Called to Generosity

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Pentecost 16/Proper 21
SCRIPTURE: Luke 16: 19-31 and 1 Timothy 6: 6-10, 17-19
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
1 Timothy 6: 18-19 (NIV)

GROUNDED IN SCRIPTURE

Next week we will be holding a congregational meeting after worship at which a motion will be presented asking you if you to approve the formation of a Search Committee to seek someone to fill the Family Minister position. We’ve been working at this a long time. In fact, it was last fall that you passed a motion to approve the Family Minister position description. Approving the position enabled us to move forward to seek funding.

That funding was a long time coming. A Seeds of Hope grant from the United Church of Canada was approved back in the spring, but a second grant application to the Essex Presbytery Development Fund was held up for months because that corporation was going through some significant changes. But that grant was approved on Wednesday which allows us to take the next step.

As you know, before making any big decisions like this we tend to follow the pattern of presenting the information to everyone during Sunday worship. That means that, as much as possible, everyone gets all the same information at the same time. That’s what we’re doing today so that you have a week to think about things and ask question so that you can be prepare for next week. I actually don’t expect next week’s meeting to be along one because most people will come with a good idea of what they think. That’s why we’re presenting it today.

But before we do any of that, let’s as always ground ourselves in Scripture. Today’s reading is from 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19 (NIV):

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Paul is writing to Timothy who is probably at this time the key leader of the church in Ephesus. He’s writing to teach Timothy what he needs to tell the people in his congregation about where how to deal with financial matters. All of the churches back them were encouraged to share their resources with people like Paul who, on his missionary journeys was planting churches in Europe. But he could not do it on his own. He needed the financial support of other Christians.

And so Paul writes this in 1 Timothy 6:18-19 (NIV): “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” What Paul says here is that Timothy is to encourage his people to be generous in good deeds and be willing to share what they have with the missionaries but also with those doing local missions. He then says that if the people follow these instructions they will experience life as God always intended it to be.

Those are good words for us to consider today because whether we follow through with the Family Minister or not, people are going to have to generous with the time, money and talents if we to be the people of Christ in this community.

THE FUNDING MODEL

Let’s review what it is going to cost to hire a Family Minster. For simplicity, we are only going to be looking at the salary component.

When we first made this proposal a year ago, we gave you a range of salary options from $17/hr to $21/hr. But the total cost is not just the salary. It is also the benefits and employer contributions to such things as CPP and EI. So, the total cost to the church looks something like this:

                                                        $17 / hr                          $21 / hr

Salary                                    $25,500                          $31,500

CPP                                           1,120                             1,430

EI                                                560                                750

Pension                                     4,250                             5,000

Con Ed                                      1,400                              1,400         

Total                                      $32,830                          $40,080

So, at $17/hr the total cost to the congregation for a ¾ time Family Minister would be $32,830 and at $21/hr the total cost would be $40,080. If we are able to hire someone, we could be anywhere within that range.

So now, how do we propose to pay for it? That was the big question last fall when we asked you to approve the position description so that we could seek funding. Today, we want to show you where we are with that. And this is where you really need to pay attention because the team that was looking for funding learned a whole lot during the year that we didn’t know before. The first thing of which I want to show you is what we presented to the congregation last year as possible funding options for the next three years. Here is what you saw last fall.

                                                              Year 1               Year 2             Year 3

From Wheatley UC                              $  7,000            $  7,000          $  7,000

Seeds of Hope Grant                                8,000                       0                     0

EPDF                                                    15,000              10,000              5,000

Turkey supper profits                             10,000              10,000            10,000

Pastor Kim going to ¾ time                             0              10,000            17,000

Total                                                    $39,000            $40,000          $37,000            

What we are going to present to you today is quite different from this. What we are now presenting does not require any money from the turkey supper and it also assumes that I continue to work full-time. We are replacing those items with another grant that we discovered is available from the United Church of Canada that offers up to $25,000 for four more years for each year. So while it is not available to us in year one it is available in years two and three, and even four and five.

That means that the revised funding model now looks like this:

                                                                Year 1               Year 2             Year 3

Funds from Wheatley UC in 2019          $  7,000            $  7,000          $  7,000

Funds on hand from Wheatley UC              7,000                    –                      –

        Seeds of Hope Grant                                12,000                    –                      –

Essex Presbytery Development Fund        15,000                5,000              5,000

United Church Grant                                     –                  25,000            20,000

Increased offering from Family Minister   -1,000                3,000              8,000

Total                                                      $40,000            $40,000          $40,000     

I want to note a few things about this model. First it assumes that we will hire someone effective January 1, 2020. Second, it assumes that we are paying the Family Minister at the high end of the pay scale, $21/hr. We can go lower.

