.  A church with extraordinary financial capacity may discern to contribute more than the recommended amount.  Likewise, a church with undue financial circumstances or hardship may discern the need to contribute less than the recommended amount."

So whatever membership count the ministry share system uses, it really is up to the local church to determine what dollar amount of ministry shares they wish to give toward the support of the ministry we have covenanted to do together through the agencies, institutions and ministries of the denomination.  Whether the membership count is the most recent or a year old should not enter into the decision of the church. 

An interesting point with some cogency, though not strictly relevant to the question.

Went back and read the Communal Covenantal Commitment Task Force Report in the Agenda for Synod 2009. 

The recommendation in Acts of Synod 2009 Article 29 I. B 1.a. (page 579) would have benefited with some further clarification on what active professing membership count year is to be applied to the coming calendar year Ministry Share rate.

MoCRCG 2008 Revised would therefore still stand with respect to "active professing members", even if it is within the ability of a local congregation to give beyond the set "Ministry Share rate."

Lubbert, you are spending too much time on this, methinks.   When you do your budget and approve at the annual meeting, just use however many families you have at the time to set your ministry amounts.  The number may have changed since your yearbook report, but in the end it should balance out, if your transfers in equal someone else's transfers out.  If you have more members, great;  if you have fewer, then your ability to pay the ministry shares will decrease.  If you feel as a church really concerned about the ministry shares, then you can always add ten or twenty percent to your ministry contributions.  Getting lost in the technicalities is a waste of time, which could be better spent on other things, like actually doing minstries. 

John

Hi John... 

Pragmatically if I were doing the budget in a dreamy moment, I might consider that a possible option. The Boards which I reported to as a former administrator  would probably think I was acting without due diligence and abrogating my fiduciary responsibilities to them. 

Also, not certain local church budget committees would agree, if they were to consider the potential reaction of congregants.

~;-)

I'm doing a research project where information on this issue is a small but critical component of the larger picture - to help people grapple with the notion that there may be monies to do ministries both locally and globally. 

Fudging the process is as problematic as getting bogged down in the technicalities. No disrespect intended. 

Participant

We have wrestled with membership issues and budgets etc in our context.  One of the directions toward which we continue to educate the congregation is that giving is measured from how you have been provided for by the Lord, not on a budget number divided by number of members.  We are Biblically instructed to give in proportion to what we have received in income (Deut. 16, 1Cor 16, etc)  We have, on a local context, tried to steer people away from thinking about a "per member amount" which is inherently unjust and misleading.  It has always given those with wealth excuse to cap their giving and laid undo guilt on those who can not reach the per-member amount.  And that approach has really no basis in Scripture. 

What is strange then is to still have the denomination using an inherently unjust approach to ministry shares.  We say a wealthy congregation can give more and a poorer one can give less, but all communication is really about how we do not meet our ministry share commitments (the latest promotional drive for this still tries to promote the system as wonderful, yet is remains an unjust one).  As efficient as this system is to raise funds (i.e not spending much on fund raising) I believe it is loosing its traction in congregational life because it still does not connect members to the ministries that ministry shares supports.  And a "per member amount" assigned by Synod in a local context that trains about tithing and percentage given simply does not fit any more.  I sense that congregants, when they know anything at all about ministry share amounts asigned by Synod or Classis, see it as an outside arbitrary bill that has not taken into consideration where the congregation is financially.  Yes a congregation can ask Classis to let them give less because of financial circumstances, but the overall budget is not reduced, the rest of the congregations are asked to take up the slack.  I think it is time to change things.

How about the denomination collecting data on each congregation's budget and suggesting a percentage of that amount be set aside for ministry shares?  How about simply a tithe of 10%?  That would be a just way to deal with the differences poor and wealthy congregations and everyone inbetween. Membership numbers do not mean each adult active professing member can all give the same amount.  In fact the number of members a congregation has really has little bearing on its financial ability. What has bearing is the incomes of those members, not the fact that they are members.  For example, my own household has 4 adult active professing members but only one full time income as two are in Christian college.  Yet the yearbook membership counting will count "4" for our house.  How is that helpful in any way? 

