“The financial crisis that Synod is facing”

If you go to this page on the Synodical website, you’ll see an appeal for funds for something called the 2010 National Offering. I’m not familiar with the “national offering” or if it’s been done before but this one, which is presented in a letter signed by Synodical President Gerald Kieschnick, says “it is more important than ever to help people live confidently for Christ and embrace people with His love.” It goes on:

Toward this goal, I am encouraging the greatest gathering of gifts for the mission and ministry of our church that has ever been witnessed through a special National Offering. Sharing Christ’s Love is our offering theme to support the living presence of Christ’s love to everyone, no matter their need or season in life.

Your National Offering gift will be used where needed most in support of our church-wide vision by providing trustworthy resources faithful to the Word and a ministry network accountable for equipping local congregations. Together, we will work vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed in our churches, communities and the world.

One reader wondered if this had anything to do with an action made by the Board of Directors last year to seek funds. (You can find this on page 3 of this PDF):

Near the end of the meeting, the Treasurer again stressed the seriousness of the financial crisis that the Synod is facing. To at least begin to address the Synod’s unmet unrestricted funds needs, he suggested dedicating the 2010 convention offering for this purpose. He also suggested that the Synod consider doing fund-raising for unrestricted dollars, another topic he already addressed in a March 19, 2009 memorandum to the board. The board agreed to discuss the matter of fund-raising for unrestricted dollars at its next meeting. The following resolution was also introduced and adopted:

Resolved, That the Board of Directors advocate that the offering from the 2010 convention be used to help to alleviate the Synod’s unmet unrestricted funds needs;

It would seem that the “national offering” and the offering to address the financial crisis dealing with unrestricted funds are the same thing. That’s good to know and also a good reminder of the Synod’s financial problems that have been growing for a while now.


“The financial crisis that Synod is facing” — 33 Comments

  1. And also disingenuous, if they’re making out that this is for, um, missional support of congregations when in fact it’s an operating budget for the synod.

  2. I am a church secretary and received this letter. I read it at least twice and still thought to myself, “HUH?” It is called a “National Offering,” which MIGHT be the same as the offering received at the convention, but then again, it might not. There may indeed be another, separate offering taken at the convention. The wording in this letter is actually quite vaque; there is no definitive explanation for the use of the offering. “Your National Offering gift will be used where needed most in support of our church-wide vision by providing trustworthy resources faithful to the Word and a ministry network accountable for equipping local congregations” can be taken (or explained after the fact of spending) to mean just about anything the top brass wishes.

  3. When I see & hear of congregations unable to pay debt interest, water, gas, or electric bills, or for that matter their Pastor’s basic salary….what does “this” look like to them?

    Knowing full well, the motivations/personalities who sent this, did the thought ever occur to them:
    The reason Synod is getting less, is because they teach, preach, and have become less?!
    The last thing I would encourage my elderly mother to do, is give to this.
    You want to tithe & give? Dedicate funds to your church’s debt, your church’s youth, or your church’s funds & fundraising, or your own congregations upgrades.
    Leave Synod to lie in the bed they chose, made & forgot how to maintain.

    In parental circles, it’s called behavior modification. Translated, accountability & consequence. If you don’t listen to the gentle tap on your shoulder, you’ll “feel” it with the kind but firm attention getting action.

  4. Of late, II Chronicles 10:16-17 comes to mind each time I receive an appeal from Synod. It didn’t used to be that way, but it is now. There are other worthy truly confessional organizations that will be happy to receive my gifts at the present time. But what is especially sad is that I do not think that headquarters is listening one little bit.

  5. Sharing Christ’s Love is our offering theme to support the living presence of Christ’s love to everyone, no matter their need or season in life.

    I know this sounds picky but the above wording is too generic for me. How about the effort be for ….”sharing the gospel of Christ to a perishing people” or something along those lines. ‘Sorry, but the above could just as easily have been written by the ELCA or Willow Creek. Such is my distrust of K and his buddies. HEY, maybe the funds could be used to dislodge homosexual activists, advocates of female ordination, open communion advocates, abusive and dismissive proffessionals, supporters of ELCA posistions… now THAT would be worth raising money !! 🙂

  6. The parallels between Washington, D.C. and the synodical headquarters right now are simply amazing.

  7. Oh for unity around our uniting documents! God help us in our ill concieved toleration of so many abberations. TE DEUM for the clear teaching of HIS WORD embodied in the confessions, what a treasure we have if only we would truly read, mark and inwardly digest and apply. Such love God has shown us in these confessions as they shine such a bright light on HIM who loved us first.

