Rear-View Analysis for Budgeting

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


As part of the budgeting process, Finance has charged me with sending out a questionnaire this week to many of our 25 teams. The questionnaire is one step that includes face to face meetings, evaluation by the Finance team and Vision Team, and then the final budget is approved at the November presbytery gathering. This article is a way to explain the thinking and rationale behind the questions.  My hope is that congregations will find the process helpful and use a similar method for preparing their budgets.

The budget process is an opportunity for the teams of the presbytery to dream and plan, to be ambitious and realistic. To look forward requires looking backward over the previous year. This rear-view analysis is an opportunity to articulate achievements. The team can ask, “What was accomplished in the past year?” “What was planned and how did the plans come out?” “What frustrations were experienced as the team attempted to achieve its mission?” For example, Social Witness can reflect on the Troubling the Waters event held at John Knox church. They can closely examine the program, asking if they achieved their goal, what went well, and what was a disappointment.

Based upon the rear-view analysis, each team can then talk about what it wants to achieve in 2020. For example, Leadership Development is putting together a Pastoral Care Cohort to respond to pastors in crises, and to build and maintain relationships with pastors. As they look to the upcoming year they may ask, “What would it take to make the cohort operational and connected?” This may mean lunches, travel, and even training. The cost for these items becomes part of their 2020 fiscal budget.

Budgeting for non-profits like presbyteries and congregations, is different than budgeting for business and for-profit organizations. The main focus for non-profits is mission. Each team should constantly have their mission as their apex of activity. One critical question is, “Has this mission been fulfilled? Does it still need to exist?” These are difficult questions. Often the presbytery simply looks at what was spent the previous year and rolls it forward into the next year. Churches do this as well. But if we take the time, effort, and prayer to ask if the budget item should be continued, then we may find areas to trim back.

After doing the rear-view analysis, asking good questions about the mission and connecting current and past activities, a team may find a fresh and new approach to their mission. For example, UKirk may want to expand its mission to another University. Commissioned Pastor Training may see the need for additional classes. This is the time to expand the budget to meet these new mission imperatives.

Finally, the budgeting tool must be flexible for the different teams. It is difficult to apply the same broad brush to every team. Pastoral Transitions and Care Team cannot be evaluated like Interfaith Partners. One is constitutional and governed by the Book of Order, and the other is a presbytery mission.

I look forward to receiving the responses to the questionnaires. Teams should use this as an opportunity to brag about what they’ve achieved and flashing a light on where they want to go in 2020. Teams working together will continue to make Giddings-Lovejoy a presbytery of Dynamic Leaders and Vibrant Congregations

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Road to Reconciliation

Blog Post by
Rev. John Harrisson
Dismantling Racism and Privilege (DRAP) Team Moderator
afftonpastor@gmail.com


When asked why God’s people in the United States are still so divided by race in churches, neighborhoods, schools and regions of the country, a lot of people tend to shrug their shoulders and say that’s just the way it is. We can be tempted to believe our history of racial violence and subjugation ended with the Civil Rights movement, and the separation we have today can therefore seem self-selecting, a matter of comfort level or choice. It is easy to forget that the separation we still experience was built by design and enforced by law (The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein, lays out this argument particularly well).

This information can feel depressing, but I believe learning more about how racial segregation was built by human hands is, at its root, an exercise in hope. If we still live, move and have our being in divided communities because of what has been built, that means the things that divide us can also be dismantled. Something else can be built in their place. That, in short, is the mission of the Dismantling Racism and Privilege Team. We join Jesus Christ in breaking down the dividing walls (Eph. 2:14) in our presbytery piece by piece, with the hope of building something new in its place.

We can be tempted to believe it is enough to dismantle racist laws. The problem is that while the laws may be gone, the walls they built still remain: in our families; in our churches; in the air we breathe and the media we consume. Our purpose in leading a journey to Montgomery, Alabama this October is to lay a new foundation as a Presbytery, and to see together what God is building.

It has been a breath of fresh air to see all the stakeholders who have pledged to join us on the road to reconciliation. Much more than a simple mission trip, we see this journey as a seed, a new beginning we can bring home with us to take root and grow. It is a seed of interracial community and spiritual formation, a seed of acknowledgement and healing and boldness to approach the throne of grace in our time of need. It is an investment in developing new leadership and stronger networks for a broader project of reconciliation and new growth in the years ahead.

We are closing in on our application deadline of August 1, and so we invite you with urgency and zeal to consider joining us on the bus in October and in the community,  we hope to sustain when we return home.

Details of the journey may be found here.

Rev. John Harrison

 

 

Sneakers

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


 

In the book, Who Moved My Cheese, Spencer Johnson tells the story of a group of mice with an abundance of cheese next door. One day, they go to get the cheese, but it’s gone. The book is about their search for a new supply of cheese. The image I remember most from the book is how the mice couldn’t find their running shoes because they’d been complacent so long. The book ends with the mice finding a new supply of cheese, but they keep their sneakers hanging around their necks, just in case they need them again!

