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 A Report from the Director MAY 4, 2011 

Update April 6, 2011: Weems speaking at the Financial Leadership Forum in March 2011Denominations Face Major Reset

Most congregations know the financial squeeze of recent years from the economic recession. What is more striking is that the financial downturn for denominations is even more pronounced and perhaps more long lasting. Recent developments in the United Methodist Church may serve as a bellwether for others. As Loren Mead recently noted, it was the Methodists in 1966 that for the first time ever had a decrease in membership that signaled a downturn soon matched by all the mainline denominations.

Fewer people giving more money. As membership decreased over the decades, giving continued to increase even after factoring in inflation. Every year, fewer people gave more money. That model worked for a long time. For United Methodists it lasted until 2009. In fact, for a 30-year period through 2007, total giving for all purposes by United Methodists increased from 100 to 300 million dollars a year (before inflation) every year. In 2008, the increase was a modest $4.8 million. Then, for the first time in the memory of most, total giving declined in 2009 by about $60 million. Does this begin to sound like another bellwether moment?

The coming death tsunami. But won't denominations return to the previous performance when the economy improves? Not likely. The practice of depending on fewer people to provide more money is unsustainable in the face of the coming "death tsunami." The U.S. death rate is currently in a stable period that began in 2003 and continues until 2018. But what follows this plateau is a death wave in which there will be more deaths and a higher death rate than at any time since the widespread introduction of antibiotics and other medical advances. The total number of deaths each year will go up until 2050, and the majority of these deaths will be older non-Hispanic whites and African Americans, the two largest constituencies of mainline churches.

Resetting the financial baseline. Therefore, a major financial reset is needed by most denominations to position them for these seismic changes ahead. As with any organization facing the future after 45 years of unabated decline in its constituency, there must be a stepping back to a new and lower baseline in order to move forward. Otherwise, all energy must go to maintaining the old unrealistic financial baseline.

The purpose of resetting the financial baseline is to free the preoccupation from money to reaching people for Christ through vital congregations. The criteria that matter going forward must be around reaching people, and the whole system needs alignment toward that goal. Money is a lagging indicator. We reset in order to return to the basics on which all giving depends — changed lives and transformed communities. There is no future for U.S. denominations that cannot reach more people, younger people, and more diverse people.

The death tsunami is coming. If it sweeps over a church already stretched to its limits to survive financially year by year, the result could be catastrophic. However, if it comes to a church that has reset its baseline and demonstrated the ability to begin growing, then the losses will occur, but will not deter the "field of energy" already moving in the denomination. Such a church will not only survive but come out on the other side as a growing, missional, and spiritually alive instrument of God. The time to make choices is now — while there are still choices to be made. Otherwise, circumstances will make the choices for us in the future.

Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Weems's Presentation on the Need to "Reset and Refocus"

View Lovett Weems's 15-minute presentation "Reset and Refocus" presented at the United Methodist Financial Leadership Forum in March.

Right Start Resource Guides Pastors Who Are Moving to New Churches

The Right StartThe Right Start: Beginning Ministry in a New Setting is a video-based learning resource designed to assist pastors as they prepare to complete their ministry in one setting and move to another. Right Start includes DVD instructional segments, CD resources, planning aids, and supplementary materials on the following subjects: stages of a pastoral move; leaving well and preparing the way; entry into a new setting; the start-up period; the emotional dimensions of transitions; and formulating a personal transition plan. The Pastor's Version is $59. The Group Training Version is $199 and includes a wide array of training and facilitation aids; it is intended for conferences and other judicatories offering group sessions for pastors preparing to move.

2011 Funding Resource DVD/CD Now Available

Funding Ministry in Changing TimesThe Lewis Center's newest Funding Resource brings the best of the 2011 Funding Conference directly to you and your congregation. The Resource includes a DVD with video plenary presentations by Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr., Director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, and Dr. David McAllister-Wilson, President of Wesley Theological Seminary. The Resource also includes a data CD with PowerPoint presentations, templates, and handouts on these topics: Developing an Operating Budget, The Three Pillars of Giving, Developing a Dashboard of Key Financial Indicators, Building and Funding a Capital Budget, Youth and Stewardship, Fostering Generosity in Children, and Investing Church Funds Wisely. The 2011 Funding Resource is $65. A Resource Package Bundle including 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 Funding Resources is $185. Order today.

Interactive Map of State and County Population Changes

US Census trendsNew US Census data on population trends can be explored using the Census Bureau's new interactive map. States are color coded based on the change in their population between 2000 and 2010. Placing your cursor over a state reveals the population trends over recent decades. Perhaps most revealing of all, clicking a state shows its counties color coded by population change.

Survey on how changing times affect fundingHas your congregation held any meetings online?

If so, the Lewis Center would like to hear about what you did and how it went. Let us know at lewiscenter@wesleyseminary.edu.


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