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Cross-country funding conversation

   

Dec 7, 2004
-by from reports

 


In November, Mennonite Church Canada held seven meetings across Canada to seek feedback from congregational leaders about funding the national church. About 150 pastors and congregational leaders attended.

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Winnipeg, Man. — There is much to give thanks for, and we want to ensure the stability of our ministry. These were the messages that congregational leaders and pastors heard when they met MC Canada spokespersons in meetings across the country in November.

A projected shortfall of $120,000 in donation revenue (see Canadian Mennonite, Nov 1, page 19) prompted the listening tour to engage member churches in conversation about funding national and international ministries. While the projected shortfall is an item for concern, it is important not to lose sight of the many gifts shared and the joy of being able to join in what God is doing through our work together, reported Dan Nighswander, general secretary, and Al Rempel, director of resource development.

Over 150 pastors and congregational leaders turned out for a series of seven meetings from British Colombia to Southern Ontario. They heard a financial update, received information about new ministry achievements and prayed together for guidance. They talked with each other and with the MC Canada representatives about how we will continue to use our financial gifts to sustain and build our shared ministry.

Significant changes are emerging in our society and congregations across Canada. “Budgets in our churches are rising but we are also spending more money on internal expenses,” noted an Ontario participant. What is the best way for MC Canada to move forward in this changing environment? How can MC Canada best help its area conferences and congregations to move forward in our shared vision of healing and hope?

Four major themes emerged from the cross-country conversations.

Vision

Consultation participants encouraged MC Canada to find new ways to create, shape and communicate its vision for ministry. “For people to get passionate they need to know more and understand how they can make a difference. Being able to name the need is very important in drawing people out,” said one participant in Ontario.

Ownership

Help congregations take more ownership in the financial faith commitments we make together, the participants said. For some this extended to helping congregations prepare their delegates for annual assemblies, and creating more channels of communication that help local congregations share their financial plans with the wider church. “Can we encourage congregations to weigh the consequences of finance decisions?” asked a Saskatchewan participant. An Ontario representative was concerned about area and national conference overlap: “The avoidance of duplication needs to be clear.” One meeting participant in Saskatchewan pointed out a common human tendency: “We tend to trust organizations we know little about while distrusting those we know most about.”

Trends

A third theme was reflecting on the larger trends affecting the ministry of the wider church. “What are the economic and sociological shifts that must be addressed in how we do and fund ministry. I find it curious that giving is seen as permanently down. What kind of analysis is being conducted on the trends? Are Assembles structured in some ways that are creating distance as opposed to ownership of our programs?” asked participants in Manitoba.

Communication

Improving techniques of communicating to congregations and individuals was a fourth theme. Packaging stories and needs with which people can identify, strengthening relationships with pastors, and developing the partnership concept to connect more congregations to ministries were examples that fleshed out this theme.

“There were a number of very good ideas shared that will shape our next steps. Much of the advice heard fits with plans already in various stages of development,” said Al Rempel. “For example, we’re working very intentionally at growing congregational partnerships with various ministries to help churches own what they’ve said is important to us as a denomination,” citing a developing partnership with Bethany Mennonite Church, in Virgil and the ministry of Glyn and Susan Alison Jones working in Botswana. “This is just one of many examples we’re working on.”

The need for accountability also factors into the equation of a new and growing organization. “We want to keep our administration and overhead costs low, and spend dollars on ministries that help others. But MC Canada is a relatively new organization with all the growing pains that young organizations encounter,” said Dan Nighswander.

“God has a mission for us. We want to participate fully in it.”


Update (posted Dec 9, 2004)

Donors are responding to news of a projected donation shortfall for MC Canada. As of November 30, MC Canada is projecting a $98,000 shortfall, rather than the $120,000 shortfall projected earlier. It’s encouraging news, says Al Rempel, director of resource development. “Thank-you to generous givers,” he said. “These early indications suggest that the conversations we’re having with leaders across the country are already making a difference. We hope the trend will continue to improve.” Expenses for this fiscal year remain on target. A request to increase overall donation income by 3% for the next fiscal year has already gone out to all MC Canada congregations.