Kieschnick oversees financial freefall (Mollie)

In 2000, the LCMS had $28.4 million in unrestricted funds to allocate to mission and ministry (most funds are restricted by their donors for particular purposes). President Kieschnick was elected as Synodical President in 2001. Since his election, that number has been reduced every year, including a $1.5 million decrease last year alone. In fact, the amount of funds to allocate to mission and ministry had dropped to $20.1 million this year.

While the struggling economy can explain a portion of last year’s drop, the trend in giving is unmistakable. Each year of President Kieschnick’s administration has seen a precipitous drop in unrestricted funds.

I’m sure we’re all part of congregations that are worried about how Synod is allocating resources. I know many congregations target their gifts (restricted funds) to avoid funding programs they object to or find less worthy than, say, human care ministries or seminaries.

LCMS Treasurer Tom Kuchta has been sounding the alarm for years. He gave the board a memo where he said:

I believe it is evident that two conventions, two blue ribbon task forces, and a fiscal conference have not positively impacted the Synod’s unrestricted income. I also believe that the Board of Directors needs to understand the seriousness of our fiscal position.

He noted that the options available to the board are to a) borrow funds, b) redeploy existing assets and c) launch a fundraising program for unrestricted funds.

The Board Briefs (July 2009) says:

“In reality, these options range from obtaining a mortgage on the International Center to selling existing properties (such as radio stations or school campuses) to initiating a fund-raising program for the solicitation of unrestricted gifts.”


Kieschnick oversees financial freefall (Mollie) — 30 Comments

  1. The same memo (in the actual BOD minutes) states that LCMS Inc. has borrowed from designated money (restricted gifts given to LCMS World Relief, Missions, etc.) to pay every day operational costs.

    In fact, LCMS Inc. has overborrowed from these funds to the tune of $300K. The memo points our that there is no more designated money to borrow and that all of it (an estimated $15 million, if rumor is true) still must be paid back.

    It’s like parents who empty out the kids’ college fund, but still send the kids to college.

    What are the options? Borrow from the banks? A bad idea, even if they would lend to the LCMS for operational costs. A mortgage on the IC is also borrowing more money that will have to be repaid.

    Something must be sold. Something will be sold. The only question is what that something is.


  2. What’s troubling to me is that if you combine this reality with the statements by a VP (just last week?) where he was spit-balling the idea of selling the seminaries and you can see the veritable table being set. A drop in unrestricted funds means selling something and hey, the SMP program doesn’t *really* need the seminaries…so let’s sell them to keep the lights on.

    I’m no expert on such matters, but I have to believe that if “mission and ministry” – in their truest Biblical sense – were the chief concerns of the synod leadership and not the development of seeker-sensitive, purpose-based programs there wouldn’t be a problem.

  3. When I first read the article – I thought – oh, no – they are going to hire consultants to come up with a fundraiser. But they may sell something but that usually does not bring in the money you need.

  4. From theSt. Louis Post Dispatch

    THIS WEEK, WE’RE CELEBRATING ST. LOUIS’ TOP EMPLOYERS — companies selected by readers for excellence in the following categories: Best Company Culture, Best Co-workers/Team, Best Commitment to Diversity, Best Benefits, Best Perks and Best Upward Mobility. Are you wondering which category got the most nominations? Would you be surprised to learn that it was Best Company Culture, followed closely by Best Co-workers/Team? Ron Schultz isn’t surprised at all. His employer, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (, was nominated for Best Company Culture.

    “We have a surprising number of employees who have 25-plus years on the job,” said Schultz, who is LCMS’ Chief Administrative Officer and Interim Executive Director of Human Resources. “I think many people are just drawn to the work we do.” Some of that work is what you would expect. “We have 800 missionaries around the world. We plant churches and train people in ministry. We also support domestic and international relief efforts following natural disasters.”

    “As an organization, we have a very nurturing environment. Since we focus on caring for people, we also care for each other. The whole concept really comes through as a corporate culture,” Schultz said. LCMS has 750 employees worldwide; about 600 of these employees work in St. Louis. Although LCMS is not hiring at present, I couldn’t resist asking for a little job seeking advice.

    “First, I would say, ‘Don’t give up.’ Then, be honest,” Schultz said. “The things I look for, and I think most employers look for, are honesty, integrity and a willingness to bring enthusiasm to the job.” In terms of the application process, Schultz agreed that it has become harder to showcase yourself since the dawn of the online application. “Online lends itself to simply listing experience and credentials,” he said. “Unless it’s expressly prohibited, I would still send a resume and cover letter. State in the cover letter that you have applied online, but that you wanted to provide additional information.”

    Before we finished talking, I shared with Ron my own LCMS story. About 10 years ago, I attended a meeting at the LCMS International Center in Kirkwood. I remember clearly my initial reaction. “The Center had a very calm, welcoming feeling to it,” I told Ron.

