St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School | Beaver Dam, WI | 920.885.3309

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I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. Job 19:25

A Unified Budget (Ministry Spending Plan) for St. Stephen’s

Categories: News

Note: The switch to a unified budget was an item on the agenda for the last voters’ meeting. After discussion, it was decided to recess the meeting so there would be opportunity to share more information about the unified budget to get more input and give more opportunity for questions before the decision is final. We plan to resume the meeting on Sunday, August 4, after the 9:30 a.m. service to act on this one agenda item. If you have questions or ideas, please speak to a member of our church council, or to council president Bill C. Hemling.

In true Lutheran tradition we ask, “What does this mean?”

  • A “Unified Budget” means that our offerings given to the Lord are placed into one, unified general account … and
  • All regularly paid expenses (monthly, semi-monthly) are paid from that one, unified account.

Again, “What does this mean?”  How does this change the way offerings and finances have been handled in the past?

  • For our offerings, this means there would not be 3 choices on our envelopes for the division of our offering (i.e.  Current, Building and Debt, Missions), nor would there be a monthly Lakeside Lutheran High School envelope.  All envelope offerings go to a unified account.
  • All regular (monthly, semi-monthly) expenditures are made from that one fund, Including WELS Mission/Ministry and Lakeside Lutheran High School.  The annual amount to be contributed to WELS and to LLHS is determined by the Voters’ Assembly (representing the entire membership) at its annual Budget Meeting (late November / early December).
  • Ministry such as WELS and LLHS, in a unified procedure, should receive consistent monthly amounts from our congregation, as opposed to the up and down support we currently give (much in December and April, but little in July and August).

What would happen to the “Building and Debt Fund”?

  • The original purpose (1970s?) of the Building and Debt Fund is long past.  This was a fund kept in our checking account that collected gifts for building projects such as the ramp and front entryway (1975), and the church office / elevator section of the building (1991).  When loans for these projects had to be taken (incurring “debt”), debt payments on the loans were paid from gifts given to this fund.
  • Over the last 30 years, the Building and Debt Fund has been nothing more than a debt fund that at end of year by Voters’ Assembly resolution has covered much of the deficits in our General Operating (Current Expense) Fund.  In reality, Building and Debt monies have gone to cover regular operating expenses.  For special projects now, such as our Window-Exterior Restoration, we established a separate and specific special fund.

What are the disadvantages of a Unified Plan?

  • Without a space on our envelopes to designate Mission gifts and a special envelope for Lakeside Lutheran High School, these important (beyond Beaver Dam) ministries are not right in front of us when we contemplate our regular offerings.
  • I don’t get to designate what my offering supports.  (Not necessarily a disadvantage.  Such a “Me” attitude could be problematic to the overall ministry of Christ’s Church.)

What could be the advantages of a Unified Plan?

  • Hopefully, the emphasis is that the gift I offer is given to my Savior God in thanks for the gift of life eternal he gives me in Jesus.  It is not given to an institution; to build, fix, or maintain a building; nor for a “pet” ministry I hold dear.
  • Hopefully, it focuses each of us, as we contemplate our regular thank offering to our Savior God, on how much he has blessed me, and not on how this gift will be used (remember, some of what the Israelites of old took to the temple for sacrifice just went “up in smoke”!)
  • Hopefully, through good communication and good Voters’ Assembly participation in the budgeting/planning process, we won’t have attitudes that express themselves in internal statements such as, “I’m not happy with what they decided to do with my money.”  (Whose money is it, anyway?  Psalm 24:1).
  • If each of us continued to bring offerings at current levels (or increased a little next year), though the bottom-line wouldn’t change much, the constant internal borrowing and paying back that currently goes on wouldn’t happen, and our General Fund balances might not look so dismal throughout the year until the Voters’ Assembly resolves at end of year to transfer the Building and Debt Fund balance to the General Fund to reduce the deficit.
  • Accounting of gifts by our Offering Count Committee and our Financial Secretary would be much simpler.
  • Reporting of gifts and expenses would be much simpler.

What would this mean for me as I plan and give my offering to my Savior?

  • As I weekly / bi-weekly plan my gift to my Savior, I would not have to decide how much goes to “Current”, how much to “Building and Debt”, and how much to “Missions”.  I just plan and give a total amount, in keeping with how I’m blessed.
  • On my offering envelope, I would write only the total amount of my thank-offering, without “dividing” it.
  • I can be confident that the gift I’m able to give my Savior will support all the ministry to which we (St. Stephen’s) have committed ourselves.

What’s this “Ministry Spending Plan” business?  What does this mean?

  • The term “budget” is used everywhere – in government, in business, in our homes, and in the church.  Pretty much the word “budget” carries only the concept of $$:   $$ in, and $$ out; and… I (we) don’t have enough $$ coming in to balance the $$ going out !!!!.
  • The term “Ministry Spending Plan” also carries the concept of $$; that’s in the word “Spending”!  But the word “Ministry” is also part of the phrase.  “Ministry” means “service.”  Jesus has called us to SERVE him and others with our time, our talents, and our treasures ($$).  We plan what spiritual service we will carry out in the coming year, and what $$ will be needed to carry out such SERVICE.  (Yes, that’s a budget.)
  • With the phrase “Ministry Spending Plan” we hope to convey that our $$$ are given in love and service to our Savior, and that those $$$ support the SERVICE to which he calls us.

How should I give my offering if we adopt a Unified Plan?

  • Our offering envelopes would be different:  ONE space for a $ amount, not three.
  • What is your current TOTAL weekly / bi-weekly / monthly offering? Give that!  (or more!)
  • EXAMPLE – If, in the past, you have given a weekly gift of $40, divided between “Current” ($30), “Building and Debt” ($5), and “Missions” ($5), and a monthly envelope gift to Lakeside Lutheran HS ($20) … give a weekly “unified” gift of $45 (or bi-weekly gift of $90).  It will “come out the same” in the end and support all those ministries (St. Stephen’s, WELS, LLHS).
  • “Special Service” envelopes (i.e. Christmas, Good Friday, Ascension, etc.) would not be specially designated.  They would also go to the “unified” fund and would support ALL ministry.

May I make a special gift to a ministry special to me?

  • Yes!  Memorials, gifts of honor (birthday, anniversary, etc.) may certainly be made to a “ministry” of your choice (general, WELS missions, radio ministry, school ministry, etc.).
  • Generic “Special Gift” envelopes are available in the entryways of the church in which special gifts may be given and on which a notation can be made.  Your “wish” for such a gift to your Savior God will be honored.

What opportunity will I have to offer my gift to Jesus through “automatic withdrawals”, “digitally”, or “online”?

  • We are currently making some accounting software changes that will facilitate this.
  • It is our hope that the option to offer regular gifts “online”, “digitally”, or by “automatic withdrawal” will be available by Fall of 2019.  Watch the Sunday “announcement” page, the newsletter, the church website ( or some kind of “e” message for this giving option.
Author: admin_ssbdWELS

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