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:

Alphabetical
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

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Analysis of the District Pledges to Synod — 33 Comments

  1. is this special issue of the Witness going to all members, or just current subscribers?

    I know it’s available online but some people like paper

  2. My opinion: The liberal districts on the coasts got into the habit of extremely low giving during Pres. Barry’s years because they were trying to create a crisis and make him fail. But habits are a hard thing to break and even with Pres. Kieschnick in office they never got back up to snuff.

    I don’t know the details for this year but I get the impression receipts since the election are far below pledges made before the election? So I wonder if the same thing is going on again. Could it be the liberal leaders of some districts are trying to thwart last summer’s election results and Pres. Harrison by witholding their districts’ funds?

  3. Although the average pledge per baptized member may be significant, I believe a more accurate indicator is the average pledge per “attendee.” We have stats on attendance, and that is the most meaningful metric. I don’t mean to be dismissive of baptism, however it’s the body in the pew that is making the contribution. You can bet on it.

    If total unrestricted (“U”) plus restricted (“R”) dollars are increasing, especially per capita (which I doubt), the stewardship problem takes on a much different character. If the total of U + R is increasing, that does not prove much, unless adjusted for inflation. I suspect that, adjusted for inflation, both are decreasing. However, I also suspect that the per capita giving of U + R has decreased only slightly. Which says, as I continue to assert–the stewardship problem is not with respect to money but with respect to souls. And that does not mean we need TCN! TCN ignores the inactives and the absent. We dare not simply write them off.

    Johannes

  4. According to comments made at the LCA Conference last Jan by a Synod official, the Ablaze movement officially ends in Dec of this year. However, at this juncture it has overspent its income by $7 Million. Recall that this movement was supposed to be totally self-sufficient. So, I have three questions: 1. Where is the check and balance system that should have prevented this “overdraft” of funds for the movement? and 2. Who are the responsible officials that caused or allowed this to happen? and 3. When are these officials going to be held publicly accountable?

    Financial confidence is the main ingredient in raising money and it would appear history has shown the Synod lacking. Assuming these problems may be “fixed” now it doesn’t mean the full confidence has been restored and that will take time. The time could be shortened, I submit, if the responsible officials were called to account. Financial responsibility and accountability are a pair, just like doctrine and practice.

  5. Gene @4,

    The Ablaze!® movement goes until 2017. Are you talking about the fund-raising campaign, “Fan into Flames,” discussed in Kim Plummer Krull’s Fan into Flames Update?

    According to Krull, the operation cost for Fan the Flames was not to exceed $10M out of the planned goal of $100M. However, the operation costs to date have exceeded $18.3M on only $44.9M actually received. There is another $18.9M pledged and still $36.2M yet to be raised by Oct. 31 of this year to reach the original goal. With over 40 percent of every dollar collected going to fundraising operations, there is not much incentive for responsible Lutherans to continue to fan those mismanaged flames.

  6. Of the $1,758,900 decrease in District pledges to Synod, there
    are 4 Districts (Michigan, Northern Wisconsin, Kansas and
    Texas which account for $1,055,000 in this decrease. It is
    obvious that Michigan has one of the highest unemployment
    figures in America. Their decrease of $465,000 is truly missed.
    The current economic crisis in the United States has hurt
    our LCMS parishes in the heartland.

  7. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I agree with Helen on the previous post, related to this one, that actual funds received are a better indicator than pledges. I also agree with Johannes, at comment #3 above, that Average Attendance is a better indicator than Baptized Membership. I also think that Confirmed Membership is a better indicator than Baptized Membership.

    The Lutheran Witness data is valuable because, although not as accurate as actual giving per worship attendance, it is the most recent data we have.

    The more useful data is found on page 767 of the Lutheran Annual for 2011. This is the “Summary of Contributions During 2009.” It includes rankings for Districts in giving for various categories, comparing them to Confirmed Membership. If I am reading that data correctly, the district “stewardship winners” in giving to the national office per confirmed members are, in descending order:

    Mid-South (1st), North Dakota (2nd), Texas (3rd), Nebraska (4th), and Michigan (5th).

