TODAY'S MESSAGE IS IN TWO PARTS: (1) Financial Update for Salt House and (2) Pastor Sara's sermon finishing out our Chunk of Change series.
Financial Update: November 19, 2017
Friends, if we’re talking about generosity and giving, we need to acknowledge that Salt House is a place where we entrust a portion of our lives, our hope, our talents, our time and for some of us – our money to this community of Salt House. And sometimes churches appear secretive about their finances and we here refuse to live that way. We want to be transparent. So it’s important for us, in this conversation, to stop and explain our financial picture today – for about 10-12 minutes, then we’ll get to the sermon. And as I do, please know that if you don’t consider Salt House a home for you, if you’re visiting, we’re not expecting anything from you – so please just soak this up with no expectations attached.
So, think about Salt House. This. You may be someone who has been here for one week, or from the very beginning. I wonder, what is it about this place that keeps you here, what are you thankful for, how does God reach you here?
Whatever it is, we want to see much much more of that. More of God impacting our lives and using us to impact our neighborhood as salt for the world. Which is why it’s good for us to stop and ask, together: how does all that work?
Well, money helps. Money fuels the mission and ministry that we are able to do here, together. And as we are now 2.5 years old, full-fledged toddler, it’s a good moment for us to stop and see where we are at financially.
So. First, to orient us a little bit. 17 months ago, when we had a sermon about the specifics of our financial picture, you may remember at that time, 17 months ago, we were losing, on average $7000 a month. Expenses over Income. And that was ok, because it fit into our projections of where we should be financially as a church getting started, (we should be losing that much money) and we were benefitting from grant money the ELCA and the money we had as we began.
Well friends, the question is: has our financial picture changed in the last 17 months? Let’s dive in! Given the amount of change and growth in our community, last year’s numbers are not that helpful for comparison, so we’re only going to focus on our expenses and income for the first three months of this fiscal year. Our fiscal year, budget year starts in July, it runs July 1- June 30. So we’ll look at our numbers for the first quarter, July, August and September of 2017. Y’all ready? I know you’re excited.
You will get a quarter sheet of paper with all of these numbers on it when you leave today if you want to have them, so know that you don’t need to write these numbers down.
First, we’ll start with income. Our largest source of income – which you might suspect is from Giving. These are offerings from people here on Sunday, giving online and via text, as well as folks who live other places but know what we’re up to and are supporting us. Before we see this year, I want to show you our giving, our total offerings from last year.
Last year, Fiscal Year 2016-2017, our giving for the entire year was $102,000 FY 2016-2017. This was still at a time when we were often losing money each month, so we were in the red when it came to sustaining ourselves, but we had grant money from the ELCA and our reserve funds to carry us.
It’s important to understand our history. The reserve funds were part of the gift from Trinity Lutheran Church – as we reviewed two Sundays ago, our story here in this building, is one of generosity. This was Trinity Lutheran Church, they donated this building and $100,000 to Holy Spirit Lutheran Church who said YES to listening for what God wanted to do with this building – and that was the place from which Salt House was born.
So last year – we were still eating through that fund and our grant funds. So take that number in, and then now I want to show you our Giving, our offerings for the first quarter, ¼ of this year: $51,625 Q1 FY17-18. It’s ok to squeal a little or cheer when you see this because it’s true – our community has already grown in its capacity for generosity over the last year – half of last year’s total has already been given. Which is amazing!! I am so deeply moved by our generosity, together.
Salt House has a few other sources of income that fuel our ministry: we own a rental house next door, rented to a family. That’s $6,720 for the first quarter. We also rent to Eastside Seventh Day Adventists who use our building, Friday night and most of Saturday – they’ve been meeting here for about 12 years. We also started renting to Ebenezer Church on Sunday afternoons, a Spanish speaking congregation. That all adds up to $11,231 so far for the first quarter. It’s an incredible blessing to have that income.
In the past 3 years we have received grant funds from the ELCA, but those are done, so we have not received any this fiscal year.
That brings our Operating Income to a total of $69,576
Another source of income has been the JOY Campaign, a fundraising campaign centered at Holy Spirit Lutheran that invited folks to pledge to three years of giving to Salt House, sustaining us as we aim to become self-sustaining. We are in the second year of those three years – but the way it works is that the funds are housed in an account at HSLC and we only transfer funds if SH needs them. We have roughly $68,000 a year available form the JOY Campaign, and we did use our first year’s funds last year, but this fiscal year, we have not had to dip into any of the moneys for this year. Isn’t that awesome?