    “I know what you mean,” he said. “Before entering, people may perceive the International Center as an office building. But as soon as they walk through our doors, I think they get the sense that there’s something really good going on here.”

  5. In regard to Todd’s comment that “Something must be sold. Something will be sold,” it is not just going to be one thing. The sell off will continue. I saw this happen first hand while on the BOD of the NID. Stay tuned for more “For Sale” signs and greater “taxation.”

  6. P.S. Kieschnick is not just “overseeing” a financial freefall. It is more a case of “cause and effect.”

  7. I know that our congregation, which previously had sent a good deal of money to the Synod, when we found out that the Kieschnick administration had awarded a $25,000 Ablaze! grant to the Jefferson Hills (UnLutheran) Church in our area and had just canceled Issues, Etc. and fired Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz–in April 2008 our Voters’ Assmebly decided that we could not trust what the Kieschnick administration would do with the money we give, and so for programmatic and stewardship reasons we redirected the money we used to give to Synod. If a more trustworthy administration comes back in, I’m sure we will reconsider that decision.

  8. 06/04/09 -LCMS Treasuer in the Reporter: “We have financial crisis.”
    06/05/09 -Kieschnick to the KS Dist. convention: “We do not have a financial crisis.”

  9. The whole thing is just plain sad, I think. In my home, I have been known to speak of belt-tightening. There have been times, in parishes which I have served, when I was not able to receive paychecks until cash flow improved. I have heard it widely touted that there are sem prof’s and others who have had their salaries frozen, and that some have taken early retirements, but, I wonder, has the leadership led by example? How ARE the expense accounts going? Are the offerings of the faithful still paying for Mrs. K to travel with her hub? Or, if they are using some other fund for that, could he pay for her travel and those funds could be freed up for some other, possibly more salutary, purpose?

    Is our leadership so insulated from the rank and file that they do not realize that some of this shortage is because some people are tired of program-driven stuff, that we are tired of paying for “counsel” from non-Lutherans, and that there honestly are some who desire to be Lutheran in doctrine and practice?

    Will this shortage cause Pres. K to strive that much harder to “beat” the possible message that he step down, and cause him to strive even harder to be reelected? I wonder how much of this is perceived as a game rather than as a real life church crisis where, ultimately, the matter of sharing Christ with souls, is in the balance. . . .

  10. #11 Jim,
    We do have several models to choose from.

    The new improved off road “Seeker”
    The gas guzzling suv “Ablazer”
    The smaller church “Satellite Plant” (tends to pull left)
    and the ever popular “LCMS Exodus”

    Of course we need the ever popular best seller “Concord” to keep the other car lines finacially afloat.


  11. Oh I forgot the “seeker” only comes in rainbow stripe paint so it does not offend anyone.


  12. I wonder, do things that are not being funded NEED to be funded, or do we have a classic case of confusing needs, wants and desires? Any ministry that operates with a shred of financial integrity, imho, will NOT borrow, NOT spend money it doesn’t have, and see a lack of supply as one clear indication of God closing a door in order to open a window of opportunity elsewhere. Do I think LCMS, Inc. has a shred of integrity? Go ahead, convince me:)

  13. Does anyone know the amounts of unrestricted funds from the 10 years or so prior to 2000?

  14. “Every prince, nobleman and city should boldly forbid their subjects to pay the annates to Rome and should abolish them entirely;[1] for the pope has broken the compact and made the annates a robbery, to the injury and shame of the whole German nation. He gives them to his friends, sells them for large amounts of money, and uses them to endow offices. He has thus lost his right to them, and deserves punishment.”

    Martin Luther, “Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate (1520)”, published a year before Luther’s excommunication in 1521 (Decet Romanum Pontificem) by the Roman Pope.

    80] But they themselves should remember that riches [estates and revenues] have been given to bishops as alms for the administration and advantage of the churches [that they may serve the Church, and perform their office the more efficiently], as the rule says: The benefice is given because of the office. Therefore they cannot with a good conscience possess these alms, and meanwhile defraud the Church, which has need of these means for supporting ministers, and aiding studies [educating learned men], and caring for the poor and establishing courts, especially matrimonial.
    Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope,
    The Power and Jurisdiction of Bishops, 80

  15. “This is something the Missouri Synod needs to remember! It should prefer to go out of business rather than to let the Church suffer harm by its continued existence. Those who want to see the synod continue under all circumstances, regardless of whether that would harm the kingdom of Christ, are not to being led by the Spirit of Christ, but by the spirit of selfishness.”

    (C.F.W. Walther, “The Duties of an Evangelical Lutheran Synod,” The First Meeting of the Iowa District, August 20, 1879, in Essays for the Church, vol. 2, p. 62.)

  16. John # 1 If the “Jefferson hills Church”was a car would it be the Edsel ? The no one wanted no one bought ,but was touted as the best car of all,by the head of the company.And in the end it was shown to be what is was .Not worth buying.

