Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Culture of Growth

My June-July Newsletter Musings invites us to focus, probably re-focus, on creating a culture of growth.  For those who might not have read those musings, I have posted them to my blog HERE
I propose a new conversation focused on a culture of growth as it relates to our economic well-being as a church start today.  Read on please. 
Next week, you should receive from our Stewardship Co-Chair, Dr. Roy Trawick and me a letter.  This letter will address both our specific Hilltop context and your possible place in our financial, economic, and stewardship world.  We are working on this communication with great care.  The communication is meant to express: gratitude, understanding and invitation.  Our gratitude for steadfast faithfulness; understanding when life circumstances means a family (or individual) cannot help; and an invitation to be part of a new culture focused on growth. 
Where you sit in life matters.  This will not be a “one size fits all” approach to our economic message.  The “one size fits all” we do hope for is understanding, prayer and discernment as we attempt to lay out where we are and invite all of us to use this as an opportunity for embracing a culture of growth.  Again, we are I believe, mindful of those on fixed income, out of work, dealing with expenses from a wide array of external requirements, etc. 
Overall, we can and must do better. 
Table 1 looks at the eight Anglo Churches in Utah with a full-time pastor.  We are second in attendance but in per capita congregational giving we are eighth.  I will note, we are better than we have been in the past, the gap is closing. 
Table 1 looks at a sub-set of churches in our area, but if we look at all United Methodist Churches in Western Colorado and Utah, over 40, the average giving per attendee is right at $2,100.  Our average is $1,825.  There is a very high relationship between attendance and congregational giving in the aggregate, with right at 90% of the uncertainty in congregational giving being a function of attendance.  In the world of economic analysis, that is a very high level of uncertainty explained. 
If we were ‘average’ in this area, we would have +$60,000 to invest in growing the kingdom.  Just ‘average.’  I personally do not think Hilltop is an ‘average’ community but in this area, we are ‘below average.’  In some measures of grading we would get a ‘needs improvement.’  Many former Hilltop members now worship in St. George at Shepherd of the Hills.  If we were at their level of average giving, we would have nearly $150,000 more to invest in kingdom growth.  Getting to average gets us over $60,000 and getting to level of many of our former parishioners in St. George almost gets us $150,000. 
At this moment, our forecasted overall income is right at $30,000 less than our forecasted and budgeted expenses.  That is about a six percent shortfall.  To return to the theme of last year, we are not over expensed, we are under incomed. 
How have we gotten to this place?  Multiple factors I think. 
  • We are younger than the average church.  We have more young families than most.  Resources are not evenly distributed across the age groupings, and as a general rule, money is highly clustered in older families and individuals. 
  • We are highly transient.  People do show up here and then depart within five years.  Their financial commitment to Hilltop is gradual and then interrupted by their professional moves to another place in the country.  They blessed us in many ways during their brief time with us. 
  • Finally, I think we have used resources generated by the building to pay for programs.  Examples have been and in some cases still are, Hilltop Christian School, Building Use Donations and Cell Towers.  This occurred during lean times and we have kept it up.  To the detriment of the building I believe. 
Do those three factors, and perhaps more that are unmentioned, mean we are fated to lag our colleagues in Utah?  I think no.  I do think it will require us to focus on who we are and whose we are – with a solid vision.
Our new proposed vision is:  Hilltop – An inclusive community of hospitality, healing, help, and hope, leading hearts to Christ. 
A portion of our hospitality is the building, but it also the staff which is a part of leading, managing, facilitating lay-led programmatic work to bring us to a place where we can heal, help and be part of the hope message.  It is also our healing, help and hope support for the church beyond our walls where we are only sharing 67 cents on every dollar we should be sharing.  The building is a means for helping us realize our vision, staff to help lead and manage a culture of growth lived out by the laity, and being interested in supporting the greater church in places like Africa and the Philippines. 
For this specific note let’s address the building which gets about one dollar in four from our budget.  Most of that one dollar in four is for fixed or reasonably fixed costs:  mortgage, trash, utilities.  What is left over is insufficient to adequately provide required upkeep on the property.  An excellent example is our 1983 parking lot.  We keep sealing the cracks but at some point, it needs a new layer of asphalt.  Another example is the roof where over the past six years we have spent over $80,000 and 100% of that was paid for by insurance.  A blessing we had the insurance for sure.  The age of the building ranges from thirty-five to about ten years.  We are under invested in its upkeep and maintenance. 
In my June-July Newsletter Musings, I mentioned that Paul in his letter to Timothy speaks to being diligent. I wrote: 
“To be diligent suggests we will attend to life in a way that shows care and conscientiousness in our duties.  I pray you show care and are conscientious in your weekly attendance at Hilltop and supporting her with your time, talent and treasure. It is important. It is important to sustaining a culture of growth.  Paul says to “give yourself wholly to them.” I think that is excellent advice, and I pass it on for your consideration and possible implementation.” 
I closed that article saying “Thank you for attending to this issue of great importance.”  We need to attend to this opportunity to create a culture of growth.  When you get your letter next week, find a quiet moment to read it and attempt to develop an understanding of what we are saying. 
People often ask me, what might I do to help more at Hilltop?  You would bless me if you would patiently and with great wisdom and understanding, carefully read what we have to say to you. 
Thank you for your anticipated understanding and “Thank you for attending to this issue of great importance.”   
Selah, Pastor Dennis