Third, it also assumes that the money that we receive from Wheatley for 10% of my salary in the Shared Ministry Agreement all goes toward the Family Minister which is what we assumed from the very beginning. Remember that agreement came into effect at the beginning of the year which means that the $7,000 that was received in 2019 goes toward the Family Minister as does the $7,000 each year moving forward.

You will also see that while we budgeted $8,000 for the Seeds of Hope Grant, we actually received $12,000. That was certainly a bonus.

Now let’s look at the Essex Presbytery Development Fund Grant. The maximum grant that is available is $25,000. But that grant can be spread over three year. When we looked at the way the numbers were working out we decided that we wanted to split it up into three years with $15,000 in the first year and $5,000 in each of the following two years.

Now comes the big surprise. When we were applying for the Seeds of Hope Grant, we discovered that the United Church offers grants of up to $25,000 for a maximum of four years for new ministry projects such as ours. The reason why these grants exist is because the experience of the United Church is that new ministry initiatives often take five to seven years to become self-funding. So, while a one year Seeds of Hope Grant was appreciated, many good projects failed because they needed longer term funding. Hence the larger, longer term grants. But one of the prerequisites of those grants is starting off with a Seeds of Hope Grant. Then the United Church assesses how well a church has applied the Seeds of Hope Grant and, if it has been applied well, then the chances of getting the longer term grants is greatly improved. So, we have to prove ourselves which I think we can do. Along the way, those who receive the Seeds of Hope Grants are offered workshops and seminars that teach some fundamentals about how to succeed.

Our funding plan calls for a $25,000 grant in year 2 and a $20,000 grant is year three. If we were to extend the time line, you’d see that we would decrease the grants for years four and five until we are down to zero in year six. Are these grants guaranteed? No they aren’t but, as I said, if we apply the Seeds of Hope Grant successfully, the odds increase exponentially so it really is all up to us to prove that we can be successful.

The last line of the table is the extra funds that we hope that the Family Minister will generate because of improved ministry to the community. You will see that in year one, we are actually over-funded by $1,000. We don’t expect the Family Minister to bring in any extra funding but, if they do, that’s a bonus. In year two, we hope that the Family Minister’s work results in $3,000 more offering and, in year three, we are looking at $8,000. Note that after year five, looking forward, the goal is to have the Family Minister self-funding. We initially thought we could be self-funding after three years but the folks we spoke with at the United Church warned us that we were being perhaps a bit too ambitious.

I also want to point out that there is a fair bit of play in these numbers. Again we are assuming that we offer the maximum wage rate of $21/hr. But if we offer the minimum of $17/hr, then our total cost decreases from $40,000 to $32,800 which is a savings of over $7,000.

The next question of course is what happens if we don’t get those United Church of Canada grants beginning in year two? Even then there are some options. I have mentioned more than a few times that I would be open to cutting back to ¾ time from full-time. That would be a cost saving for the church of $17,000 to $20,000 which then could go toward the Family Minister. I can’t really get into the details about how that might work right now because we really don’t know. All I’m saying is that there are other options that we can pursue that make all of this possible.

CURRENT DEFICIT

And now let’s talk about the elephant in the room. How are we supposed to do this when we currently are sitting in a deficit position in our operating account? Let’s be honest, our current deficit this year is about $20,000. Earlier in the year we were falling behind about $1,000 per month but then summer came and things kind of fell off the cliff. That’s by no means unique for the summer but it certainly does not look very good. But we do know that the decline from May to August this year, although it was about $10,000, was about half of the decline for the same period last year. That means, at least, that we are moving in the right direction.

There are a few other things we need to keep in mind. First of all, this is the absolute worst time of the year to look at our finances. The summer is always down because people go away on vacations and go golfing and fishing and what have you. October, November and December are traditionally our three best months. We have the turkey supper coming up in November which is usually good for profit of $7,000 to $10,000 and we have December which is always our biggest month of the year. In fact, last year’s December offering was almost $30,000.

Second, next week we will be starting a long overdue four week givings campaign which we hope will make people more aware of our financial situation and encourage them to help us get out of this financial hole. And not just with money but also in time and talents. And when you think about it, the big problem is that we’ve let the deficit accumulate. We’re really only talking about $250/week. What that means is that if every adult attender gave an extra $5/week we’d start to pull ourselves out of the deficit rather quickly. That’s how close we are.