  17. For Matthew Harrison to win election he needs to hang Synod’s financial freefall around Kieschnick’s neck.

  18. Although I understand mnslutheran’s frustration, Matt Harrison cannot be the one to pin a tail on the donkey. There needs to be others… many others… willing to do that.

  19. This financial crisis is good for the LCMS and her people. It is a call to repentance and faithfulness we all need to hear.

  20. Here, here #23!!!!

    25. Therefore I tell you, do not be concerned about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
    The Lord expands and enlarges His vigorous sermon against this dangerous vice, because, as we have said, it usually intrudes violently alongside the Gospel and attacks not only the world but also the Christians. It is especially fierce against those who are supposed to preach the Word of God and who are surrounded by all sorts of dangers on its account. They suffer contempt and oppression from the world, and as far as the flesh is concerned, they would have reason enough to be concerned. Anyone who wants to be a Christian and to confess his Lord arouses the hostility of the devil, his enemy. The devil is a prince of this world (John 16:11), who therefore opposes and attacks Him, not through the Word and faith, but through that which is subject to the devil’s own kingdom and authority. Now our good-for-nothing body, our flesh and blood, is still in his kingdom. He can really plague this, he can throw it into jail, he can deprive it of food and drink and clothing. And so this danger continually surrounds us, together with everything we have. Meanwhile flesh and blood is trying to figure out how much it can get for its security and how it can avoid danger. This is the origin of the temptation called “concern about making a living”; of course, the world does not regard it as a temptation but as a virtue, and it praises the people who set their sights on great property and honor.
    Listen now to what serving Mammon means. It means being concerned about our life and our body, about what we should eat and drink and put on. It means thinking only about this life, about how to get rich here and how to accumulate and increase our money and property, as though we were going to stay here forever.
    The man whose money is dear to him and who is on the lookout for his own advantage will not have much regard for his neighbor or for the office that involves his neighbor. This has been evident until now in our clergy. They were not the least bit concerned about how to take proper care of souls. They concentrated everything on making the world bring them enough donations. Whoever did not bring them any money was simply left standing; none of them would even say an Our Father for somebody else without being paid for it. But a pious preacher is concerned about properly carrying out the duties of his office for the good of souls. It does not bother him that he is not getting very much for it, in fact, that he has to endure all sorts of things for it, letting serpents bite him and bearing the hostility of the world and the devil. He leaves in God’s hands the matter of where he will get his food, and he comforts himself with the prospect of another treasure in another life, a treasure so great that all the misfortune he has to suffer here is too tiny even to be compared with it (Rom. 8:18). It is for this treasure that he is doing all this.

    Luther, Martin: Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan (Hrsg.) ; Oswald, Hilton C. (Hrsg.) ; Lehmann, Helmut T. (Hrsg.): Luther’s Works, Vol. 21 : The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat. Saint Louis : Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1956 (Luther’s Works 21), S. 21:194

  21. The others that will try and pin the tail on the donkey will look like they are attacking and being mean. Rev. Harrison needs to politely ask questions and be direct about what he will do to solve synod’s financial woes. The majority of synod will listen to money issues, they do not care a wit about Lutheran theology, they haven’t for decades.

  22. The majority of synod will listen to money issues, they do not care a wit about Lutheran theology, they haven’t for decades.

    If that is really true, the remnant should be making concrete plans to move out and leave the majority to their money grubbing “movement”!

    [It would help, of course, if the ‘remnant’ could agree on the basics, since they claim to be the people to whom doctrine and practice matter!]

  23. To Mollie and in response to post #16, it is important to actually look at all the facts. As much as you might want to lay this all at the feet of GK (a most popular pursuit), approximatley 30+ years ago a presentation was made at a Lutheran conference where the host indicated a disturbing trend – the Synod budget, which had previously been covered to the tune of approx 90-95% from weekly offerings (to congregations then to districts then to Synod)and had now dipped below 90%. Today that number hovers around 26 or 27%. Hate to tell you but it didn’t drop like that only under GK. I think you’ll find similar reductions under the his predecessor and I fail to recall the disastrous economic times during the 90’s. By the way, its a trend in nearly every mainline denomination.

  24. If that is really true, the remnant should be making concrete plans to move out and leave the majority to their money grubbing “movement”!

    Yes Helen, the remnant should move on…but they won’t.

  25. Mr. Gallagher,

    I agree with you that we can’t lay all of Synod’s financial problems at the feet of GK. However, he has been the president of the LCMS for the past eight years and has given us consulting firms and Ablaze! initiatives to try to stop the bleeding. The consultants’ plans aren’t working. The tourniquet they and GK have rapped around the LCMS was made of the threadbare cloth of bad theology and practice. Our Synod and her congregations, like that cloth, have been ripped apart and the bleeding is getting worse instead of better.

    It is time for a new man to take on a new kind of role as the president of the LCMS. Our next president must be a theologian and have the heart of a pastor. He must catechize the Baptimethocostal theology out of us, throw away the business model of the past and reapply the healing Gospel of Christ to this Synod, or this Synod will die.

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