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Mennonite Church Canada ministry reductions announced


April 12, 2011
-Dan Dyck

Winnipeg, Man. — Difficult decisions about a smaller ministry and staff at Mennonite Church Canada were announced to staff here on April 11.

The re-organization will see a net budget reduction of $415,000 in hard and soft costs beginning on Feb. 1, 2012. This includes a net loss of 3.4 full time equivalent positions (FTE) of national church staff.

Two full time positions at the executive staff level will be eliminated. Part-time direct ministry positions affected include the Multi-cultural Ministry Director position which will be eliminated, the Youth Ministries Facilitator position which will transition to contracted work on alternate years when the youth assembly is convened, and the position of Christian Nurture Director will end. Office support staff will see a collective reduction of less than half of one full time position.

Some affected staff have been invited to alternate roles as the national church re-organizes some of its ministry activities. Some of these alternate roles will be at reduced FTE and some responsibilities will be transferred to existing positions. Affected staff were given notice effective Aug. 1. Severance policies are in place to assist released staff in making transitions.

The net reduction of approximately $415,000 will require raising additional funds in fiscal year 2012-2013 to comprise the approximate $500,000 projected total needed to balance the 2012-2013 budget.

Impacting the decisions was a General Board staff salary scale review which revealed that Mennonite Church Canada salaries were dropping considerably behind salaries of comparable organizations, making it increasingly difficult to fill vacant positions. This led to a board decision to gradually bring salaries up into an equitable range, adding to the need for overall budget reductions.

Multi-cultural ministry related activities such as translation of resources will continue as funding becomes available. New avenues for pastoral leadership development in the multi-cultural ministry are in discussion, under the direction of Karen Martens Zimmerly, Denominational Minister and Director of Leadership Development. Martens Zimmerly is leading a Pastoral Leadership Development Task Force whose strategic planning will be presented at the Assembly this summer.

In addition, governance structures will be reduced by two volunteer positions on each of three councils to help reduce overall travel costs for meetings.

Moreover, delegates at this summer’s assembly in Waterloo will receive a recommendation to have biennial assemblies rather than meet every year. “To continue meeting every year, we would need to recoup an additional estimated $100,000 by structuring assembly registration fees to reflect the true cost of staff time in planning and hosting annual assemblies,” said Vic Thiessen, Chief Operating Officer.

Willard Metzger, General Secretary, met together with the General Board on Sat., April 9, to finalize decisions in which Metzger and the executive leadership staff had already invested much energy and time. The plan is to realize all or most of the reduction costs by Jan. 31, 2012, so that the new fiscal year can begin on more sure footing beginning Feb.1, 2012.

Eliminated ministries could be revisited in the future, but would be dependent on funding increases. “That will be largely up to our community of congregations and individuals, to whom we look for support,” said Metzger.

“There is nothing we do that is not valuable, we simply cannot continue to fund everything that is valuable,” he added. “We are facing a time when we must focus selectively on core processes of the national church. For now, we will be entering a time of reduced capacity to serve.”

The reductions are in response to a long-term downward trend in donation revenue, and could not be put off any longer, said Metzger. “We can’t tweak the budget any further and remain sustainable. It’s not a healthy way to continue ministry, nor does it position us in a place of strength for future ministry requests, of which we receive many.”

Metzger noted that the downward trend in giving does not necessarily appear to be a reflection of decreased generosity, but rather more diversified and differently directed generosity. “In 2009, Mennonite Church Canada congregations received over $40 million and, as congregations, generously gave just over $10 million to Mennonite ministries, Mennonite schools, and over 350 other charities. A little over $3 million of that congregational giving was directed to Mennonite Church Canada ministries,” said Metzger, citing research publicly available from the Canada Revenue Agency.

“Nonetheless, since 2004, we have experienced an approximate 14% decline in donation income, and that reality has forced some difficult decisions,” said Metzger, adding that the new, smaller national church will direct its energy in different ways, but will continue to focus on its three priorities of Forming a People of God, Growing Leaders for the Church, and Becoming a Global Church.

The General Board issued a church-wide call to prayer for staff as adjustments are made in the coming weeks.