I freely admit it! I love leftovers! Whenever I'm home and hunger calls or I'm trying to put
together a bag lunch to take to the office, my thoughts turn to "shopping the fridge" for whatever leftovers I can mix and match for a tasty meal or snack. What can be better than leftover turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin and apple pie!
In addition to using the term "leftover" to describe the source of my lunches this week, Webster also defines it as "anything left or remaining from a larger amount." As a case in point, I think we've all had occasion in our lives to face the prospect of trying to stretch our financial "leftovers" as we neared the end of a month or year.
As moderator of finance, I've recently been spending time preparing the 2018 church budget for presentation at the session meeting on November 27. I feel very blessed to be able to report that, thanks to your generosity and hard work, the church is in good shape financially. But when it comes to balancing a budget, there are always trade-offs, and decisions have to be made on what expenses are necessary, and what can be funded from the financial "leftovers".
Spreadsheets are a wonderful tool for balancing a budget, because a spreadsheet allows you to insert formulas so that when you change a number in one cell, you can instantly see the impact of that change to the bottom line. It allows one to easily see how many dollars would be "leftover" for other purposes after providing for "semi-fixed" expenses such as staff salaries and building maintenance costs.
After many evenings of considering different scenarios and adjusting the formulas in my spreadsheet, I began to imagine Jesus hunched over a laptop at his local coffee shop, with perhaps Peter and John, and Mathew (the tax collector) for sure looking on, their attention focused on how the numbers were adding up (or not). I couldn't help but ponder, how would Jesus set up his spreadsheet? What would be his "semi-fixed" expenses and what would be his financial "leftovers"? Would he even bother to add it up? Or would he simply add up the needs, and leave the estimated revenue lines blank, sure in his faith that God would provide the resources?
But then I thought, would he even own a laptop and be in a Starbucks? Indeed, it seems more likely that Jesus would be personally carrying his ministry to those less fortunate, to the hungry and homeless in our own communities, to the sick and homebound, to those whose lives have been destroyed by hurricanes, to those who endure incredible danger and hardships to find a safe place to live as their homelands are torn apart by conflict or natural disaster.
As we're reminded during confession, we fall short. I know I fall way short. In our world, we still need to create a balanced budget, both personally and as a congregation. Our resources are considerable when compared to many, but not unlimited. In our personal spreadsheets, we need to save for college funds, or for healthcare and other needs after retirement. For the church, how much will we need for structural repairs or a new boiler? How much can and should our church set aside for mission in a world with huge needs, both locally and globally?
Which expenses are truly fixed, and which ones are the "leftovers"?
Jerry Kahrs, Elder
Final Note: At the meeting last night, session approved the 2018 Budget as submitted by the Finance Team. That budget increases our funding for missions from 4.5% to 10.1% of operating revenues.