Yesterday was the first meeting of an “action team” looking at new or different ways to fund the work and ministry of the Presbytery of Monmouth. For years the presbytery has been funded through a two-tiered approach, like our synod and general assembly, of per capita assessment and mission giving. The past few decades, however, have led to a breakdown of this system in a number of ways.
First, we have been co-mingling per capita (administrative) and mission spending for quite some time … not unlike the other entities of our Church. We have moved from an understanding of “mission” as the money we send to other places to money that supports the “mission” of the presbytery. This was done, both, out of a change of the focus of the work of a presbytery and the shrinking per capita receipts.
Secondly, we have had a loss of per capita giving among our churches. Whether it’s because of tight congregational budgets or political disagreement with larger church policies and stands, the reality in Monmouth Presbytery is that we only collect about 66% of the per capita we assess from our congregations. In addition, those that are paying in full are paying less because of declines in church membership.
Thirdly, we have done a terrible job of interpreting the work and ministry of the presbytery. Unfortunately, that means that many pastors and congregations see a declining “benefit” to supporting the presbytery’s budget … staffing, office … etc. It’s seen as a bureaucracy at best and an intrusion at it’s worst. It’s imperative that we start thinking about the work and ministry of the regional Church in a way that is focused on the building of the Kingdom of Christ, that supports missional congregations, that connects congregations in larger mission, and that faithfully builds leaders/pastors/evangelists/teachers etc. in the church.
So … what might a new system of funding look like for a regional mid-council type of body? Do we assess? Do we rely on “gifts”? Do we ask congregations to pay as they go? What do other presbyteries do? What do other denominations do? What do other faiths do? What is faithful? What is fair? What will be most helpful for the health, vitality, and effective ministry of our congregations?