BOARD UPDATE – JULY 2020
Within this Board/Staff e-newsletter, you will find a financial update from Chase Bethel (member of the Board and Finance Committee), so that you can be up-to-date in your understanding of how things are going at the bridge.
The 5 Ps of Financial Stewardship while navigating a pandemic
In accordance with the natural rhythm of information flow at the bridge, it is time for a financial update; however, what is quite unnatural and counter to our usual rhythm is that we’ve all been living through a pandemic over the past three months. But “P” isn’t just for “pandemic”. As a Board team led by our Lead Pastor, we’ve been Prayerful, Persuaded, Purposeful, Pliable and Prepared in ensuring continued financial stewardship of our church’s resources. Ultimately, while we can’t always control the outcomes —financial or otherwise—we can control our approach.
Prayerful. Our Board (and Finance Committee) meetings are always steeped in prayer. We pray for God’s provision; we pray that His transformative power will change hearts and result in increasing generosity; we pray for His wisdom and leading as we make decisions; and we pray for sensitivity to be able to see the needs around us.
Due to COVID-19, now that the bridge’s prayer meetings have moved to an online format, I am able to attend for the first time. It has been truly encouraging to know that the bridge’s “prayer warriors” consistently pray for the leadership of the church and for its finances each week. As a Board, we are grateful to know that there are many voices combining with our own in raising prayer for these important matters.
Persuaded. Being persuaded has everything to do with the faith response to our prayers. It is about a strong belief, or a conviction that God loves us, that He knows best and that He will meet our needs. The apostle Paul puts it best in Philippians 4:19 when he says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” Once we’re persuaded, we can function out of a confidence that God is leading and we need only to be in harmony with it.
Purposeful. As we seek to “connect with God, each other, and our world”, we do so with a specific path (“Gather, Group, Give, Go”) and with important shared values (“Intentional, Intimacy, Intelligible, Inclusive, Influential”). In times of uncertainty, these words are like points on a compass that we can rely on to ensure alignment. Through this lens, we can see the types of decisions and actions we should be taking today in order to best position our church for the future, rather than going off-course or being paralyzed by inaction. One good example, I believe, is the Board’s recent decision to authorize an investment in a new church software system that allows pastors and staff to be as effective and efficient as possible within their roles, as they manage both church processes and stewardship, as well as engagement pathways at the church. In May, you heard from Pastor Brian about how—even now—we continue to serve the Markham community and minister to those in the church through our various ministries. Just recently, you heard from Pastor Shauna, Pastor Rod and Pastor Sam at how they are continuing to be purposeful in engaging with families.
Pliable. Even as it is important to set a steady course, it is also important to recognize when it is appropriate to adapt. For example, we saw the need to adapt our frequency of communication by forming a Board chat group and by having emergency meetings when necessary. Our very diligent pastors and staff were pliable in adapting their expenses to our current reality. Even as some areas increased (e.g. benevolence, digital communications), other areas decreased (e.g. gatherings, events). We also adapted to the external environment and qualified for the federal government’s wage subsidy program for the month of March 2020. Finally, there was pliability in our risk appetite for the Vision Fund, as we shifted some investments out of a low risk bond fund into even lower risk GICs.
Prepared. It is difficult to be prepared for all situations, especially when navigating a rare health crisis; however, we’ve done our best to create options and alternative pathways depending on how the future unfolds. For example, in addition to having a good cash position in the bank, the church applied for and has access to approximately $140,000 of additional liquidity consisting of unsecured lines of credit and government emergency business funds. Additionally, the Board and Finance Committee worked together to undertake a mid-year financial update, as well as establish forecast scenarios in the event that the pandemic persists for the balance of 2020. With the firm belief that we are prepared, we continue to be Prayerful, Persuaded, Purposeful and Pliable (and then we Prepare a bit more…).
We ask for your continued prayers as a congregation and also express our appreciation for your continued faithful and sacrificial giving towards the church’s ministry agenda.
We are truly blessed and grateful that God has provided for His church, the bridge, and that He continues to open our hearts to what He is doing in the Markham community and around the world.
For our fiscal year-to-date (i.e. from the beginning of September through the end of May), General Ministries giving has increased 16% when compared to the same period last year. Through the end of February, before the pandemic hit, General Ministries giving had increased 26% year-over-year; however, giving declined by 21% in March and the result was a deceleration in giving growth. Giving was then flat in April and increased by 6% in May. Recalling that during a prior update Pastor Brian noted that we achieved 80% of our target for the month of April, we highlight that the 80% figure was in reference to General Fund giving excluding mission/benevolence targets (whereas General Ministries giving includes mission/benevolence). For April, we had forecasted a higher target for refugee relief than was realized; which, when included, resulted in 72% of our target. Even as we achieved our targeted giving for May, the month had one additional Sunday than we had budgeted for; hence, on average, giving has been trending toward a decline of approximately 10–20% year-over-year (when normalized for timing impacts and other factors) since COVID-19 began to impact our ability to physically gather.
It is noteworthy that key expenses relating to facilities (e.g. utilities) have also decreased significantly. Moreover, our pastors and staff have been prudent in their ministry expense management with nearly all ministry expenses coming in below budget. When looking at our net income for the fiscal year-to-date, it has exceeded our original target by approximately $264,000. God. Is. Good!
The Vision Fund (approximately $1,500,000) continues to be fully invested in financial instruments that reflect the church’s low risk tolerance. As mentioned above, the bond fund that represented approximately one-third of Vision Fund investments was liquidated for a gain of $\18,480. The entire $547,055 of proceeds was subsequently invested in GICs in June 2020.
To conclude, on behalf of the Board, we can’t express enough how thankful we are that God has given our church such a fundamentally sound financial position at this time. We know that He is providential in all of His dealings with us, and we look toward the future with hope that, as a church, we will continue to be able to minister to each other and to the needs around us. We ask that you to continue to be prayerful, prepared, and purposeful in your generosity. Your support contributes towards thoughtful and impactful ministry, leading to an expanded influence in our community and in the world. Thank you for partnering with us in ministry.
In recognition that God also calls us to give time and talent (in addition to treasure), I would also like to express deep appreciation to the members of the Finance Committee: Kenneth Mo, Sonia Tan, Cynthia Yoon and Tim Jenkins, who have been so competent, dependable and committed in using their abilities to the benefit of the church.
Chase Bethel | Member of the Board and Finance Committee