New Weather System at Church
Watching this fiscal year end and planning for 2009 is unlike any time in my pastoral life. There is a major weather system change going on and it's not fun, but it's real. With expanding ministry needs and opportunities, we are facing the real prospect of decreased income due to major economic losses across the board. A church leader just sent me data on giving trends for 2008 that are encouraging because more people are giving than in the prior year, but the large gifts are less, leaving a significant, and maybe long-term gap.
The image that comes to my mind is reefing a sailboat in the face of an incoming storm. In my limited sailing experience across Lake Michigan, we were hit several times with approaching storms. When the sky ahead is black and purple, my inclination was to panic, drop the sails and motor as fast as we could back to port and skip the race altogether. My captain's approach was altogether different. Jack knew his boat was seaworthy, but we had to prepare it. So he instructed us to rig it for storm sailing by "reefing" the sails, which meant lowering them significantly so that they would not catch too much wind and tip the boat over, but have enough sail to keep us from bobbing in the water. So we raised these small storm sails (like the picture above) and sailed right into the wind. Sailing into a storm is not fun in anyone's book, but it is doable with a good boat and a good captain and crew.
The storm the local church faces is not fun. But it is sailable and doable if we prepare for it by lowering sails that could tip us, but keep enough sail up to keep us moving ahead. That's going to require some tough and serious looks at where the money is spent in the church and what is absolutely essential and what can "go below" for a season.