How You Can Help JLP’s Financial Situation

So far this year, we’ve received financial contributions from 42 families and individuals. Four of those were visitors, so for practical purposes, JLP’s giving “base” consists of 38 individuals or families. If each of those givers would increase their giving by just 8%, it would close our funding gap.

How would that work out? Here’s an example.

The majority of our givers contribute between about $200 and $350 per month. Some are able to give more, of course, while others can’t give that much. But suppose you were somewhere in that middle group, and gave $250/month. Could you increase your giving by 8%, or $20/month? In other words, could you increase your giving by an extra $5/week? If the people who already give to the church did so, it would close our gap.

Maybe you can’t do that. But if, instead, you could increase your giving by even $3/week, that would help us reduce our burn rate. Instead of 10 months, we might be able to stretch our savings to 18 months or 2 years.

A lot can change in that time. Every extra month gives us more time to aggressively pursue our revitalization efforts and for those efforts to begin having an impact.

The same arithmetic applies for people who haven’t been able to support JLP in the past. We aren’t asking you to carry the whole church on your back. But your gifts could make the difference: between a high burn rate and a low one, or maybe even between “not quite solvent” and “actually solvent.”

If you have been a supporter of JLP, please prayerfully consider increasing your giving, so we have more time to pursue revitalization. And if you haven’t been a supporter, I’d like to invite you to begin. Thank you!


Financial Update – Mid 2017

During 2017, JLP has run a deficit of about $1000 a month. We’ve spent an average of $13,996 each month, and received an average of $12,958. Here is a graph showing our income vs. expenses:


(Our spending is remarkably stable. For comparison, last year we spent about $13,995 per month. The vast majority of our expenditures are “baked in” each year: about 60% for staff, 20% for building operations, and 11% for denominational apportionments. That leaves less than 10% for other program expenses.)

Just like at your home, if we spend more than we take in, the difference comes out of our savings. We have three types of savings: cash, investments, and restricted funds. Cash and investments are unrestricted. Council can spend them on whatever it deems necessary to carry out the mission of the church. Restricted funds are money entrusted to the church for specific purposes: Clare House, the Gambell Building Fund, HUGSS, etc. Council has some discretion to say how that money is spent, but only within those limits. Here is a graph showing how much of each type of saving we have:


As you can see, the bulk of our money is restricted funds, i.e., it’s not really our money. It’s someone else’s money that’s been entrusted to us for specific purposes.

If nothing changes, we will run out of cash during July, and we would run out of our investment money early in 2018. There may be a portion of the restricted funds that could be (with integrity) spent on church operations, but it would be pretty small. Even if we could spend it all on ourselves, the total “runway” is only about three years — but we can’t.

Council took action at its July meeting, authorizing the treasurer to borrow $5,000 from the other accounts. We hope that our members can increase their giving enough to stop (or at least reduce) our deficit. That will give us time to focus on efforts we are undertaking to increase the church’s vitality.

(See the next post for information about how you can help.)



What Makes a Church Welcoming?

What makes a church welcoming? Writing in the ADN, Chris Thompson offers some thoughts. I especially like this one:

I’ve recommended for years that multiple teams from a specific church need to visit other churches, every Sunday, to see how they are treated, and look for encouraging practices worthy of emulation. By and large, churches refuse to do this, plain and simple.

I do this every time I’m away from our congregation. (During a two week study-leave/vacation, I worshiped with three different congregations — taking lots of notes and a few pictures — in addition to the conference I attended.)

Thompson links to another article he wrote describing one of his visits. This is the sort of thing he’s talking about:

As I entered the doors someone said hi. Going up the steps to the sanctuary level, I was greeted by a man named Roy who offered his name first, a guest-friendly practice. I responded with my name. Spotting me as a guest, he invited me to sign the guest-book, indicating no one would call on me. I mentioned that was not my experience and preferred not to do so, whereupon he seamlessly shifted to offering to find me a seat even though the church was not full. …

Whenever you attend worship somewhere, let me know. I’d love to sit down with you and compare notes about your observations.

Russia’s Anti-Evangelization Law

Pastor Luke mentioned a new law (the “Yarovaya Law”) in Russia that prohibits pretty much any kind of religious activity outside church buildings. Christianity Today has an article that describes the law in some detail:

To share their faith, citizens must secure a government permit through a registered religious organization, and they cannot evangelize anywhere besides churches and other religious sites. The restrictions even apply to activity in private residences and online.

