Thursday, September 27, 2012


It’s budget time again. This will be my 38th year of preparing for Charge Conference. In the United Methodist Church, we have an annual meeting with the District Superintendent to hear reports from leaders about last year and to plan for next year. We will elect officers and set the pastors’ salaries for 2013. And, after some input from Staff-Parish Committee on salaries and Trustees on the property needs, and the apportionments (our share of United Methodist Church’s ministry), and other work and service ministries, the Finance Committee will compile a budget. They must pass it on as it is to the Church Council. Finance Committee may recommend changes but the budget as compiled must go to Council. Recommendations for any changes are made to the Church Council. Then, the Church Council adopts. At the same time that this is going on, the Stewardship Chair is informing the church about the ministries of the church and what they cost. All of this will lead us to a pledge Sunday on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It’s always a “touchy” thing to talk about money, even in good times, but it’s even more delicate in tough times. I’m sure my blood pressure is through the roof as we work through this. What happens if we don’t receive all that we need to meet the budget? Well, on the one hand, we just don’t make the budget. A budget is a goal toward which we aim, and we work to spend within the limits of the budget. Over the last several years, we have received something less than we needed. It got worse from 2009 onward. While the economy faltered, we still continued to lose to death members who were good givers. So, here we are. On the other hand, when we don’t make the budget we have to not spend in areas that we need to. So, why don’t we go in with a knife and just chop away? That would be one way to deal with it. But, you have to be careful. If you cut ministries and programs too much, you hurt more than help in the long run. The largest share of the budget by far is salaries and benefits, of course. Nothing new here. However, we are living in a time when benefits have skyrocketed. Each year we have to negotiate health insurance for our lay employees. And, nothing goes down. Then, there are the property needs, the next largest part of the budget. Utilities and other costs make it possible to do ministry here. Add to this the cost of repair and upkeep. Next in the budget amounts is the apportionments. These are set by our Annual Conference and sent to us. They support denominational ministries in our Conference and around the world, including missionaries. Then, come the ministries of worship, evangelism, fellowship and outreach- all of which serve the needs of the church’s ministries. So, we set a goal and give generously and work with what God gives us. I believe that we do the best that we can. And, truly with God’s help we do an extraordinary ministry and mission work here at Bethel. My blood pressure is still high. I am in the middle as Senior pastor. I have to see that staff and ministries here are taken care of as much as possible, and then on the other side is the Annual Conference which pressures me as the leader to make sure that we pay our Apportionments. I’ve only had a few times in my ministry when my church could not pay our Apportionments 100%; this may be one of them. I always do my best to make sure I’m doing all I can. This week we’ll be looking at Psalm 46 which begins: “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in time of trouble.” I have always felt and known God’s presence near me, especially in times when it’s most difficult. I know that whatever happens God is still God, and is still in charge. He gave his best for us; now we give our best for that great love in Jesus Christ. It’s worth everything to make his disciples. Blessings! Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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