    The district “stewardship losers” in giving to the national office per confirmed members, are in ascending order:

    Atlantic (35th), Pacific Southwest (34th), Northwest (33rd), Eastern (32nd), South Wisconsin (31st), New Jersey (30th), Iowa East (29th), Southern (28th), and Cal-Nev-HA (27th).

    It is interesting that the article on page 10 of the May 2011 “Lutheran Witness” notes how, under DP John Wille’s leadership, the South Wisconsin District has locked in austerity measures to prevent further erosion in giving to synod national offices.

    That still leaves the Northeast and West Coast districts in the bottom ranking in the “giving to national office” category. The fiscal facts there are not much different than the page 11 table of the May 2011 Lutheran Witness.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  8. 3) 25% of synod-national office unrestricted funds go to service historic debt of the Concordia University System! OUCH!

    And yet they justify non Lutheran behavior by whining that Synod doesn’t support the CUS! What colossal nerve!

  9. Have districts outlived their usefulness? Have advancements in technology and transportation rendered them obsolete? Other than place pastors, what functions do they serve that cannot be done at either the circuit or synod level. Is it possible that district money is being funneled into its own church growth projects instead of being given to synod?

    Am I missing something. What is keeping the Concordia University System from becoming self-sustaining. Is synod throwing money into a black hole (CUS). Would TCN argue that the liturgy and the hymnal are (again) responsible for the woes of the LCMS. Would modeling a Southern Baptist university suddenly cause the coffers in the CUS to overflow. ABLAZE! Indeed!

    It would be far more cost-effective to support university chapels at the largest public universities in the country than to give money to the private universities. Which (church as a business) method would prove more effective regarding outreach and missions: Public university chapels or the Concordias? Finally, which debt would you rather service: 2 million dollars (University of Minnesota) or 20 million dollars (CUS). Church Growth people, I have a business proposal for you. Are you listening?

    I would like to see the LCMS sell a few Concordias and use the money to discharge the 20 million dollar debt and to create a permanent endowment to fund the salaries of seminary employees in perpetuity. Charging seminarians tuition so that they graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans is wrong. What did Jesus say about charging interest on loans?

  10. 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.

    As one who has advocated “proportional giving” in the congregation (rather than picking some arbitrary number to give, we increase/decrease our contribution based on our income (as individuals) or (as a congregation) our Synod/District pledge based on our budget), I would be curious to see how these figures compare to the average, per capita income of those regions. I don’t have the time now to look all of that up at the moment.

    I do recall that when a congregation I was assisting through the calling process was calling a pastor from California, I wanted to prevent “sticker shock” on the compensation so I punched the numbers through an internet “cost of living adjuster.” The salary being offered by the congregation in the Midwest was comparable to a salary of almost double that amount on the West Coast! The percentages themselves won’t really mean much, but it would be useful in comparing one district to another because it would help even out such regional differences.

  11. James :
    It would be far more cost-effective to support university chapels at the largest public universities in the country than to give money to the private universities. Which (church as a business) method would prove more effective regarding outreach and missions: Public university chapels or the Concordias? Finally, which debt would you rather service: 2 million dollars (University of Minnesota) or 20 million dollars (CUS).

    I’m not saying that the CUS cannot be improved, but I’m having difficulty with the math here…

    The debt for a single, public university chapel is $2million. The debt for ten universities is $20million, or an average of $2million per university. I’m not sure that there really is an appreciable difference: $2million per university vs $2million per university.

    I’m not sure what the numbers are at University Lutheran Chapel, but the website puts their membership at 115 baptized. Let’s double that number so we can include students who do not join the congregation – so 230 members. $2M/230 = $8,696 in debt per person reached. There are approximately 22,000 students enrolled in CUS. $20M/22,000 = $909 in debt per person reached. Which is the more “cost-effective” business model?