I think people can get their hearts and heads around tithing from our overall local budget as it fits the biblical model: just as with an individual, a congregation gives in proportion to how the Lord has supplied their needs.  We ask people here to make yearly intentional planned giving from which we work out a budget (ideally, it is still a work in progress). Then we could tithe from that amount classically and denominationally as we do ministry.  That approach I can present on the basis of financial discipleship drawn from Scripture, but an assigned financial number based on warm bodies, sorry, can't really do much with that.

The CRC seems to have a fear of being honest about it size.  We have some latent pride in ourselves with our "we do more ministry in proportion to our size than most other denominations who do not have ministry share system."  This I believe has left us with the inability to scale back our classical and denominational ministries according to the actual size of the CRC.  Rather than crying the woes of not meeting ministry share targets, how about doing ministry in keeping with our resources.  We can say, the Lord will provide, but as a denomination of about 1/4 million members only, perhaps we have spread ourselves too thin.  Add to this the fact that congregations have to engage their communities in order to survive at all, resources have to be directed to that growth and work and that will mean perhaps a change in focus of CRC ministry.  The mission field is now at home and I believe it is our primary calling right now.  Funds need to be spend in the congregation to staff and tool the congregation for the local challeges we face right now.  What would be the point of paying 100% of a ministry share billed to a congregation every year and not having the resources available to build local ministry?  A congregation can pay 100% based on membership numbers right up to the day they close. 

When the denomination was asked to re-examine the ministry share system ,the result was a back patting that, yup, it's a financially efficient system.  That wasn't very helpful given the North American changes the CRC is facing. 

And one more note: why in todays computer age can we not simply put the yearbook online rather then spending money publishing a book that is out of date by the time it is delivered?  Just put it on line, make the data updateable whenever churches need to update it (secure login etc) and the denominational boards or what not can choose to plan on the most recent data available rather than data that can be a half year or more out of date.

I would also suggest the synod/yearbook drop the membership category of "family" and go with "household", as the synod defined "family" category is no longer helpful to determine giving levels or ministry needs or anything really.  We don't use it locally at all any more.  And a size of a church can not be determined by how many "families" it has nearly as accurately as it can by how many "households" (home addresses) it has.  You can have a lower number of "families" and have a higher number of "households" with one adult as a member and one not (especially as churches connect with newcomers in their community).  A widow, who may have a comfortable or high income, is not counted in "families" designation yet ministry takes just as long with one person in a house as with two.  Let's lose the "family" category from our parlance and use "households" to include singles, one believer households, etc in our ministry size numbers.

Oops I think this went beyond the orginal question!  My applogies, then again, if you are reading this line, thanks for hearing me out.  I would love to hear some more feedback on these matters.

 

Colin.

Colin, you have made some excellent points.  

 

Lubbert, whether you intended disrespect or not, you achieved it.   My suggestion is not fudging anything.  The bottom line is that each church is responsible for its own contribution towards ministry shares, as well as to the percentage of ministry shares it pays, or whether it pays any at all.  Ministry shares are not taxes, they are not an invoice, they are are voluntary contributions made by each church towards denominational efforts.  The denomination makes its suggested ministry share contributions based on overall member numbers, just as a local church makes its own local budget average contribution number based on its membership at the time.   That doesn't mean that each member would contribute exactly a certain amount per member.  Those who have more will contribute more;  those who have less will contribute less, and that's how it should be.   This principle is also true for churches at the denominational level, or should be. 

In addition, a local church is always responsible for where it sends its money, and how much it sends.  It cannot absolve this responsibility by blaming the denomination for its decisions, or pawning off its responsibility to the denomination.  Thus it actually needs to decide on denominational minstry share spending and decide whether that is the best cause, compared to other causes, both local and elsewhere.  I think many ministry share causes are very good, but not necessarily all.   A few causes should be removed from ministry shares and added to recommended causes.   But, regardless, our church cannot absolve itself of its own responsibility to evaluate and decide. 

