First, let me thank those who have prepared this in-depth report along with background and some interesting statistics.
The statistics start in the year 2006 when the CRCNA had 152.2 thousand professing members in 853 churches and ending in 2017 when it had 134.1 thousand members in 854 churches. (This 854 number has something to do with emerging churches who are exempt from ministry shares. The yearbook has about 1000 congregations)
The trend in the number of professing members is of considerable concern but is not directly discussed in this report and I agree with that as being a much different discussion. The statistics that are very relevant to this discussions are the actual Ministry Shares that were set and paid in this same time frame. Set Ministry Shares in 2006 were $280.08 (actually received $244.85). In 2017 the same data was $339.48 vs $282.83.
The increase in the difference between the “set” and “received” over this time frame is the real issue. The report provides a pretty clear rationale of why this appears to be happening including the fact that in 2007, 63.7 percent of churches had under 200 professing members compared to 2017 when this increased to 71.6 percent!
The report also give a very nice short summary of the process currently used for setting the Ministry Shares. Agencies decide their budgets and the executives of the CRCNA approve, and synod (generally approves), and passes the Ministry Share amount set via a long standing standard formula.
The report makes reference to World Renew which is not supported by Ministry Shares. Reason: it’s diaconal work which is a good rationale and has served the CRCNA and World Renew well. What I was hoping to see is that the report would put Calvin College on that same status. After all education is part of parental responsibility.
Later on, the report does suggest it stay with the Ministry Shares for Calvin College but remove the complicated calculations to get to that portion of the “CalvinCollege” share that regions outside for Grand Rapids can designate to local Christian Colleges (having some roots in the CRCNA). They could have solved that whole issue by removing Calvin College from the Ministry Share program.
I suggest if the process is to be continued, that the names of the christian colleges be removed and church simply be allowed to choose their own local Christian Colleges. There are more than the four suggested. One of the four has publicly distanced itself from a key pillar of scripture, namely through approval of same sex marriage.
The report came with a new “image” of Ministry Shares. Simplistically it moves the decisions from synod to classis.
My understanding was that churches (and I can only speak of the eight CRCs in Canada that I attended) had a discussion at budget time to see what percentage of the total Ministry Shares would be supported. One church I attended even decided what percentage each ministry would be supported by; which in this case meant that some ministries would get 120 percent while others got zero! But for most of the churches, the percentage was the same for each ministry.
I cannot recall any churches where this number was officially disclosed to classis BEFORE the decision was made. The new process has classis review each church’s decision on what it has “prayerfully considered” it would give. This seems like a difficult position to put each church in, and undermines the local autonomy of the church councils.
I also question on what basis would a classis ever challenge a local church on?
There is one other item that I did not see in the report. It has to do with the impact of Resonate Global Missions to ask their missionaries to raise their own funds. I can not recall whether Ministry Shares for World Missions and Home Missions, when they were combined, were reduced to reflect that major change.
In summary, the report presents an option that would work but I think a few tweaks would make it simpler. The guidance as suggested by the report is all that is needed; to layer on the approval of classis simply opens the door to problems at a local level. That each ministry has to make a better case for its work is their responsibility. And hiring more fundraisers is probably not the answer. Ministry shares are a very cost effective way to raise funds efficiently.
If the CRCNA has about 150 churches that do not participate in Ministry Shares (1000-854), I suggest we get a committee to figure out how to solve that problem. My guess is also that probably another 100+ churches do not pay anything either.