  8. Rev. Dave,

    Yes but when it comes from inside the church it is even more unsettling as it comes from those who are supposed to be reflectors of His light. I am attending the funeral of Pastor Schlect tomorrow, past President of the Michigan District. His picture should be in several places in the dictionary next the words , gentleman, Churchman, compassion, shepherd, integrity. Thank God for his love for me that I was reared by such gutsy MEN. I shudder to think what will become of the children who only have the models of many of today’s professionals. Both in DC and St Louie we see men with alternate agendas trying to pass themselves off as just one of us, wilfull decievers. Oh well, through out history we have allowed sad little men to occupy the Office of The Holy Ministry and still the Lord sends us men like Pastor Schlect! Te Deum.

  9. When “Christ” is the third most prominent word on the cover, not even given the attention of capitalization like the word “ONE” something is amiss.

    “providing trustworthy resources…a ministry network accountable to equipping” = salaries and expenses to help our budget woes.

    @ #2 – I thought the same thing, but what they are asking is churches to use the Pentecost offering (May 31) and send it to them. They want the churches to order free promo materials to hype this up.

  10. If you look at the press release for the National Youth Gathering offering it is very specific,

    “The Gathering’s executive team has decided that the first $50,000 from the offering will be designated for New Orleans community support and renewal and the next $50,000 will be used for LCMS congregations’ youth groups outreach to youth. Any other remaining funds from the offering will be designated as follows: . . . . ”

    The offering for the LCMS convention is about as non-specific as you can be. Sure makes you wonder.

    And if it is in fact going towards the Synod’s unrestricted budget, that would merely provide a band-aid for this year. There is no convention next year to provide such funding — its very short-sighted and will not solve the problem.

    I’d much rather see a special collection for LCMS-WRHC or to help our seminaries.

  11. Well, we really are experiencing a problem with unrestricted funds. The problem, however, will not be solved by even an effective fundraising effort. The problem is that congregations don’t seem to trust Synod to allocate resources well.

    So it’s more a problem of trusting Synodical leadership than anything.

    And I hope the Synod in convention moves to correct that underlying problem.

  12. This week I received a phone call urging the participation of our congregation in the National Offering. After asking what the money was going to be used for I received the following reply. “The monies will be put into a General Fund which will be distributed to all ministries and services of the synod.”

    Just as in the congregation that I serve, monies are needed for many differing expenses from salaries to the light bill. These funds allow the work of the congregation to be carried out. However, I found the answer from synod unclear, and because it was so vague I cannot in good conscience recommend to my congregation that we participate in the offering. If it is for President Kieschnick’s salary (he needs to be paid too) or debt reduction than so be it, but I need to know clearly what it is for and why. When our congregation is in fiscal crisis we carefully outline the problem and the proposed solution so that God’s people can make a fair and balanced decision in the matter. In this situation I am left in the dark and will not have the benefit of participating in this communal effort. Because of the lack of clarity I believe that this endeavor will receive much less funds than it could have otherwise received. It is unfortunate.

    I told the caller that his response was rather vague and he agreed.

  13. Well, Mollie, what’s the current total for non Lutheran “consultants” ?
    And how much of that is “borrowed” from the useful entities in synod?
    I don’t see an “effective fundraising effort” happening.

    If I’m short of cash, I have to stop spending.
    My University says it’s short of cash, so wages and salaries were frozen last year.

    [Didn’t the SP ask for, and get, a raise?]
    “We’ve” got a problem. Someone doesn’t know how to say, “NO”!

  14. The National Offering is something that has occurred every Synodical Convention, at least going back to 1998 (when I served as a summer vicar.) As far as I can remember, until this year it has gone to a specific area (e.g., missions in China, Seminary Education) and not to the general fund. Having said that, I don’t see a problem with this, as my own congregations have had special fund raising efforts to address funding shortfalls.