While there are certain aspects of churches that follow business principles, there are certain aspects which do not.   The church is based primarily on cheerful giving, not on being assessed invoices for services.  If this important point is lost, then we will have transgressed or regressed from ministry and serving God to something entirely different. 

As I indicated, it is not my intent to show disrepect. My apology.

The intent of the original question was focused on obtaining clarification on the determination of what calendar year to utilize for active professing membership when developing a church budget as it applies Ministry Share rates for the coming calendar year.

I fear the conversation, though interesting, is drifting into areas not directly related to the inquiry - other than to comment that scriptural stewardship also comes with due diligence and fiduciary responsibilities and obligations.

As I indicated earlier, "The recommendation in Acts of Synod 2009 Article 29 I. B 1.a. (page 579) would have benefited with some further clarification on what active professing membership count year is to be applied to the coming calendar year Ministry Share rate. MoCRCG 2008 Revised would therefore still stand with respect to "active professing members" ..."

Secondly, I would also agree with Colin "And one more note: why in todays computer age can we not simply put the yearbook online rather then spending money publishing a book that is out of date by the time it is delivered?"

This revision would achieve the currency objective denominational office is hoping to achieve.

Lubbert, apology accepted.   The reason to use the most recent membership numbers to work on your budget, is that your budget is based on what will be contributed in the year to come.   If your membership drops drastically between the time you submit your roll numbers to the yearbook, and the time you make your budget, it does not make sense to assume that no membership changes have occurred. 

Hi John...

I need to separate a number of issues. The research report I am working on, the arguments being made for "good sense" and "reasonableness" with respect to budget development, and that I am drifting off topic. 

I should indicate that I don't have a problem with either the concept of "active professing members" or the Ministry Share rate." 

As I indicated in my response to John Bolt "2. active professing membership rate: can appreciate both the arguments for "adminstrative change" or "reasonableness."

What is problematic is the equal playing field that budget committees at both the local church and at the denominational level require to "reasonablely" plan for the viability of ministries. That equal playing field is currently articulated in MoCRCG, page 248.

Whether regular attending active professing members contribute the widow's mite or as the Lord has gifted them is up to the Lord to move their hearts through their shepherding community. 

What has come out of my inquiries is that it would be beneficial for Synod to revise the MoCRCG so it lines up with the denominational office administrative objectives. 

On a related matter, looking at 5 - 10 years of data I have a feeling that the CRCNA at the local level has yet to come to grips with what most mainline churches have been struggling with over the last 20 - 30 years. There is a real difference between those who regularly attend and the number of individuals that are on the books. That difference can range from 80% attenders vs 20% non-attenders, up to and including, 70% attenders to 30% non-attenders.

When the pulpit, council and stewardship committees encourage giving to meet ministry objectives - I feel they are probably speaking to a dark and deep vacuum when it comes to the 20 - 30% of "active professing members" who are non-attenders. 

Scripturally, both Matthew 18: 12 – 14  & Mark 4: 2 – 20 have some application. 

I don't really want to continue this conversation... but I will point out  the converse of what you have said, which was that 20% of members may not attend, can also be possible, so that 20 or 30% of contributing attenders may not be "registered members".

Thank you, nonetheless, for helping in providing some focus with your comments.

You're right with respect to your observation above, however, with the data sets available for the research project - this group can be separated out. 

I am more interested in identifying where a ministry needs exists, recruitment to fill those needs, and identifying funding to meet those needs. 

There is a ministry need not only in reaching out to young adults that are drifting out of the church and not coming as was the case 5 - 10 years ago, the pastoral needs of a growing seniors population, but also a growing "active professing member" segment that is disconnecting from active participation in the body of Christ where evangelism/outreach needs need to be explored. 

This is borne out in research literature published by Barna and PEW, or others like Postma, Reimer, Bibby, etc.