Sustainable Budget Challenge

Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
We are at a crossroads this year in terms of financial giving and our operating budget. We hope that the congregation will increase its overall level of giving so that a sustainable budget can be established, beginning this year.

Challenge: We have yet to recover from the loss of $15,000/year in contributions from a tenant of 25+ years that moved in 2015. The good news is that since 2013 our congregation’s level of giving has continued to rise. However, based upon estimated giving for 2017, we still fall $8,400 short of what’s needed for a sustainable budget that supports our current level of ministries.

Current budget: After agonizing over numerous versions of the budget, Council recommended a budget that the congregation approved on 2/19, which reduces the role of one staff member beginning in August; that is, Deacon Bill Lawrence’s time & responsibilities would be reduced by 20% beginning in August, along with contributions to his pension. We needed to approve an operating budget for the congregation, but did so with the understanding that this additional challenge would be placed before the congregation.

What Council asks of each household:

  • Please consider increasing your giving to St. Matthew. If 100 households increase giving by $10/month for the remainder of 2017, we’d be able to support our current ministries.
    • Please communicate any increase you intend to make (or have made) to the Church Office by Easter Sunday, April 16 (via email, mail, phone call, or online).
    • If you use “Simply Giving” – simply email your change to the Church Office (Kim Bohley) – or see the line on the enclosed slip regarding that change
  •  Please consider giving throughout the year (e.g., weekly, monthly, or quarterly). A number of households contribute at year-end, which makes analyzing & planning rather difficult. One option is to give automatically (e.g., direct payments or the Simply Giving program)

We eagerly await the congregation’s response to this increased giving challenge. If you have concerns or questions, please contact President Jack Horton, Treasurer Tom Cassel or Pastor Ingrid Wengert.

In Christ, The Congregation Council of St. Matthew Lutheran Church


Frequently asked questions

Can we find another tenant? Our vicar and spouse currently live in the apartment. More importantly, there are complex lease and ownership issues that need to be worked out with the Hassinger Estate. A thorough summary of the status of the Hassinger Estate will be given at our next congregational meeting on 6/4/2017.

Can we find other sources of funding? Congregations that have the resources are expected to support their ministries with their own time, talent and treasure. Our ministries are part of our witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why would we expect others to bear our witness?

Is this unfair to Bill? The difficult decision to potentially reduce Bill’s role has no bearing on the high regard the congregation has for him.  The decision was based upon the fact that reducing any other role would likely result in the incurrence of additional costs as a result of outsourcing the work (e.g., janitorial work, payroll, etc).  It is of paramount importance that Council be very ethical in all dealings and decisions concerning Bill as well as all staff members.  We do not think it’s helpful to understand our current challenge solely in terms of its effect on one person; but its effect on the whole congregation. Bill supports ministries in many behind-the-scenes ways. We think it’s important to consider the overall level of ministry to which Christ calls this congregation. Reducing Bill’s role would result in decreasing the congregation’s current level of ministry.

Can we find volunteers to do some of Bill’s tasks? We could, but it wouldn’t change the fact that the overall level of ministry would be decreased. A staff member would have to recruit and oversee those volunteers (and the gaps between volunteers), so it’s likely that staff member couldn’t accomplish their original responsibilities.

Can we borrow money from our Memorial Fund to cover the shortfall? We can’t. The purpose of the Memorial Fund is to support ministries that are not regular operating expenses, and its rules state this clearly. More importantly, this isn’t a one-year crisis. This crossroads year is a critical time for our congregation as we work towards a sustainable budget, learning the financial discipline and making decisions necessary for us to have many more years of sustainable budgets.

How realistic is the expectation of increased giving? We think it’s quite realistic! If 100 house-holds increase giving by $10/month for the remainder of 2017, we’d be able to support all of our current ministries. We estimate that many households in the congregation would be able to afford giving $84 more each year.

Why don’t we simply decrease our “benevolence” (contribution) to the NJ Synod?
St. Matthew gives 10% of all monthly income to the NJ Synod (which gives 50% of income to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or ELCA). It can be easy to forget that we are a church in three expressions – congregation, synod, and the ELCA. Saint Matthew would not exist, nor have a pastor or deacon without the NJ Synod and ELCA. Both the Synod & ELCA are involved in supporting the education of pastors, overseeing the candidacy and ongoing competence of all rostered leaders, and providing a framework for national & global ministry efforts and dialogues that we’d never be able to imagine or achieve as a lone congregation.


1The total shortfall is $8,400 due to updated information (not $6,900 reported at the congregational meeting). $8,400 spread over the remaining 8-1/2 months becomes $10/month for 100 households
2A summary of ministries supported by Bill Lawrence:

  • assists with pastoral visits for hospitalized & homebound, at care facility worship services, and at funerals
  • works with the staff to oversee and coordinate communication between all ministries, which he highlights during announcements on Sunday mornings (leads Lunch Bunch, which makes sandwiches for homeless day shelter New Visions)
  • coordinates Sunday School (recruits teachers & aides, communicates with parents & teachers throughout the year, administers the curriculum & walks the halls on Sundays)
  • coordinates & oversees Youth & Family educational milestones: First Communion, 3 year-old and 3rd grade Bible distribution, recruits Confirmation mentors and plans mentor dinner
  • oversees the sexton (aka custodian), daily room setup, and cleaning, bathroom & eating supplies coordinates the community groups that meet in the building (every day including Sundays), their room needs & setup.
  • coordinates on-the-spot worship leadership Sunday mornings, assuring all leaders are here, and finding substitutes
  • coordinates contracts & assists with repairs of technologies (sound system in sanctuary & library, phone system, internet)
  • participates in the Moorestown Ministerium and in the new Interfaith bi-county group

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