Which keeps our total income for the first quarter of the year right there at: $69,576. To which we say – thank you God for all of it!
Now, moving on to expenses – we look to see how this lines up. By far, where our money is invested is in our staff, compensating our team to devote their attention to mission-critical ministries we’re doing. That accounts for 70% of our budget, paying our five staff people. Me as full-time pastor, Jason Bendickson at half-time as lead for music, the arts, website and social media, Taren Grass as our new half-time Parish Administrator. Our new Children’s Ministry Coordinator, Rachel Horton, and our janitor and facilities lead, Levi Bilderback. And I’ll point out as a side note – everything else that happens here is made possible by so many of y’all who show up, serve, volunteer – everything else is done by this community. Singing, playing, leading our kids, cleaning, set-up, tear-down, watching our finances, serving in leadership, cooking, filing, organizing, leading. Which is awesome. Staff costs including benefits, come to $43,836 for the first quarter.
The next line, “Mission and Ministry” $4494 includes costs related to mission and ministry – like food, craft supplies and curriculum for our kids, all the tea lights and twinkly lights we go through, wine and juice for communion, office supplies, printing costs, signs. All of these costs we keep pretty low, and at a fairly bare minimum.
The next line, “Church and Building Expense” is everything for the facility – upkeep, utilities, insurance, taxes. $9,914.
We also pay for the care of the parsonage, including taxes. Next line, $119 for the quarter – but property taxes will come up for the parsonage later in the year.
And the final expense is our Loan Payment. This is the loan we took out to renovate the space before Salt House launched. $7,686 so far for the first quarter. Remember this number, because I’ll mention it briefly in a moment.
Friends, take a look at our Total Expenses for the first quarter. $66,050. Which you may be noting is less than our income for the year. Net Income for us, my friends, for the first quarter is $3,526. Made possible by no additional grant money, gifts from the JOY Campaign – my friends, Salt House, we have sustained ourselves financially for the first quarter of this fiscal year!
We are in the black!
And for those who are interested, our reserve fund, boosted by this $3,000, is now at $31,306.
When I got a look at these numbers a few weeks ago I exploded with joy – We’re in the black! We are sustaining ourselves! I don’t know how next month will go – but we’re in the black!
So what are you experiencing in this? I’ll tell you what: I feel overwhelming gratitude. Such gratitude that our story here at Salt House is one of generosity: that of Trinity Lutheran Church which has made our existence even possible – the generosity of the folks of Holy Spirit Lutheran Church. Gratitude for your generosity: y’all and so many others who have given so much to our new community. I am overwhelmingly grateful. Appropriately so as we head into our holiday week.
Even more so – I final word about one line there at the bottom: it says “Net Sale Proceeds.” It is blank now, but in the months to come we will have proceeds from the sale of the corner of our property as it is sold to become a 24-hour shelter for women and families experiencing homelessness. When that happens, one of the things we’ll do is pay off our loan. That’s a quarterly expense of $7,686 that will go away. Freeing up more funds that we can use in mission and ministry in ways we’re just beginning to dream of. Again – amazing.
To wrap up, let’s bring it back to that question I asked you: what is it about this place that keeps you here, what are you thankful for, how does God reach you here? Today, we stop and give thanks that we are on a healthy trajectory, because – as we can see here, we’re growing – in the number of folks we see here, in our potential for generosity, and it is possible for us to see much much more of that. More of God impacting our lives and using us to impact our neighborhood as salt for the world.
So my friends: we’re in the black. My friends, as our generosity keeps growing, and we are positioned for more of what God will do in and through us for the year to come. For all of this, we say thanks be to God. And cheer!
Friends, let’s pray: God, holy cow, we stop and say thank you. We are overwhelmed with gratitude for your generosity that has fueled a story of generosity in this place. We are giddy with all the good feels to know that we, as a small, new, growing community, are turning the corner to financial sustainability. Ministry is so much more than just the numbers. And yet, our health and a sign of your movement in this place is absolutely grounded in our financial picture. So we stop and say thank you for this moment as we turn into a season that we hope and anticipate to be one where this growth in giving keeps expanding. We lean into that future with you, with such deep thanks. For all you have done here and all you will do, God, we say thank you. Amen.