Stetzer: Church Architecture Trends

Ed Stetzer has a series of articles (part 1, part 2) on trends in church architecture:

Much ecclesiological conversation these days indicates a love-hate relationship with church and church buildings. Yet historically, many people find and follow God in sacred places and spaces.
… Buildings can be a telling of God’s story to our culture. If we are going to have buildings—which is actually neither a biblical requirement nor always helpful—then we should at least use them well, leveraging them for maximum influence needs to be part of our strategy.

It’s worth thinking about what a building does, besides keeping the snow off you when you worship. What would you try to communicate if you were designing a brand new church building? What does it communicate to people who worship there? To people who drive by it during the week?

Common areas in church buildings are one of the trends Stetzer pointed out (in part 2).

Community (People) Space. If you look closely at old modern church architecture, there isn’t much of a lobby or gathering place for people to congregate before proceeding into the worship space. Step in, grab a bulletin, step forward, and you’re in the back of the auditorium.

Community space is a designated area where people can congregate and fellowship prior to entering the auditorium. Many churches have large lobbies or foyers with standing and seating areas. Others have created full coffee areas and cafés where people can grab refreshments before and after the service. …

Connection Space. Another common area in church buildings today, regardless of the kind of church, is a connection space. A connection space is a designated area where people can find information about the church. This could range from a Welcome Desk for first time guests to larger areas that include information on small groups, children/youth ministries, and mission opportunities. For instance, North Point Community Church’s newest campus (Woodstock City Church) created “The Gallery,” which is a nicely designed area for guests looking for more information about the church.

Skin in the Game

Here is another very helpful message from this past Sunday that we found online. Andy Stanley had a candid conversation with two African Americans to help bridge the divide between how events like those this past week in Minneapolis, Louisiana, and Dallas are perceived by the black minority and the white majority in our culture. Stay to the end because there’s an application that everyone can do. The message can’t be embedded, so follow this link.

Notes on 1 Corinthians 1, Week 2

In Search of Sanctuary: a lengthy profile of a UCC congregation facing decline. (The Boston Globe) An accompanying Big Picture feature here has some incredible pictures.

But the conflicts continued, exposing a divide between people who had been there for decades and more recent arrivals. In 2005, the church council advised the clergy couple to begin searching for a new church. They were already looking.

After they left, the infighting metastasized. An interim minister and associate minister clashed about how to lead the church forward. The congregation split into factions. Some people stopped speaking to one another, avoided one another’s eyes at coffee hour, even the passing of the peace.

Matt Marino discusses what it means to be “spiritual but not religious” at his blog The Gospel Side.

I recently walked the final leg of the El Camino de Santiago in Spain. Before leaving I was in a coffee house having a conversation about the trip. A guy behind me asked, “Why Spain?” My response, “It’s a spiritual thing.” Today a lot of people, particularly millennials, care about “spirituality.” 250,000 people walked The Camino in 2015. More will this year.

…Too often the evangelical church has dropped surrender for wish-fulfillment. Conservative churches have often settled for a message of self-help … diminishing God to one who exists to meet our desires. While the conservative church has lowered God, the progressive church, on the other hand, has tended to elevate humanity … purging our documents of the words of surrender: Father, king, Lord…if a symbol might be deemed “oppressive” or “problematic,” it is not to be understood in its’ redeemed context, but struck from our hymnals, prayer books, and bibles. But God is not known either by shrinking him or elevating us.

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis imagines two demons discussing how to use conflict within the church to their advantage:

I warned you before that if your patient can’t be kept out of the Church, he ought at least to be violently attached to some party within it. I don’t mean on really doctrinal issues; about those, the more lukewarm he is the better. … And all the purely indifferent things-candles and clothes and what not-are an admirable ground for our activities. We have quite removed from men’s minds what that pestilent fellow Paul used to teach about food and other unessentials-namely, that the human without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples.

Finally, in The Guardian, an article about how (of all things) McDonald’s is “the glue that holds communities together.”

Walk into any McDonald’s in the morning and you will find a group of mostly retired people clustering in a corner, drinking coffee, eating and talking. They are drawn to the McDonald’s because it has inexpensive good coffee, clean bathrooms, space to sprawl. Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy.

…Most importantly though, McDonald’s provide many with the chance to make real and valuable connections. When faced with the greatest challenges, with a personal loss, wealthier Americans turn to expensive therapists, others without the resources or the availability, turn to each other.