God's Money and God's Mission
2019 ABCVNH Regional Offering Letter
This letter was recently mailed to churches, church leaders, and individuals all over our region. We are including it here so that you can read it and respond as God calls you.
We all live in New England, right?
So, you know how it is when your car gets more than a few years and more than a few miles on it. The paint gets chipped here. A scratch shows up there. Dents and scrapes and bumps accumulate. Eventually a little bit of rust shows up. The car is perfectly fine. Still has lots of miles yet to go, but that new car shine is long gone.
Well, here is the car I drive around Vermont and New Hampshire as I talk to churches and pastors in my role as Regional Minister. It’s a 2008 Chevy Impala with126,000 miles on it. When I got it 4 years ago, it had 60,000 miles. So that works out to about 16,000 miles a year. That isn’t too bad, but of course you need to factor in that those miles are year-round, winter and summer. What’s more, while those are technically mostly highway miles, you know as well as I do that for a lot of the roads I’m riding, “Highway” is a fairly generous label.
It’s a basic transportation workhorse. It gets decent mileage and handles well enough in most weather. But you know how it is. Eventually salt gets up under the rocker panels and the fenders. If left untended, those little spots turn into patches. And those patches turn into holes. Pretty soon your mechanic won’t let you pass inspection until you do something about those holes. It doesn’t matter that they don’t affect the way the car runs or drives – they won’t give you that sticker until those holes are all patched up.
At this point, I have a choice to make. An auto body shop will charge a whole bunch of money for a trained auto body technician to do some kind of magic that makes holes disappear without a trace. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s where my priority is.
Or…we can do it the Old Yankee way. Go down to the parts store. Pick up a can of Bondo and some other supplies. Do some grinding. Do some filling. Wait ‘til it cures. Smooth it over and throw on some spray paint. No, it won’t look quite as good as the professional job. But it will look better than the hole that was there before, and most important, it will get that sticker for the windshield.
But why go through all that trouble when you could just let the pros do it?
The answer is pretty simple -- the budget is tight. We need to make every dollar stretch. Money doesn’t grow on trees after all. And in my case, every dollar not needlessly spent is a dollar that can go to ministry. And that is where our priority is.
Where does the money come from?
When we say that money doesn’t grow on trees, it is not just an old saying. It’s a reminder that every dollar in the Region budget is a sacrifice for someone in the pews, someone like you. Yet, you decided to send that money to the Region to support gospel ministry among our neighbors in Vermont and New Hampshire.
You took it from your bank account and put it into the offering plate. Then because of a decision you made at a church business meeting, it came out of the church’s funds. We never forget that. This is not our money. It is God’s money, that he gave to you, so that you might entrust it to us. We give it back to him as the living sacrifice of proclaiming God’s Good News in Jesus, and loving our neighbors for his sake.
We know that these dollars and cents do not come to you easily. You sweat for them, paying for each decimal in effort and time. Therefore, when you write that check, or click that online donation button, those simple gestures contain hours and days of labor, and careful management. We do not take your gift lightly. The trust you show when you give to the Region Offering is always at the front of our minds.
We know that you give because you want to see the ministry of the Gospel move forward in New England – and that is what we want too. That’s why we work so hard to stretch every dollar and apply these funds where they are most needed and will be most effective.
So Where does the Money Go?
To help you understand this, let me explain how this money is used.
First of all, organizationally, the American Baptist Churches of Vermont and New Hampshire functions as a mission infrastructure of our approximately 150 churches. Our system does not direct our churches or define their local ministry. We instead offer our care and support to local churches and pastors.
ABCVNH has only one full time employee; the Region Executive Minister. My role is multifaceted; working with search committees, pastors, church boards, region boards, and working with new ministries and initiatives. My role can be one of mentor, counselor, consultant, administrator, preacher and pastor – all in a given week! Your giving supports my work as the Region Executive Minister where my role is often that of “Jack of All Trades” home missionary.
In addition, your gifts provide for a dedicated part time staff; an Administrative Assistant to answer calls and research questions for pastors and churches and connect them with resources, and a Financial Manager to find cost savings, manage our accounting and provide a system of trusted financial management. There are others, Stipend Staff, that help with communications, pastoral placement and longevity.
Considering that we serve 150 churches, ABCVNH is a cost-effective mission.
The good news is that last year 2018, our Region had approximately a $7000 budget deficit in comparison to a $120,000 deficit in 2012. This year it is possible to attain a balanced budget. Last year, our Region offering was $52,000. This year, ABCVNH will need the same amount to support our mission together. This amount, in conjunction with 65% of the United Mission giving we received, and 29% of the America for Christ offering, plus our own modest endowment income is what supports our wider mission.
Beyond our operating budget, ABCVNH manages restricted grants, gifts and endowments for the support and care of local pastors and churches. Last year we returned to local churches and pastors more than $127,700. This figure includes $37,760 via ABCVNH’s operating budget. In a given year, greater than 50% of our pastors and churches will receive support and encouragement via the ABCVNH mission infrastructure.
This support is varied from distributing gifts from the Minister’s Council, purchasing books for pastors, helping new ministries, buying materials for VBS, purchasing new Bibles for pews, or helping repair and update church buildings. While your gift maintains a modest office and enables your Region Executive Minister to be on the road in a rusty old car, we are committed to lowering our operations costs to better serve 150 churches, regardless of size.
Your gifts are invested in the Mission at our Doorstep, simply Vermont and New Hampshire. Every dollar is a gift, and ABCVNH receives your gift as entrusted to us by Christ.
How can you contribute?
Please consider how God has blessed you and how He can use you to bless others.
If you feel called to give, you have several options:
We all know Christ’s lesson of the Widow’s mite (Mark 12:43-44). While the rich were giving gifts that jangled in the receptacles at the temple, a widow took her last tow coins and shared a quiet gift with God – all she had. God asks us to give in faith. God asks us to give from our hearts. I ask that you would consider supporting the ministry of the American Baptist Churches of Vermont and New Hampshire. We will be blessed by your gift and we will honor your gift by using it wisely and in the spirit you gave it – to spread the love of Christ to those in need.
In Jesus’ Name
PS: Maybe by now, you’re wondering how the cost savings worked out with regard to my car as mentioned in the beginning of this letter. Well, here is a photo of the finished work. I think it looks pretty good!
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