Financial trends and church health

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May 31, 2010 | Viewpoints | Number 11
Andrew Reesor-McDowell |

There are many signs of good spiritual health in the body and ministry system that comprises Mennonite Church Canada. But there are also some worrisome trends.

Over the past few years, revenues have steadily increased to congregations and their related ministries, but they have declined to centrally planned ministries of MC Canada and the area churches. Recent research on our behalf shows that the total annual revenue received by all ministries and levels of the church body is more than $190 million; of this, approximately $5.5 million—about 2.8 percent—is directed to the centrally planned work of the MC Canada office.

In addition, donor support for MC Canada’s centrally planned ministry has long been on a downward trend, significantly weakening our capacity to sustain strong partnerships, provide basic denominational ministry and services that help maintain the health of the whole body. For example, Witness ministry budgets are shrinking; ecumenical cooperation in such circles as the Canadian Council of Churches and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is weakened; and our capacity to grow leaders for the church is compromised.

Congregational giving to MC Canada has decreased by $400,000—13 percent—over the last seven years. Research shows that 79 percent of revenues received by congregations is used for local ministry, including facilities and salaries. Indicators suggest that individuals and congregations are giving more to non-Mennonite organizations and causes than ever before, while emphasizing local ministry, and giving more to one-time and short-term projects.

Thankfully, many of our partner ministries are able to raise funds through various service fees, granting bodies and government agencies. MC Canada, as a national church, is more restricted in these areas.

Moreover, MC Canada’s ethos does not welcome aggressive fundraising for centrally planned ministry. Area church moderators indicate that they are experiencing similar trend-lines and their centrally planned ministries are likely unsustainable.

As a body, we are a network of relationships, a “system” that is “called, equipped and sent” to engage the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this body, there are more than 25 Mennonite-related organizations where we do together what we cannot—or should not—do alone or in smaller groups. We minister through partnerships with schools, Mennonite Central Committee, camps, area churches, Mennonite World Conference, Mennonite Men, Mennonite Women Canada, Mennonite Publishing Network, Canadian Mennonite, Christian Peacemaker Teams and others.

But it is the church from which these good ministries stem that invites people into membership, then disciples and nurtures them in their gospel vocation. The God-given gifts of time and resources
contributed by members are needed to build the whole church and strengthen all of its ministries as it engages the world with its gospel vocation—including ministries that are centrally planned.

It is the view of the general board of MC Canada that together we need to strive for the health of the whole body and all of its ministries. At the MC Canada delegate assembly in Calgary, leaders will frame key questions and seek counsel from delegates and ministry partners to discern appropriate paths.

Andrew Reesor-McDowell is moderator of Mennonite Church Canada.

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