  15. I see nothing wrong in principle with a general operating fund appeal, obviously — but the problem is that it won’t do as well as it could or should because of questions about the current direction of Synod.

    We need to address the underlying problems and then pony up!

  16. Received a phone call yesterday about this National Offering (I did not know anything about it, as I am an associate and do not see all of the mailings). The individual wanted to know how many inserts we would like sent to advertise this offering. I told him we were not interested.

    How much are they spending on phone calls, printings, and mailings? Spend money to ‘make’ money, I suppose.

  17. As far as unrestricted giving goes, the Synod has themselves (itself? ourselves?) to blame. Twenty or so years ago, they encouraged designated giving (ie–Seminary, C.U.’s, etc) so why is anyone surprised that unrestricted giving has declined? I remember one DP who was fond of saying that total giving was “up”–it was just spread around more. Perhaps they thought that unrestricted giving would not decrease, while designated giving would increase. Not a realistic scenario.


  18. What bothers me is the nebulous way Pres. K describes the offering. The BOD recommendation is one sentence and it is crystal clear. Pres. K’s letter is several paragraphs and has me wondering “What does this mean?”

    The problem is trust. Those in the pews don’t trust those in STL and for good reason when you read stuff like this.

    If this offering is a “special giving to alleviate the current shortfall,” say so. In our congregation when we’ve been honest about financial situations people have responded. Don’t dress it up in “feel good” drivel.

    Btw, the financial “crisis” is not just generated by less giving in congregations. The most interesting page in Pres. K’s new book is page 277. It contains a chart of congregational giving to district and Synod both in 2008 and 1974. In 1974 Districts forwarded 58.69% of the money they received from congregations to Synod, in 2007 they forwarded only 28.8%.

    Clearly the Districts are “voting” with their pocket books and making decisions to keep the money “at home” so-to-speak.

  19. I wonder if offerings to synod have dropped off because Lutheran laity and congregations feel that what is going on now in the LCMS isn’t very Lutheran and they don’t want to support un-Lutheran programs. Things that make you go hmmm.

  20. It’s not for financial support specifically for missions, or mission congregations, but rather, “providing trustworthy resources faithful to the Word and a ministry network accountable for equipping local congregations.”

    That’s fundraiser-speak for the operations at the International Center, i.e. the unrestricted general operating fund. But it seems carefully worded to give the impression that it is a restricted offering, dedicated specifically for missions.

    Someone should get a clarification: Is this a restricted offering for missions, or an unrestricted offering for the general operating fund? There’s nothing wrong with the latter, but they should let that stand on its own merits, and not cast the appeal in such a way as to make it appear to be the former.

  21. It’s fairly simple what’s going on. The congregations and members of the Synod feel disenfranchised. Their votes mean little. The next step is to vote with your pocketbook. The last resort is to vote with your feet.

  22. Mames (#5): I agree, there is something not right with the verbiage that Pres. K uses. It makes me ‘uncomfortable’, and indeed sounds like some slick emergent church speak. What does ” the living presence of Christs love” mean anyway?

  23. Previous posters have taken most of my thunder in that

    1 – yes, National Offerings have been gathered in the past (and the offerings gathered by the circuits are supposed to be delivered by the delegates and presented as the offering during the opening worship), and

    2 – previous designations for the national offering have been quite a bit more specific. The last convention, the offering was for seminary education, with 1/3 going to Ft. Wayne, 1/3 going to St. Louis, and 1/3 going to seminaries of partner churches throughout the world. When I first read the designation of this year’s national offering, it didn’t seem very specific to me. I am glad that someone got clarification that this is indeed an appeal for unrestricted general funds for the Synod.

    I am also glad that the Synod replied to questions regarding the national offering. Last convention, I expressed concern about how seriously the Synod desired its congregations to take this national offering. (Did anyone else notice that the “pastor” in the print materials for this national funding appeal for seminary education was a model wearing a banded collar shirt with a piece of masking tape over the button for the “clerical tab”? In the large poster you can see the rough, torn edge of the tape on the bottom of the “tab,” and the “tab” wraps up and over the shirt.) I am still waiting for Synod’s reply.

