Analysis of the District Pledges to Synod

I previously reported on the District Pledge Figures from page 11 of the special Lutheran Witness edition. Pastor Noland posted this as a comment on our post The Lord Gives. Christians Manage. from that same issue. One piece missing from this analysis is the budgets of each of the districts, so we could determine what percentage of their funds are passed on to Synod.

Dear BJS Bloggers,

Pastor Knuth (comment #6) has his finger on one important factor on the revenue side of the ledger, i.e., huge congregations that don’t “pay their fair share,” justifying their practice by all the “ministries” at their location that they need to support. Where that is true, I don’t have a problem with that. Huge congregations are part of God’s plan right now in the U.S., and we should not denigrate their work. However, where this is just used as an excuse to pay their staff exorbitant salaries, then their lack of good stewardship can hardly be justified or seen as a virtue.

Regarding the districts, the issue is more complicated. Page 11 of the May 2011 “Lutheran Witness” has important data about the districts. I would have liked to see one more column, i.e., the ratio of Pledge ($) per Baptized Members. The more important question is NOT whether a district decreased its pledge this year, but whether it is significantly above or below average. Some districts may have decreased their pledge this year, but actually pledged the most per baptized member (Mid-South; good for them!). Other districts may have kept the same pledge, but are near the bottom in pledge per baptized member (Pacific Southwest; bad for them!). Other districts have significantly decreased their pledge, and are near the bottom in pledge per baptized member (Eastern and Northwest; what is going on there?).

I did my own calculations on this, and barring errors, here are the results in dollars pledged per Baptized Member to the National Office from that district for 2011-12:

Atlantic – $1.67
Cal-Nev-HA – $3.95
Eastern – $1.59
English – $3.53
Florida/Georgia – $4.13
Illinois Central – $7.82
Illinois Northern – $5.21
Illinois Southern – $5.80
Indiana – $6.77
Iowa East – $3.31
Iowa West – $12.15
Kansas – $9.01
Michigan – $8.93
Mid-South – $16.01
Minn North – $10.24
Minn South – $10.57
Missouri – $4.04
Montana – $9.25
Nebraska – $10.67
New England – $6.18
New Jersey – $3.54
North Dakota – $10.44
Northwest – $2.60
Ohio – $4.85
Oklahoma – $9.12
Pacific Southwest – $2.02
Rocky Mountain – $4.30
SELC – $12.14
South Dakota – $10.11
Southeastern – $7.29
Southern – $4.40
Texas – $12.87
Wisconsin North – $6.33
Wisconsin South – $2.69
Wyoming – $10.90
Per Baptized high to low
Mid-South 16.02
Texas 12.87
Iowa West 12.15
SELC 12.15
Wyoming 10.90
Nebraska 10.67
Minn. South 10.57
North Dakota 10.45
Minn. North 10.25
South Dakota 10.11
Montana 9.25
Oklahoma 9.12
Kansas 9.01
Michigan 8.92
Illinois-Central 7.82
Southeastern 7.29
Indiana 6.78
Wisconsin North 6.33
New England 6.18
Illinois-Southern 5.80
Illinois-Northern 5.22
Ohio 4.86
Southern 4.40
Rocky Mountain 4.30
Florida/Georgia 4.13
Missouri 4.04
Cal-Nev-HA 3.95
New Jersey 3.54
English 3.54
Iowa East 3.31
Wisconsin South 2.70
Northwest 2.60
Pacific Southwest 2.02
Atlantic 1.67
Eastern 1.59

The “stewardship winners” here are, in descending order: Mid-South (16.01), Texas (12.87), Iowa West (12.15), SELC (12.14), Wyoming (10.90), Nebraska (10.67), Minn South (10.57), North Dakota (10.44), Minn North (10.24), South Dakota (10.12) .

The “stewardship losers” here are, in ascending order: Eastern (1.59), Atlantic (1.67), Pacific Southwest (2.02), Northwest (2.60), Wisconsin South (2.69), Iowa East (3.31), English (3.53), New Jersey (3.54), Cal-Nev-HA (3.95).

The average pledge $ per Baptized Members for these statistics is $6.94.

You cannot fix the blame, necessarily, on a District President for these figures. DPs inherit previous patterns of giving and stewardship, as well as decisions of the Board of Directors of districts and their district conventions. Still, these figures DO tell us something about the stewardship health in specific districts.

What I don’t understand is how all the Northeastern and the West Coast districts have ended up on the bottom of the list (Eastern, Atlantic, Pacific Southwest, Northwest, New Jersey, and Cal-Nev-HA). If you look at distribution of wealth patterns in the United States, these are the wealthiest regions of the US. You would think that some of that would end up at the synodical offices, not in gross figures, but in per capita figures. We definitely have a stewardship problem in these districts, which may be an indication of other problems.

On the expense side of the ledger, the Lutheran Witness article, page 1, tells some very important stories: 1) LCMS World Mission has been a budgetary “black hole,” sucking in millions of unrestricted funds from other areas EVERY YEAR; 2) Fan into Flame, though well-intentioned, cost significantly more and raised significantly less than projected; 3) 25% of synod-national office unrestricted funds go to service historic debt of the Concordia University System! OUCH!

I know that the previous LCMS Board of Directors and Treasurer have done everything possible to address all these issues. Their report was stymied at the 2007 convention, so you can’t blame the LCMS Board of Directors or Treasurer. They did their job and did it well, in my opinion. Other persons intentionally obstructed their work, for reasons that are still unclear.

President Harrison and his staff, and the new Board of Directors and new Treasurer have done a great job with this communication piece to the synod. I hope every church-worker and every leading layman reads this issue of the “Lutheran Witness” and keeps it handy for future discussions.

Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

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