    I don’t think the business model is necessarily a good way to try to measure things, and in this particular case, it actually works against the point you are trying to make.

  12. @PPPadre #11

    I will assume that the Concordias are not run like BYU or Bob Jones. Perhaps 50 years ago, they once were. The point I ultimately wanted to make with my (bad) math was that a student could live a good LCMS Lutheran lifestyle while attending a university chapel near a (much cheaper) public university. Enrollment at an expensive Concordia would not be needed.

    Are the 22,000 students enrolled in CUS all LCMS Lutheran and how many of them are members and/or attendees of the university chapels. Does the typical Concordia chapel have significantly more than 230 attendees on any given Sunday morning.

    It would be interesting to compare the effectiveness of outreach by measuring attendance/participation on Sunday mornings at either kind of chapel.

  13. I can tell you one reason that corporate Synod is short on money. Look at the statistics in the back of the Lutheran annual. Number of pastors serving districts and Synod in 1989 =274. Number of pastors serving districts and Synod in 2009 =679. And we’re told that we need to send in more money. The Synod could easily right its financial house if it just cut out all or most of the MMF’s in all the districts, which we never had until a few years ago. Then just send in that money to Synod. Instead the congregations are told they need to give more. Sounds a lot like some of our leaders in Washington DC.

  14. Padre and James

    From my time at CSP, I don’t recall services being offered on Sunday. The idea was that (once upon a time) Concordia would train up church workers. When you got to that stage, you were supposed to participate in your fieldwork congregation. So the college was NOT a congregation, it did not want to have the strudents as friends form cliques and worship together and not be at their assaigned congregation, and it would reasonably expect to not have students on campus who would need a service. As I said, I cannot verify that because I DID attend my fieldwork church, so I was never on camups to see what happened SUnday morning.

    And nowadays, let’s not fool ourselves to think all CUS sstudents are Lutheran, or even care to be a part of a congregation, whereas the ULC does have a committed core that IS a congregation. It would be disingenuous to count all those students as part of the cost per student. Some will not ever care, and others will remain committed to their denomination. It is a different type of clientele (sp?) than ULC, so it is not as easy to make a simplistic straight line comparison.

  15. James :
    @PPPadre #11
    The point I ultimately wanted to make with my (bad) math was that a student could live a good LCMS Lutheran lifestyle while attending a university chapel near a (much cheaper) public university. Enrollment at an expensive Concordia would not be needed.

    Yes, and a student could live a good LCMS Lutheran lifestyle if s/he chose to attend a community college within walking distance of an even much cheaper established LCMS congregation that doesn’t require a mission subsidy.

    And comparing tuition costs between a public university and a private university is really comparing apples and oranges. According to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities website, of 17 private universities in MN, Concordia-St. Paul has the 4th lowest tuition. Of the ten public universities, the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities (which is served by University Lutheran Chapel) has the highest tuition rate. Fuzzy math can cut both ways, depending on your predisposition.

    As @Jason #14 commented, you cannot make such a simplistic, straight line comparison. Keep our public university chapels and make them better/more efficient. Keep our CUS and make it better/more efficient.

  16. @Rev. Loren Zell #13
    Years ago–back in the 70’s–one of the professors at St. Louis put together a plan that would save millions of dollars. 1.) close all the district offices with their cost; 2) regionalize the synod [oh–we have followed that one idea] and the synodical VP’s would serve in those areas. 3) the dollars saved by closing the district offices would amount to millions and could than be used to fund real ministry. 4) There would be annual savings such that the Synod would actually live in the black.

    When I first read it, while at Seminary myself–not the one of the prof–I thought it was a great idea. It made the Synod efficient and good stewards of the dollars. However, in the years since for some reason we have grown the numbers in our District offices with I think Michigan’s being the biggest. There is duplication from Synod out into the districts with the same kind of offices existing in both.

    Now with the restructuring we may be getting rid of some of this duplication–which is good. But I am still thinking that the restructuring should include the closing of some of the concordias–especially since we annually service a 50 million debt on them!!