Before we get to the sermon, please stand as we sing in response of to all of this, a well-known hymn as our song of gratitude for our God who is so generous with us. We sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
November 19, 2017 / GENEROSITY: PREPLANNED / Sara Wolbrecht / 1 Corinthians 16:1-4
Friends, today we are finishing this fall series – where we have been listening for God’s invitation that leads us into change. And today we also finish our November mini-series on generosity, specifically, money. For this month, we’ve defined generosity in this way: Generosity is the on purpose, preplanned, liberation of personal financial assets. Yes this is a money series – a grown up conversation in a place where it has historically been difficult. So we’re talking about our personal financial assets.
Yes it is so good to give our time, to give our talent. But something different happens in the world and in our heart when we give MONEY. That’s why for some of us it’s the last thing we want to consider giving – we know it’s powerful.
So – today we dive into what it means that generosity is – our final word for our series - preplanned. You ready? Preplanned simply means you have to have a… plan. You have to have a plan. It doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed. Some of us are spreadsheet geeks, love exhaustive plans, with columns and rows, and filing receipts and making pie charts. But a plan doesn’t have to look like that. I’m just saying, a plan is: = how much and how often. That’s the plan. And in a few minutes we’ll dig into what this looks like, and why this is the model.
But even at that, already I have lost some of the room – and I get this often, Sara, I am not a planner. Alright. I’m not a planner.
Let me just say a few things to my wonderful non-planning friends. You may not think you have a plan for your money that you can describe, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a plan. Some of you call it Black Friday. Or the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale. Or Amazon Prime. Or the Starbucks app where you “collect stars and earn rewards.” Ok.
Yes, you do have a plan. Imagine if someone were to shadow you all week and write down what you spent your money on all week and show that to you – and you’d see it and say, Yeah that’s what I do, those are my habits. No that’s your plan. Your money is already flowing into your plan – you just haven’t consciously recognized that this is your plan.
My point is: we are all living in the bounds of plan, ranging from very conscious and intentional to hardly even known, but we all have a plan. And regardless of where we fall on that spectrum, most of us resonate with a certain pattern of priorities, a money equation that flows through, in order, this: Consume + Save + Give. First, we consume most of it, save if we can and then give every once in a while, from what’s left. Does this seem familiar to you? Resonate?
And the case that we’ve been making this month is that this plan, this equation is one that fuels a relationship with money that is one of = Worry.
We’ve fooled ourselves as smart Americans to think that this is a math problem, so if we just load this up with bigger numbers, more cash, we think then the problem will change and we’ll get a different sum than worry. But it’s not a math problem, this is a mindset problem. This is what we covered last week. And in order to have a financial equation that doesn’t result in worry – we need a different equation.
Last week we named how the antidote to the voice of worry that says: what can I lose? Will there be enough? That in response the Jesus-story invites us to ask: What can I give? I hope you had a chance to live into that question this week – did it come up for you?
This week we take this further, looking to the practice of preplanned generosity in communities in the early church in the New Testament. In the pages of the bible, there are all kinds of concepts of generosity and how it looks in a community like ours – we’re only going to scratch at one, but let’s see what we can find.
To orient us, a little history lesson first. The earliest Christian churches that started all sprung out of Jerusalem. Like ripples in the water, the life of Jesus spread wide from Jerusalem across the entire known world. (Map) This is a map of the churches that are mentioned in the New Testament, communities of Jesus followers. Jerusalem is way down there in the right corner. And Jerusalem was a parent church to the churches that started in these towns throughout the middle east, and it resourced the leadership development and resources it took to travel to all these cities. The apostle Paul is one of those leaders they helped fund. Paul started churches in Philippi and Ephesus and Rome and all over the known developing world at the time.
Then as churches gained traction, they became self-funding as you would expect as they reached a critical mass and could support themselves – then they began to give back to Jerusalem. Why? Because they were thankful. Because they knew they were part of something bigger than their own immediate reality. Because they wanted to see more of this movement of life and love and justice that Jesus had started.
Then at one point in history – Jerusalem hit hard times: poverty, famine. The community of faith, the Jesus people hit hard times, too. So Paul who started these churches in various towns went back to those churches, those friends, to get funds to help heal Jerusalem. He went to the people who were thankful for Jerusalem, also whose hearts were breaking for them.
In one letter – Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. Paul was talking about this opportunity to help what was going on in a community they were so thankful for. This is our reading for today – we step into Paul’s letter, hearing his words, his side of a larger conversation with the Christians in Corinth, in light of the famine in Jerusalem.
