The annual congregational meeting is moving along with the usual reports and updates. Then it’s time to discuss next year’s budget. Seeing the dollar amount the congregation will forward to the regional church, a well-intentioned member stands up to ask the question: What are they doing with our money anyway?
A fair question. When you and I sit down regularly to write out cheques or do electronic transfers to our church, we know that some of that money will be passed on to ministries outside our congregation. We want those gifts to benefit our own community and to do much good elsewhere in the world.
A verse that comes to mind is 1 Peter 4:10: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” It’s good to remind ourselves that our donations are God’s money, an expression of God’s grace to be shared beyond our own circles.
Quick review: Mennonite Church Canada is made up of five regional churches (in former times called conferences), that are geographically based. Congregations in those areas are members of their respective regional churches. They are Mennonite Church British Columbia (with 29 congregations), Mennonite Church Alberta (12), Mennonite Church Saskatchewan (26), Mennonite Church Manitoba (39) and Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (97).
The regional churches have an agreement—a covenant—with each other to form Mennonite Church Canada. While the regional churches engage in their own ministries closer to home, they also help in the ministries of the nationwide church. A small staff at the nationwide office carries out tasks done on behalf of the larger church.
Often larger visions for ministry depend on cooperation among the various parts, beyond our individual congregations. “Doing together what we cannot do alone,” is how the MC Saskatchewan website expresses it. The regional and nationwide church structures are in place to help us accomplish things that our individual congregations cannot do efficiently on their own.
So, what’s happening with the money our congregations give to the larger church? Here are a few examples:
- Helping churches find pastors;
- Providing support to new congregations;
- Giving practical help for congregations to build new websites;
- Contributing toward the cost of your Canadian Mennonite subscription;
- Encouraging connections between congregations;
- Organizing events for youth;
- Offering ongoing training and accountability for pastors;
- Planning events for inspiration, learning and spiritual growth;
- Supporting publishing projects for curriculum and worship materials;
- Distributing books and other materials that encourage faith development
- Supporting Mennonite schools and camps, who in turn train new leaders;
- Setting priorities for working together in nationwide efforts and guiding us into new callings;
- Informing Mennonites about ministries across Canada and overseas, inviting prayer, volunteers and financial support;
- Coordinating projects with other Mennonite denominations in North America;
- Representing MC Canada in ecumenical efforts for peace and justice;
- Equipping and supporting International Witness workers to share God’s good news in China, Philippines, South Korea and Thailand;
- Cooperating with Anabaptist siblings in other places to help them carry out their ministries.
The financial gifts you and I send to our regional church help the church carry out God’s mission in many places, close to home and thousands of kilometres away. So maybe the question isn’t: What are they doing with our money? A better question would be: What are we doing with God’s money?
In the coming weeks, the five regional churches will be holding their annual delegate sessions. With meetings happening online this year, you may be able to take part and hear more about what we—together—are doing with God’s money. Check your regional church website for details.
Canadian Mennonite will report on these meetings in upcoming issues. In the meantime, keep following other stories in our magazine, where you will see many examples of your/our/God’s money at work.