    And while to goal is to open more campus ministries, I think it an extremely bad idea to close those which are doing so well.

  17. @PPPadre #10 :
    I would be curious to see how these figures compare to the average, per capita income of those regions. I don’t have the time now to look all of that up at the moment.

    Found the time this morning to crunch the numbers. While the actual number doesn’t really mean much (technically it would be the number of dollars contributed to Synod per $10,000 personal income per capita of the general population within the district), some of the disparity in contributions are accentuated (instead of the highest district contributing roughly 10 times more, they are contributing roughly 13 times more).

    Mid-South 4.686
    Texas 3.407
    Iowa West 3.248
    SELC 3.019
    Nebraska 2.725
    Montana 2.670
    North Dakota 2.619
    South Dakota 2.615
    Michigan 2.555
    Oklahoma 2.534
    Minn South 2.456
    Minn North 2.379
    Kansas 2.321
    Wyoming 2.242
    Indiana 1.956
    Illinois Central 1.847
    Southeastern 1.816
    AVERAGE 1.787
    Wisconsin North 1.676
    Illinois Southern 1.370
    Ohio 1.369
    Southern 1.297
    New England 1.257
    Illinois Northern 1.230
    Rocky Mountain 1.135
    Missouri 1.103
    Florida/Georgia 1.094
    Cal-Nev-HA 0.953
    Iowa East 0.885
    English 0.878
    Wisconsin South 0.712
    New Jersey 0.689
    Northwest 0.654
    Pacific Southwest 0.448
    Eastern 0.350
    Atlantic 0.343

  18. Someone e-mailed me and wondered what the numbers I posted meant. It is an attempt to account for differences in income across the different districts. For example:

    In the per member contribution list, the difference between the contributions of the North Dakota District ($10.44/baptized member) and the South Dakota District ($10.11/baptized member) would seem to be 3%. But the state of North Dakota has a higher per capita income ($39,873) than the state of South Dakota ($38,661). In the same way that Dr. Noland divided the total district contributions by number of baptized members to account for the differences in district size, I divided out the per capita income (as reported by the US Census Bureau) to account for geographic differences in wealth. (I also multiplied by 10,000 to make the numbers easier to read.) Taking the geographic differences in income level into account, we see that instead of a 3% difference in contributions, there is less than .1% difference, or a virtual equality, between the North Dakota and South Dakota Districts.

    In other words, for every $10,000 made by the average baptized member, both the ND and SD districts send $2.62 to the Synod.

    Or, to walk it through in a hypothetical from parishioner to Synod:
    A parishioner contributes 3% of his income to his congregation, or $300 per $10,000.
    His congregation contributes 10% of its offerings received to District/Synod, so of the $300, $30 is forwarded to the district office.
    His district contributes 10% of its offerings received to the Synod, so of that $30, $3 is forwarded to the Synod in unrestricted funds.
    On the above chart (Comment #17), that district would appear with the number 3.000.

  19. @James #9

    Dear James and BJS Bloggers,

    First, I was not aware that University Lutheran Chapel had a debt or mortgage. The official agreement says nothing about that (see http://ulcmn.org/Files/Save%20ULC%20Files/Ministry%20Understandings.pdf). It is, apparently, paid in full and owned by the district, so I am not sure what James is talking about. There is no $2 million debt for ULC.

    Regarding the Concordia University System, I noticed that I made a typing error. Lutheran Witness, May 2011, page one states “Some 26% of the unrestricted dollars received go to service the $20 million in historic debt of the CUS, including interest and to subsidize educational operations.” “26%” not “25%.” My bad!

    Regarding CUS stats, the December 2010 Reporter gave the most current statistics. CUS now has a record high of 27,454 undergraduate and graduate students. Of those, 1,954 are church-worker students. “Declared Lutheran student” count is 32.4 percent. Some of the schools have a greater percentage of Lutherans and/or church-workers than the others; those stats were not reported in December 2010.