The third thing to think about is that the Family Minister can actually be seen as an investment who will help us out of the deficit by attracting and retaining more people for Cottam United Church who will also offer their time, money and talents.

The fourth thing to consider is that, if we don’t take advantage of this opportunity, we lose the grants that we have secured. We can’t keep them and use them for something else. They have to go back. That means that we will lose the $37,000 we have already secured. And we won’t be able to apply for a possible $100,000 from the United Church.

The last thing that I want to say that relates to this is that, if we don’t hire a Family Minister, I have no idea how to move forward. The folks who are running the childrens education programmes are burned out and need a break or at least some dedicated support. We can’t even find someone to teach the senior Sunday School class which is grade five and up. And if don’t run that class, we are going to lose those families. So, we can’t simply keep doing what we’re doing now because what we’re doing isn’t working. So, unless a whole lot of people are willing to volunteer to help out I just don’t know where we go from here.

WHO CAN VOTE?

So what are we going to be doing at the congregational meeting next week? There will be a motion brought forward that will ask that a Search Committee be formed to actually begin searching for the right person. If that motion passes, then the congregation will be asked to appoint people to that Search Committee. If all of that is approved than we move forward. If the motion to form a Search Committee is defeated than we need to trust God to provide other solutions because, like I said, we can’t continue doing what we’re doing now because it isn’t working.

The last question I want to answer was asked by someone earlier this week. Who can vote on the motion to form the Search Committee? Clearly, all members of Cottam United Church can vote. Also remember that a person is only a member if their name is on our membership role. Just because you attend worship and help with activities and attend programmes does not automatically make you a member. It doesn’t mean that we don’t love and the fact that you have chosen Cottam United Church as your home. It’s just that you have not officially become a member.

But what about those who are not actually members of the church? Can they vote? That’s a good question because we have lots of very active people who fall into that category. We call them adherents. Until recently, the answer was probably no. They could not vote on ministry personnel issues. But that changed last year. Now adherents can vote as long as the members say they can. What that means is that even before the motion to form a Search Committee, there will be a motion to allow adherents to vote. My hunch is that, given the nature of this congregation and the importance of this vote to everyone, that motion will easily pass and adherents will be able to vote along with members.

That’s about all I have to say today about this. Please take this information home. Think about it. Talk about it. If you have any questions, please ask them. If you want to review this information, Pam will be posting this message on the website later this week.

The last thing that I want to say is that we need to earnestly pray about this and ask God’s blessing and guidance upon us. Can we do this? Yes we can. If we are in tune with God wants us to do, then we should never be discouraged because, in Christ, all things are possible. And if you ever wondered about that, go outside at look at the Prayer Garden that we have given to the community. There are those who said that it would never happen. It did and it was such a thrill to see the community pull together yesterday to make it all happen. In God all things are possible.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

We come before your throne, O God, thankful for the beauty of this season. The hints of autumn are around us. Tinges of colours splash the trees. Cool rains fall to refresh the earth. There is a crisp chill in the morning air. All of these things come from you. All are the work of your hand, brought about by your creative purpose.

In the midst of the beauty of creation is the joy of your presence. You are here with us offering strength and courage in times of need. You are consistent and trustworthy in all areas. Your hand is upon us. Your angels surround us. Your Spirit lives within us. You are not a god who is far away but you live in our hearts and sit upon the throne of our lives.

We give you thanks for a great day yesterday, a day when the church and community came together to plant our Prayer Garden for everyone to enjoy. We give thanks for the help and the enthusiasm. We pray that the plants may take hold, grow and bloom so that your glory may be seen. We also offer our prayers of thanks for all of those who contributed in any way to the success of this project.

We also pray for our congregational meeting next week as we have to decide on whether to proceed with forming a Search Committee. Give us wisdom. Give us courage. Give us vision. Give us hope as we look toward the future.

It is such a great comfort to know that our lives are in your hands and that you will always be there for us. Even when life is at its most difficult point, you are faithful. People sometimes abandon their commitments, but you never fail to satisfy our deepest longings. Thank you for the unfailing love that you offer to us and for being that Rock upon which we can rest in safety and security.

We lift up in prayer those who are sick this day, especially Sharon, Jacqui, Shad and Mary. Be with them and bless them with your Healing Spirit that they may find rest and comfort in their time of need.

Heavenly Father, we wait upon you. We wait patiently for your deliverance in every difficult circumstances. You are always faithful to meet our needs when we bring them before you. You are faithful to fulfill the promises that you have made. We bring our gratitude to you and pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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