1 Cor 16:1-4 (NIV) Add the whole text here (only partial below).
Having heard this, I want us to walk through it again slowly, and pay attention to what’s happening here and how it informs our practical reality around being people of generosity. Paul writes in verse 1:
Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. Pause here. I love how Paul says “now about the collection” – because it implies that they had already asked about it. This was the kind of community that said, Hey – how can we help? At the end of this letter that talks about all kinds of things – Paul gets to this – now about that opportunity… And he says: Do what I told the Galatian church to do – in other words, do what I’m telling everyone else. And here’s his direction: Verse 2…
2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money
Here’s a plan, Paul says. EVERY one of you, rich and poor, all included, should set aside a sum of money – on the first day of the week, on Sunday. Do it every week, just keep setting it aside. This is back before bank accounts. But there would be a place for this reservoir to grow, untouchable that they’re going to contribute towards Jerusalem. Every week. A sum of money. Well, how much money? Paul says in the next sentence, THIS much…
in keeping with your income
“In keeping with your income.” An amount though, Paul – give me an amount! $50? $100 this month? In keeping with your income. Like, a LOT of my income? Paul isn’t specific but is clear in one way, which might be frustrating at first – it is a portion, a percentage of your income. Decided on ahead of time. This is the plan.
Notice that everyone can do this. Someone of lower or higher income – this is scalable, it’s sustainable, it’s a “pitch in a quarter” or “a quarter of a million.” It should keep with their income. I love that. It’s surprising Paul is so casual about it, he’s so undefined with this. You’d think if you were fundraising, it would be easier to be specific – for your donation of $49.99 you can actually make a difference in Jerusalem. No, he said – you decide ahead of time, keeping with your income.
So again, he says, verse 2:2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
In other words, Paul says: then, when I show up, there’s no pressure, no song and dance, no sad stories, (Puppy pic) no sad puppies on the screen to convince them to give. It is just celebration. It will have already been determined beforehand, so he’s says, and with planning, you get to be a part of helping out the people you love who are hurting in Jerusalem.
So that’s our text. Two things for us to name about practicing preplanned generosity that emerge from Paul’s direction for his friends in Corinth.
First, let’s bring back the ‘plan’ the equation that most of us probably live with: Consume + Save + Give = Worry. Consume what we need and want, save if we can, and give sometimes if anything is left. To change this equation, what Paul suggests here is that on the first day of the week, first thing before any cash flows anywhere else – you give. Paul says: make Giving the first thing you do. Give first. We flip that whole equation and we take what normally comes last and we put it first. Give + Save + Consume =
Quite simply we give first, we save, and then we live on the rest. And the reason we do this, is that life inevitably hits us with some surprises. And we want to be people for whom the first thing to go is our consumption of the world, not our contribution to it. Give first, save, consume the rest.
And to be clear, not only did this equation bubble up here from Paul – but where did Paul get it from? From Jesus. This is what we said last week – Jesus said if we build a life starting with “What could I give?” then ultimately we will eliminate confusion and chaos and worry from our lives and it will result in = Joy. This equation shifts us from one of worry into one of joy. Saving is important – it is investing in the future. But giving is investing in what is important. And nothing will give us greater joy than investing our lives, our resources in what’s important.
So, Preplanned Generosity: Give first. Then the second thing here from Paul keeps filling out this picture of giving first. It’s what we started with – Preplanned = how much and how often. What Paul describes here is the pattern we see in the early church. This is what a plan looks like: decide on a percentage ahead of time, and when you’ll give it. We see this practiced in the first few centuries of this church movement, this thing that Jesus began. People deciding on a percentage, how much, and then how often they were going to contribute into what God was doing.
And preplanning matters, for us today too, because there will always be more need than we can ever address. We will find ourselves with yet another mailing that comes from yet another amazing organization in the mail this holiday season. We’ll be sitting across the table from a great pitch, an invitation to give. There’ll be someone with a motivating story and Madonna microphone. There will be the Go Fund Me page, the pressure, the song and dance, the sad stories, the sad puppies. And we can still say yes in those spontaneous opportunities, too, but we will not be able to say yes then if we have not looked at our personal finances and made the plan that makes available those funds for us to give where we want our heart to go. Which is why we have to actively choose to give first – digging into that question of how much and how often.
But here’s the thing in making that decision about how much and how often. Again – we saw in the text – Paul, just tell me an amount… “set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income.” Paul’s point is that there is no cookie-cutter solution to what generosity looks like. Which brings our experience of money back to the root of what it is – we’ve said all month that money is a spiritual issue – that’s why Jesus talks about it more often than any other subject. Paul grounds us here in that answering the questions of how much and how often is a question we sort through with God. It is an ongoing, evolving, dialogue, as we listen to our lives and for God, our God who has been so generous with us. Sorry guys, we have to do the work. But also – we get to do the work! And that work is listening to where we want our hearts to go.
