Sharing Grace

Every once in a while, when someone has been attending Grace Lutheran for a few months, they say something like this: “I never hear Grace asking for money.  You must have an amazing endowment fund!”  Usually I laugh.

An endowment fund is what previous generations have given to a congregation, set aside in a place separate from regular operating expenses, to be used to get through the lean times, and to fund future ministries of the congregation.  It is usually carefully cared for and, in healthy congregations, the endowment is carefully added to every year through the gifts of the present congregation.

The sad reality is, far too many smaller congregations have needed to tap into their endowment funds to help with operating expenses.  Without offerings that are large enough to pay staff and care for the building, and running budget deficits every year, many congregations the size of Grace, and even bigger, are taking 10,000, 20,000, even 30,000 dollars from their endowment fund every year. 

So, those new to our community who are familiar with small church finances look around at how many people we have in worship, make assumptions about how big our offering is, and conclude that we are like congregations they’ve known, tapping into our endowment fund every year to make it through.

So, here’s my official answer to the question: “Grace is a rich congregation, with an AMAZING endowment fund!” Grace has been given a treasure beyond price by previous generations: a beautiful building in a perfect location to attract newcomers, a history of accepting all people with open arms, a reputation for being the church to come home to, and most of all, the knowledge of God’s all-inclusive, unconditional, totally transformative love for us all.  What a treasure!  That inheritance gets us through our lean times, and underwrites every exciting thing we do at Grace.

Even better news: we’ve been adding to and tending to our endowment fund, and it has been paying us dividends!  Talent beyond belief, dedication and commitment, and deep faith of the members of Grace continually add to what we have to offer.  We tend and care for these gifts as well as we can, so that the congregation can continue to serve the world, sharing God’s amazing Grace, now and into the future.

Okay, I didn’t say anything about money.  Truth is, our financial endowment fund doesn’t exist.  Grace Lutheran doesn’t have any savings.  We pay our bills month by month, and can’t afford to run a budget deficit.  The good news about this is that we’ve been able to figure out ways to pay bills and meet our operating expenses out of the offerings we collect on Sunday morning, combined with carefully using our building as a resource to rent to others.  It is very tight, but I am proud, very proud, of the way we’ve been able to function financially as a small congregation.

Of course, I’d love it if we could do better.  I’d love it if we could grow our budget a little, struggle with our month-to-month bills a little less.  And I’d really love it if we could start building some financial savings for future generations of Gracians. 

Now you know something about Grace’s endowment, and our finances.  If you’d ever like to see more, all of our budget documents and balance sheets are public; ask any council member.  And I’d invite you to think about if your giving can help us make our month-to-month a little easier, and even help us start up some savings.

Because we have something really amazing to share: joy, hope, peace, love.  A place to come home to. God’s amazing Grace.