Last Sunday before I introduced our new Senior Ministry Coordinator and commissioned the new Music Director, I talked about the work our planning teams have done. Since the Vestry retreat six months ago they’ve conducted surveys of the congregation, developed job descriptions, researched salary ranges, and made recommendations for posting positions. I’m grateful to the members of all three teams for their good work.
You and other congregation members completed over 250 surveys, giving our teams a wealth of information on which to base their reports. Everyone agrees how important Music, Youth and Senior ministries are at St. Timothy’s.
At the same time, our Finance Committee and Vestry have been looking at the financial impact of staffing decisions. We’re in a period of transition and our pledges are down about 20% from last year. We have ample cash in the bank, but it’s not clear whether it’s prudent to spend most of that to balance our budget, in the expectation that new pledges will follow additions to the staff.
Last week, as our Vestry struggled to find a balance between jumping forward in faith and being fiscally responsible, two Bible passages were quoted. One is the parable of the Ten Talents, in which the servants who took risks on faith were rewarded. (Matthew 25:14) The other was the teaching in the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus said, “Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost to see whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
What is God saying to us in these two passages? Can they both be true? What is the most faithful way to respond?
After many hours of discussion and a great deal of prayer, there are some things we know. We know that our music leaders were not paid enough in the past. We know that our health insurance costs are increasing dramatically. We know that these three ministries are important elements of our congregational life.
Based on this knowledge we’ve taken some steps forward. We’ve filled our music positions, though the commitment to our Organist runs only through January. We’ve acted on a gift to fund a part-time Senior Ministry position for a year, and Diane Waack began serving this week. But our leaders have not reached agreement on whether to follow the planning team’s recommendation to call a full-time Youth Director. The Vestry has asked the Finance Committee to prepare a budget scenario which would clarify the implications of following that course.
The most important thing for us to do right now is to listen prayerfully for God’s guidance. Acting on faith demands that we set aside our financial fears, but it also challenges us to take a critical look at the ways we’ve always done things. Living in that tension is painful for our leaders—please keep them in your prayers.
The youth of St. Timothy’s are important members of the church. They’ve set an example for the adults by inviting their friends and serving the needs of the community. It’s been heartbreaking to see the hard times our youth group has gone through, and though we’ve made good progress in the past few months, that’s just the beginning. The Vestry and I are committed to renewing our youth group.
Anyone who knows me can see how devoted I am to children and youth. I’m also committed to living into a sustainable future and being faithful to God’s guidance. Until we find clarity on structuring the Youth Director’s position, we need to keep praying and listening and talking with one another. And please consider prayerfully how God is calling you to share your financial gifts with the church. Our commitment and contributions will have an impact on St. Timothy’s future.