Church budget reviewed

Mars Hill Church is having a rocky beginning to their fiscal year.

Earlier this month a drop-off in donation had left the church $400,000 below budget, according to a recent letter written by the church’s elders to the church’s congregation.

"The financial giving to our church has gone into a steep and sudden decline," it reads.

"We are in a financial crisis of sorts."

As a result of the financial crunch, six paid deacons have been laid off, all church employees’ pay has been cut by 5 percent and employee deposits into retirement funds have been temporarily suspended. Also, every department in the church cut approximately 30 percent off of their total budgets for November and December.

Employees also had some extra benefits suspended, including church-provided cell phones and allowances for books and business meals.

Head Pastor Mark Driscoll said in an e-mail that the church’s financial situation is improving, but was unable to produce any actual figures, citing a lack of staff members during the ill weather.

"I can tell you that since we notified our people, they have responded very generously and in the past four weeks made up nearly all of the deficit that we had," Driscoll said in an e-mail.

The salaries of Mars Hill’s employees are not inflated and the church’s leaders are statistically among the most faithful contributors, according to the elders’ letter. The size of the church’s budget and staff are average when compared to national statistics.

November’s financial pinch may be in part due to a special church expansion offering taken in early October. The offering — which totaled approximately $1.5 million — was used to purchase and develop properties including the former Doxa Church on 35th Avenue Southwest and property in the Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle.

The elders’ document reasons that some church members gave their usual donations for church expansion, hurting the normal offering.

Historically, the church has received more money during the summer months, the elders’ letter said. But this year, during the months of July through October, approximately $130,000 was needed to stay on the projected budget.

"The deficit has risen quickly because we have recently had single weeks where our giving was $60,000 below budget," the elders’ letter reads.

The church had increased attendance between July and October, but less money came in through offerings and tithes. The needed number of Sunday services and pastoral staff members rose but financial giving declined.

While the elders’ document states that "most church members who give do so faithfully," it adds that the deficit may be partially due to "unfaithful church members — people who attend church services, but do not donate any money.

"It is safe to estimate that at least 200 to 300 church member households have given nothing in the past year," the elder’s document reads.

The elders also expressed concern that the church was gathering "Christian consumers who take a lot, give little and have no vision to reach the lost in our city." They also emphasized that the church’s cash flow is "very tight" and the church doesn’t have any surplus monies to tap into.

Despite the situation, the document states that Mars Hill Church will not sacrifice the future for the present.

"The temptation for a church in our position is to begin selling our real estate holdings to provide operations money," the document reads. "We would not consider selling off real estate unless things became dire."

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Title: Church budget reviewed | Author: Chris Durr | Section: News | Published Date: 2006-11-29 | Internal ID: 5311