    I have to agree with Molly (and others) that such a general appeal will likely not be as successful as previous national offerings. Special offerings do better if they have special designations.

  24. But to call the collection a National Offering..As stated be fore we have had collections at the conventions. Putting it right out there as we have in our country…we have a National Debt. I dare say it will be less than they have ever collected in the past.

  25. @Rev. David Mueller #6
    Does anyone know why Synod exists? As headquarters for a coalition of churches? Do we really need this with our 2 seminaries and districts? I thought a single congregation basicallly has its own autonomy. A congregation decides to call a minister to serve them. And they can agree or disagree with synodical convention resolutions. Is that correct?

  26. @Rev. James Leistico #15
    I find a problem with it. I used to work there and saw a lot of waste. Someone referred to the headquarters resembling Washington right now. That is an excellent example of “tax and waste.” (Fortunately Synod can’t tax us, just beg us.) As an example: Washington’s “stimulus money to create jobs”–it cost the taxpayers $1.5 million dollars for each job that was “created or saved” (whatever that means–probably bogus numbers). Statistics and “need” can be greatly exaggerated. Actually when a good housecleaning should be done. I remember the time when Worker Benefit Plans (most of the workers that worked in the buildinig) were all let go when the “management” of the health benefits was all transferred to the huge health insurance companies. Now LCMS workers are under “managed care.” I wonder, in true actuallity, if that has proved to be cost efficient. I doubt it. More money is given to the large companies while health benefits diminished.

  27. @Abby #26
    Found this quote:

    Walther had something to say about resolutions as well:
    According to our constitution, no synodical resolution is binding on the individual congregations. No resolution. Mark that well! What we resolve here in convention the pastors and lay delegates must report to the home congregations and say, “This is what the convention resolved.” But they cannot say, “Now you must also observe this.” No; on the contrary, the congregation can say, “As soon as it is a matter that has been left free for us as Christians, we can disregard the resolution of the convention,” and the Synod can say nothing against that.

  28. That was your great grandfathers’ church, Abby.

    These days, decrees from five unelected people (appointed by the SP) on CCM are supposed to be binding on all congregations.

  29. @Helen #29
    That is really too bad. I consider Lutheran doctrine and theology my home. I thought of my church as different from politics. But I guess not.

  30. Looking at this from another perspective shows that this might be the best way to ‘take back the synod’, starving it of funds until it is forced into bankruptcy or something similar. Then its functions will move back to the districts. This only moves the problem back one level as many of the districts are certain to have similar problems and flaws. The advantage is that congregations and individuals can actually impact the districts in a more direct manner.

    This also may explain the urgency that was given to selling the license for KFUO-FM. That $10-15m or whatever they expect to receive will be the band-aid that hides the underlying problem a little longer. One more good reason to NOT sell the license, to keep the money from being wasted by K & crew.

    In some ways this parallels the problems in DC. The Federal govt has taken on so much that it shouldn’t that it can’t find the funds to pay for it without borrowing. In both cases the best solution is to reduce the size of the top level (federal govt/synod) and allow the districts/states handle things.

    Thanks be to God that K and Synod do not have the option to borrow their way out of this crisis or we would all be in even deeper trouble!!

  31. @Abby #28
    This is a good perspective to keep. It was paralleled by the original constitutional government we had in the US. Unfortunately those who wanted a strong central power found ways to ‘bring the states in line’ and demolish their rights relative the federal govt (thanks to our WORST president, Mr. Lincoln, for this abomination and complete trashing of the constitution).

    The question is whether K & crew will find their own means of forcing the districts and congregations to become the slaves of the Synod (as the Fed govt has the States). Their new rules sound very much like their own ‘civil war’ equivalent, making us all slaves to their dictates. I for one will urge my congregation to leave LCMS if this type of garbage passes rather than submit to this tyranny.

  32. @Brian #31

    Re: “That $10-$15m …” .. the reality is that the synod won’t see any real money for 10 years, so this is not a bandaid.

    To others: please don’t sidetrack this post with discussions on the KFUO sale.

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