Friends, I want to close out our time today and in this series with something I hope will be both meaningful and helpful. Here’s your invitation into a response in light of this – that digs us into HOW to give first, and answer the question of how much, how often.
Remember, Jesus invites us to give where we want our hearts to go. Having named this two Sundays ago, now we dig in. And here it is. If you want to give where you want your heart to go, then give – here’s the final big idea for today: then Give where your heart says THANKS. And Give where you heart says OUCH. Like ET style OooOOUch. Give where your heart says Thhhaaaanks, and ouch.
I’ve come to learn that God only gives us money to see what our heart will do with it. The delusion of ownership as we named last week – is that if it can all be taken away in a moment in death – we never owned it in the first place. We’re not owners. We’re managers. We’re stewards. God gives us money to see what our hearts will do with it.
And so we let our hearts move towards where our hearts say thanks, where our hearts say ouch. I just want you to think for a second – what are you grateful for? And what breaks your heart, in this world? What gives you a thankful heart, what gives you a broken heart? Thanks, Ouch.
You may be someone who already made the switch from worry to the equation of joy – you give first, you’re already flowing in that priority. These questions of Thanks and Ouch are still for you. We ask this our whole lives, because our hearts keep changing (that’s been our fall, right?). So even if you give first, wrestle with your thanks and ouch a bit to see how God might refresh your generosity.
I should tell you – pastors I know would secretly warn me – don’t tell people to give outside of Salt House – because they may give a lot. To which I respond – that’s the point. That’s the only kind of community I want to be a part of. A community of generosity. Part of a group of people who plan ahead to be a resource – people who plan to be part of great change in the world. BTW – if every Jesus-follower in America planned to become generous – there would be more funding than we know what to do with. We’d be able to accomplish every dream we could ever dream. And it begins with us.
So, here’s what I want us to do with this. You hopefully received some heart-shaped post-its when you came in. And if not we have more. In the next few minutes, I invite us to spend time writing down those places, issues, organizations, needs where our hearts say THANKS, and our hearts say OUCH. You’re not making a binding commitment to give, just paying attention to your heart in an unfettered way in the space we have, to name where you have a thankful heart, and a broken heart. You can write lots of things, or one thing.
Be sure to group them in a certain way – here’s what I mean: During Communion, we’re going to have a chance to let these places where we want our hearts to go be posted, named here for us, signs of our prayers for these places and things, and a chance to see where our hearts long to go.
We made an assumption, that many of us may have hearts for Salt House, so if you do, you can place a post-it on Salt House to show that gratitude. Then, surrounding Salt House, places/things outside Salt House, we can post those as they fill the board around it, knowing that we also have grateful and broken hearts outside of these walls.
Then on your way out today, be sure to grab the handout we have that include some writing space, dreaming space, to write out your responses in dialogue with God to these questions. Push yourself to do some of it this week – don’t write a check, but just do some listening – this week, especially because of the chaos of Thanksgiving, but also let this be something you tend to for a while, over the holiday season, listening to your heart, letting God help you make the on purpose, preplanned liberation of your financial assets possible.
As we open ourselves up to this work of how God wants to work a chunk of change in us through how we handle a chunk of change, becoming people of incredible generosity, and as we close out this entire fall season in our entire Chunk of Change series, let’s ground ourselves in what Paul finally says in his second letter to this church in Corinth. In his second, letter, after a short teaching on generosity and giving, Paul brings them back to this truth. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9.
And in these words, Paul anchors us in this idea that this entire enterprise was built on a God who so loved that he GAVE. More than he would ever ask for in return. God gave. So – the center of our spiritual practice is not closed fists, it’s not conquering, it’s not taking, it’s not hoarding, it is open hands. Open, nail-scarred hands.
We are a community at Salt House that was birthed out of the open hands of Trinity, of HSLC, and through the open hands of people who have walked through our doors and sat in this room and said yes to the generosity of God flowing through them – through you. Thank you, thank you, my friends, that our story continues to be one of generosity. God has done and will continue to do great things through this community – more than what we can even envision now – what’s so immeasurably exciting is that we each have the choice to say yes and to get to be in on that. Thank you for your yeses, my friends. Let’s keep saying yes, together.