I’m headed to a staff retreat here today and so this will be a lazy post with ideas wholly coming from a friend.
Steve Knight is someone you should know because of TransFORM, Knightopia, and other projects. While several exceptional pastors are meeting this week in Minneapolis, I’m pondering along with them from afar. The subject is: Funding the Missional Church.
It’s no secret that some of our congregations are barely surviving financially.
I regularly get phone calls from our denomination’s Board of Pensions reporting congregations that haven’t paid their pastors’ pension dues, and if someone doesn’t cover them soon, those pastors will lose their health insurance. Often the churches simply can’t afford to pay.
Some of these struggling congregations are in the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago and their own people rely on social services and other churches to feed their families. Nevertheless, there’s one particular church that can’t pay its pastor’s pension dues, but they offer a safe place for kids after school. Another church can barely hire a pastor, and yet they feed hungry people breakfast every day.
Steve Knight writes about the future of church finances here after spending time with Charles LaFond – Canon for Congregational Life in the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.
Regarding Canon LaFond’s wisdom regarding the future financial situation of the institutional church from Steve’s blog:
- The primary years that Episcopalians pledge and give to their church are between the ages of 50 and 70.
- Around 2015 (three years from now), the oldest Baby Boomers will begin moving out of the 50-70 age range, and the oldest Generation Xers will begin moving into that age range.
Of course, there are two huge problems with this generational transition (which I believe will affect most aging mainline Protestant churches, not just Episcopal churches):
- There are far fewer Gen Xers than there are Baby Boomers and older, so there’s no way we can “replace” those who will stop giving (based on the population numbers alone).
- Generation X is the first generation that will no longer give to support anything based on affiliation (e.g., “I’m an Episcopalian/Disciple/Lutheran/Methodist/[fill in the blank], therefore I’ll give to my local [fill in the blank] church”).
Charles’ conclusion: Churches for the first time ever will need to really earn people’s participation and financial support, rather than simply expecting the “members” to remain engaged and cover all the costs.
According to Charles, “The average small church requires about $220,000 to exist with a clergy person, and I am not sure Generations X and Y are willing to pay the bills required for their wedding photos to be well-staged. I love our churches. … But I think the future of the church will be house-churches which use the church building as a meeting house.”
One of the great tweets from yesterday’s event in Minneapolis was a quote from speaker Brad Cecil: “People stopped trusting the church to do something bigger than the church.”
Yep. What do you see for the future church based on these financial and generational shifts?