    April 2011 Reporter, in the Board Briefs, p. 3, reports on the appointment of the Resolution 4-04A Task Force, which is primarily going to look at financial issues and the “efficiency of cooperative interaction for the fiscal strength of the LCMS system of colleges, universities, and seminaries.” This Task Force, which has some excellent appointments, will report to the 2013 convention about finances for both seminaries and universities.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  20. Over 80% of unrestricted gift dollars are retained and spent by the districts.  I wasn’t able to find anything in the Lutheran Witness about consolidating districts or trimming district spending.  Why?   It seems to me that the national office is making a good effort to cut back.  Why do we need 35 district offices?  

  21. There is a helpful chart in Rev. Kieschnick’s book, (Appendix E). It shows the receipts by District from Congregations and then the District to Synod. In 1973 56.69% of the funds remitted to districits were sent on the the Synod. In 2007 that percentage was 28.80%.

    In 1973 Congregations sent $41.8 million to the Districts. They in turn sent $23.7 million to the Synod.

    In 2007 Congregations sent $67.5 million to the Districts, who in turn sent $19.4 million on to STL.

    And in 2011 the district pledge amount is $16.0 million

    It is pretty sad that 35 or so years later, STL is receiving $7.7 million dollars less, to say nothing about the rate of inflation.

    If congregations want to help the Synod (corporate) out of this financial mess it would be far better to reduce their giving to their District and sent it directly to STL.

    Re the # of Districts, I recall we passed a resolution at last summer’s convention that the President was to appoint a task force to look at the # and size of the Districts and this TF was to report back to the 2013 convention. I haven’t heard that this has been done yet, altho I would imagine completing the restructuring was much more of a front burner issue. I’m sure we will be hearing something about that soon.

  22. Thanks Jane Emily for sharing these stats. The real sad fact is
    that in 1973 Districts sent 56% of remitted funds to Synod but
    now only send 28%. The reason is the bloated District office
    staff of pastors who have become desk jockeys and have huge
    salaries which exceed the parish pastor with the same years
    of ministry. If the Synod in St. Louis can reduce staffing so can
    the Districts. Districts have become empires endowed by the
    unsuspecting laity’s hard earned dollars. Reduction of Districts
    would be a step in the right direction.

  23. Cutting the number of districts, and/or cutting their budgets and staffs is about as easy as holding the line on the National Debt Limit.

    Another point–don’t lose sight of the restricted–that is directed giving. That’s a big part of the problem. But—(see next paragraph)—–

    If we’re really concerned about the way things are going, I suggest we reach into our respective billfolds, purses, and yes, checkbooks, and fill those envelopes in the current issue of Lutheran Witness. Let’s put our money where our mouths are, fer cryin’ out loud! President Harrison has laid it all out, so what ‘s stopping us, already?

    Johannes

  24. I don’t know about you but I am advocating by-passing the irresponsible district.
    I can’t afford to send them $5 so they will send $1 to synod.
    [Especially as they are using the $4 to push for “entertainment” churches!]

  25. @helen #24

    Helen — the envelope in the middle of the Lutheran Witness is addressed to Synod; if everyone who got a copy of it filled it out and sent it in it would certainly help.

    If you don’t have a copy, address the envelope to:

    Mercy Witness Life Together
    Direct Gift Processing
    1333 S. Kirkwood Rd
    Saint Louis, MO 63122-9981

    The insert can be found here; you could simply print it out, put it in an envelope with your check, and mail it in. The PDF file includes information on donating via the web or by phone.

  26. @Norm Fisher #25
    Helen — the envelope in the middle of the Lutheran Witness is addressed to Synod…

    Thanks, Norm! I pick up my snail mail about once a week (to clean the ads out of the box) so I haven’t looked at that yet. (By “advocate” I meant a suggestion to Pastors and congregational officers, the other day.) Glad Synod made it easy!

  27. Question, how much of the decrease in unrestricted giving by districts and congregations can be traced back to so-called “confessional” congregations reducing their giving? My information is strictly anecdotal, but in the past 3 years I have seen a number of pastors state that they had deliberately scaled back their giving to the Synod, and instead sent their money to organizations more to their liking.

