We have been on an amazing journey as a church over the past few months. At the beginning of May, we saw there was a potential time bomb ticking in our church finances and we needed to move quickly to recalibrate things to ensure nothing of major consequence had to happen.
Enter the family meeting of 2015!
We went before the congregation to let everyone know we were in a financial hole and we needed to focus on a couple of solutions. In the words of Josh Gray, we needed to plug the drain and turn the faucet on.
So we plugged the drain. We moved out of our offices and into the children’s ministry classrooms. We cut spending drastically. We got rid of donuts. And in doing these things, we were able to save jobs for everyone on staff without a pay cut. That, in my estimation, was a huge win.
Our elders and executive team have focused a lot of energy on how to handle these cuts well. I have been honored to walk alongside such men and women as they have labored to protect people and God’s reputation in the process. This has also been a huge win.
And we have worked very hard to protect the things we spend money on that we value most. Our benevolence has not been reduced. Also, we have tried very hard to protect the experiences people have at the entry points of our church — namely, Sunday morning services and CARE Groups. Being able to do this has been a huge win.
We have people come to our church every week for the first time. It is hard to know how to best update everyone on this journey without creating an odd sense of tension with people who have simply not been a part of the journey up until now. So we left things a bit nebulous in our conversations from the stage. This was an attempt not to raise unnecessary questions for our new folks. And that worked. But it also left the people who had been a part of the journey with more questions than clear answers.
In an attempt to help people understand the larger picture of all this, I wanted to give people access to this update and help people see the how and why behind the decisions that have been made.
Almost two years ago, we engaged in a generosity initiative we called Cannonball. This was an attempt to raise money for several projects we believed, and still believe, God was and is leading us toward. Among those projects were and are the Moscow Campus building, additional and extended mission support, new campus development (we have potential locations already selected), and the staffing needed to support these new endeavors.
The numbers were big and we knew that, but when the commitment cards were in, our people had pledged what we needed over the following two years to move forward. So we made commitments to the first phases of this whole strategic plan. In doing so, we obligated ourselves to fixed expenses we had not previously been obligated to.
The largest of these expenses is the debt on the building. In our Cannonball pledge, we wanted to raise enough money to pay off this debt, and our pledges would have helped do that, for the most part. However, what has actually come in has been short of our pledges by about half. Consequently, we are carrying a loan payment that was not supposed to be part of the operating budget. That is OK. We can make the payment, but it comes with a tradeoff. For every dollar going to debt service, we take a dollar out of ministry in our community.
Now for the good news. As we have trimmed and shaved and cut back our spending, we have revamped our budget to be able to do ministry with the resources God has provided to our church. We are not where we want to be, but we are stable. We have figured out how to do ministry at the level of provision God is giving us now. And we will continue to work hard to shave expenses without compromising values in ministry so we can be a group of people who put our God on display well.
We have about 2,500 people who call Real Life their home church. And we are honored to serve such a group of people. There has never been a church this large on the Palouse — ever. Something special is going on, and whatever God is doing, it seems He has put Real Life at the head of the spear. Praise God for what we get to be a part of!
We have seen hundreds of people come to know Christ for the first time. And people who have walked away from the Lord are coming home and being restored to the family. At the heart of who we are, these are huge victories. We believe we have brought glory to God through this.
To top it all off, in this year of financial struggle, we have had more people baptized into Christ for the first time than in any other year of our existence. God is still moving and doing great things at Real Life, and we are honored to partner with Him in the restoration of the brokenness of this world.
So thank you for your generous support of Real Life. We cannot do what we do without your support for our ministry. As you continue to be faithful in supporting our church, God continues to be faithful in healing broken hearts and setting people free with the power of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Please continue to be generous. God has many more things He is ready to do. And as resources allow, we will continue to partner with Him in doing things through the power of God and in the name of God that the Palouse has not yet seen.
If you have any further concerns or questions about our finances, any member in good standing is welcome to visit with our executive team to have questions and concerns addressed. Thanks for partnering with us to reach the world for Jesus, one person at a time!