Recently, I had an insightful session meeting at Affton Presbyterian Church. This church has spent the past 18 months moving from location to location without a permanent home. Almost two years ago, as their resources dwindled, Affton took the risk of selling their church building and renting space in a middle school. I remember preaching while the church was in the school and being surrounded by small desks and chairs designed for children! They would set up their worship space and then tear it down and put the room back to the way they found it. But they made the best of it. The church then moved from the school to renting space at Calvary Presbyterian Church. The pastor is bi-vocational, using his time wisely for efficient and adaptive ministry.

Going through these changes has created a congregation with character. They shared how they were afraid that they would lose members as they moved like the Israelites in the wilderness from place to place. To their surprise, very few people left. At each step of the way, they shared how they had to make tough decisions and each time God provided, and they stuck together. As a church, they have been through the fire and have come out on the other side. Affton shows a level of grit and is not afraid of what the future may bring.

Affton has had several learnings from this experience. They learned how to communicate with one another; they now take great strides to make sure everyone is aware of decisions that are being made, and that they have the buy-in of the congregation. They also learned that the best decisions are not top down; each committee is empowered to act on the decisions they make without returning to the session table for permission. They emphasized to me that the church is not the building but the people. As long as the people are willing to be together and be the church, they will always have a place to worship.

This is a congregation that wears their sneakers around their necks! They are ready to change when the time comes. I wonder, do you know where your sneakers are?

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Shame

 Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


“Tell the truth and shame the devil!” I heard these words from my Mother while growing up in Chicago. The strategy was simple. If you want to avoid someone shaming you, beat them to the story! Once truth is exposed, shame is eliminated. The upcoming bus trip to Montgomery, Alabama is to expose the shame of racism and segregation. It is a shame that is deep in our area of the country. It is a shame that prevents our congregations from thriving as we continue to perpetuate the idea that 11:00 Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.

On October 18 – 21 the Dismantling Racism and Privilege team (DRAP) is sponsoring a bus trip to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. DRAP hopes to gather people of multiple races and generations in constructive conversation, interaction, and activities during the four-day trip. The event is designed to better understand the bloody trail of racism carried in black bodies throughout the history of the nation. Through various forms of media, the museum presents ways people of color have been “disproportionately marginalized, disadvantaged and mistreated.” The trail of blood from lynching and racial violence goes from the deep South into Missouri and southern Illinois. It is not an easy or pretty story. But it is a truth we must face if we will have a chance to overcome the shame.

The event is named, The Road to Reconciliation. DRAP then asks the question on the flyer, “Are you called?” DRAP recognizes that the first step toward racial healing begins in our hearts. I believe we must come to a point of frustration and dissatisfaction with our homogenous congregations and neighborhoods before we are motivated to change. DRAP is challenging the presbytery to look at the “ugly” beneath the surface as a way to take steps toward becoming the beloved community.

If you are interested in going on the trip here is the link. This is the first trip of its kind, and we are starting small with a bus of 50 people. I pray hearts are open to learning and growing together as a presbytery and as God’s people.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

 

Fourth of July

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


On Sunday afternoon, I enjoyed a heartfelt and joyful celebration of the ministry of Mark Thomas. Mark is retiring after 14 years as Head of Staff of Ladue Presbyterian Church. Ladue is the largest congregation in the presbytery and leads the presbytery in several areas, including mission giving, membership, and growth. During his remarks, Mark, in his usual style, refused to take credit for the success of the ministry. He said, “I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me. I can only hope I’ve done something that others who come after me can stand on the ministry I’ve been a steward of.”

As a nation, the Fourth of July is a reminder that our accomplishments and struggles are a result of those who went before us. The breaking away from Britain, the revolutionary war, the writing of the constitution and subsequent Bill of Rights paved a path for freedom. It is a freedom that didn’t come all at once for all people. It is a freedom that continues to build and develop on the work of those who came before us.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article and mentioned Juneteenth, which is the celebration of African-Americans being freed from slavery. I received an email from pastor Mark Wiley in Son Parish that touched me deeply. He wrote:

“First let me thank you for the blog you wrote this week. Since I was not aware of the chronological events that led to freedom for those held in slavery, the article by Gates was very informative. As an FYI, I was raised on a farm that had been worked by slaves and there was a family cemetery on this land. When I thought my parents were being overbearing, I would go there and sit among the grave stones knowing the irregular stones set with no carvings marked those who had worked in the house honorably. It reminded me I had no idea what overbearing was since the field hands had been buried in unmarked graves on a different hillside.”

Every time I read this, my eyes fill with tears. I appreciate that Mark Wiley is aware of the suffering and sacrifices of slaves. In a way, I have the cemetery in my heart. I often think of my ancestors and the sacrifices they endured so that I can have a chance at freedom and choice for my life’s work. To stand on their shoulders means a life dedicated to expanding freedom for others who are bound because of their race, ethnicity, class, gender, or sexuality.

My Presbyterian faith reminds me that all people are broken and sinful. As sinful people, we create and support broken and sinful institutions. We can never expect our broken systems to create God’s perfect kingdom on earth. But on this Fourth of July, perhaps we can take the opportunity to advance issues of justice in our nation. We can do it in the name of those who went before us, upon whose shoulders we now stand.

Rev. Craig M. Howard