    If this is truly what is happening, I have a huge problem with it. As a member of an organization, you have an obligation to support that organization. To withhold donations strikes me as being a lot like the kid who takes his ball and goes home because he doesn’t get his way.

    I would encourage those congregations who have redirected their giving, to return to giving their money to the Synod. You might just be surprised at the difference it makes.

  28. @Jane Emily #21
    @Rev. James Knuth #22
    @David Hartung #27

    2 things to keep in mind when looking at the historical amounts given by congregations to districts and how much districts are forwarding on to Synod:

    1.) Many districts are providing (that is, paying for) a lot more services now than they were in 1973. The Synod had tried to decentralize services a couple of decades ago, putting more responsibility/staffing at the district levels where it could be more responsive to congregational needs. It wasn’t bad or evil, it was just a different way of doing things. Over the years there has been some bloating in some district offices, but many districts still try to maintain a lean, svelt structure and be as efficient as possible. But if districts are expected to do 50% more in 2011 than what they were asked to do in 1973, doesn’t it follow that they would retain 50% more of the funds than they had been to accomplish those expectations?

    2.) As Johannes commented in #23, above: “Another point–don’t lose sight of the restricted–that is directed giving. That’s a big part of the problem.”
    In the mid 1980s (I think it was), the Synod started to more actively pursue restricted, direct, designated gifts. This is why we have Armed Forces Sunday, Concordia-River Forest Sunday, Concordia-Seward Sunday, Life Ministry Sunday, LCMS World Relief and Human Care Sunday, Adult Ministry Sunday, Lutheran Youth Fellowship Sunday, etc. etc. etc.
    People are not giving to their congregations to forward on to districts to forward on to Synod because for well over 20 years, the Synod has been enticing them not to. Sure, the official line was to provide these directed contributions over and above your regular contributions, but an entirely new generation of parishioners has grown up learning the giving pattern of directed gifts. They didn’t have a baseline of contributions to start out with, so they give less in unrestricted funds so that they have more to give in directed dollars. And why wouldn’t they? That’s what we (and I am young enough to include myself in that generation) have been taught by our Synod to do. From the anecdotal evidence I have, that is the reason for what @David Hartung #27 had also observed anecdotally:

    Question, how much of the decrease in unrestricted giving by districts and congregations can be traced back to so-called “confessional” congregations reducing their giving? My information is strictly anecdotal, but in the past 3 years I have seen a number of pastors state that they had deliberately scaled back their giving to the Synod, and instead sent their money to organizations more to their liking.

    [Although from the evidence I have seen, this is not restricted to or disproportionate among “confessional” congregations only.]

    From the figures we were given prior to the 2010 Convention, total giving (restricted and unrestricted) had pretty well kept pace with inflation since 1973, but a HUGE portion is now restricted to specific programs. Since 1973, there has been a wider variety in services offered by the national headquarters thus increasing costs, so to decrease spending some services have been spun off to fend for their own direct/restricted funding (e.g. funding for seminaries and colleges, funding for missionary salaries). The problem that I inferred from the presentations on restructuring were that we had reached a point where there are no longer enough unrestricted dollars to pay for things that don’t go well on a directed donation campaign flier – like paying a custodian to clean the bathrooms at the IC.

    We are in a stewardship crisis. This is a crisis that has been building for decades and will not be solved overnight. This crisis is more broad-sweeping than how much are districts forwarding to Synod. This crisis goes back to the very fundamentals of why and how we give.

  29. I appreciate all these comments and am learning a lot. I still question the need for 35 district offices. The administrative expenses must be huge. Many corporations did away with district offices decades ago because of computers and instant communication. I do not question the dedication and good intentions of district employees. How is WELS organized? I understand that WELS district presidents are parish pastors who receive no extra compensation for their district service.

  30. @John Rixe #29
    I appreciate all these comments and am learning a lot. I still question the need for 35 district offices.

