Tough economic times and the conference budget: Worry?

Tough economic times and the conference budget: Worry?

The news is sobering, especially for individuals who were financially confined before the banks and markets began falling. It seems only natural that church budgets will suffer as givers make decisions to cover their non-negotiable expenditures.

As of Sept. 30, apportionment giving for the Holston Conference budget was $200,000 shorter than it was for the same period in 2007.

However, Treasurer John Tate offers a faith perspective at a time when others are predicting dreadful outcomes:

"I believe in bad economic times, generous givers will continue to give," said Tate. "I guess they don't get discouraged but rely on their faith. I'm not saying that I or others don't get discouraged."

E-mail The Call about your financial joys and concerns. See note at the end of this story.

On Sept. 30 of last year, the treasurer's office had received 61.2 percent of the $15.9 million budget. The conference finished 2007 by receiving 89 percent of apportionments, which was less than the 90 to 91 percent that has historically been received in Holston Conference.

On Sept. 30 of this year, the treasurer's office had received 60 percent of the $15.7 million budget.

Traditionally, church treasurers expect a giving surge in the latter part of the year, Tate said. "We typically get a lot of revenue in December, but I anticipate we'll fall below 90 percent this year."

For the conference office, the projected shortfall means that staff will be obligated to "distinguish between the want-tos and have-tos," Tate said. "We'll be turning out the lights when we're not going to be here. We'll be looking for ways to be diligent in saving where we can."

More dramatic measures, such as staff cuts, are "longer-term decisions that will depend on our economic security," Tate said. "But if the shortfalls are long term, then we'll have to look at adjustments besides just turning the lights off."

Still, Tate said he often consults a web site called GenerousGiving.com as he balances his accountant's perspective with faith experience.

"I had a professor who said the numbers are the numbers are the numbers," he said. "From an accountant's perspective, tithing doesn't add up. It's amazing that, after you tithe, you can actually have more than what you started with. If local church members are tithing, then we should have all the resources we need for the conference and for the general church.

"In my own life," Tate added, "I am praying for contentment, for what I already have."

Editor's note: Please e-mail The Call about your joys and concerns as you absorb the world's economic news. If more than five responses are received, next week's e-news will provide a report.