    Good question, John. Not likely to be resolved soon. Meanwhile, I question the need for all the “growth” of the district office. The pewsitters who pay for it are getting cut or doing more work in their jobs while having their salaries frozen. And though Wall Street has recovered nicely, we are paying for that, too. [The “recovery” doesn’t seem to trickle very far down!]

    I don’t know how district offices can be persuaded to change their way of living, but maybe the envelope in the May LW adressed directly to Synod is a discreet hint?(If we continue tamely to “tithe” to district and expect that Synod will see the money, we are kidding ourselves.)

  31. Dear BJS Bloggers,
    A number of people have asked the question on this post, or contacted me, with basically two questions: 1) What percentage of their receipts does each district forward to the synod?; 2) How did we end up with such a weird financing system? I will do my best to answer these questions.

    On the question of “What percentage of their receipts does each district forward to the synod?” I am going to make a couple of assumptions, for which I will accept correction from someone who knows better, such as the Treasurer of Synod.

    The data I will base my conclusions on are found on page 767 of the 2011 Lutheran Annual. This is for fiscal year 2009. The chart on the bottom of that page describes congregational contributions to “District, Synod, and Other-At-Large.” In other words, these are funds that pass through congregational treasuries, are NOT used for congregational expenses, and some of which are sent to district treasuries for disbursement, and the rest to other agencies or charities (column “Non-Budget Purposes”). The funds sent to district treasuries are disbursed to synod based on percentages decided by the district board of directors in their budget meetings or mandated by district conventions.

    There is no column on page 767 for District revenue from congregations. Therefore the “District Budget” data can be created by subtracting the “Synod Budget” column and the “Non-Budget” column from the “Totals 2009” column. The total funds given for District and Synod would then be another column “Synod and District Budgets,” adding “District Budget” to “Synod Budget.” The percentage of receipts that each district forwards to the synod would then be: “Synod Budget” divided by “District Budget plus Synod Budget.”
    The results of these calculations are as follows, barring calculation errors:

    PERCENTAGE OF RECEIPTS THAT EACH DISTRICT FORWARDS TO THE SYNOD:

    Atlantic 8%
    Cal-Nev-HA 12%
    Pacific SW 9%
    Eastern 15%
    English 22%
    FL-GA 15%
    Central IL 28%
    Northern IL 24%
    Southern IL 28%
    IN 39%
    IA East 15%
    IA West 45%
    KS 40%
    MI 40%
    Mid-South 28%
    MN North 44%
    MN South 47%
    MO 31%
    MT 25%
    NE 47%
    New England 14%
    NJ 12%
    ND 45%
    Northwest 10%
    OH 20%
    OK 18%
    Rocky Mtn 18%
    SD 35%
    Southeastern 21%
    Southern 11%
    TX 27%
    North WI 42%
    South WI 13%
    WY 22%
    SELC 34%

    Rankings for the “stewardship winners” for giving from district treasuries to synod are, in descending order:

    NE (1st); MN South (2nd); ND (3rd); IA West (4th); MN North (5th); North WI (6th).

    Rankings for the “stewardship losers” for giving from district treasuries to synod are, in ascending order:

    Atlantic (35th); Pacific Southwest (34th); Northwest (33rd); Southern (32nd); Cal-Nev-HA (31st); NJ (30th).

    How did we end up with such a weird financial system? The funding system we have got started in the mid 19th century as a way to support “Home Missions,” i.e., to start new congregations in each district. Congregations sent money to the district treasury, most of which went to support pastors of new congregations. Whatever excess was received by districts was forwarded to the synod for its own needs.

    In 1986, the Statistical Yearbook reported the following categories for district mission and ministry activities and expenses (p. 247): regular missions (congregations), new missions (congregations), advance site projects, campus ministry, deaf ministry, chaplaincy services, social ministry, church and community (is this human care?),and mission administration. These are the types of activities that a district might still support today with the funds it receives from congregations and doesn’t send to the national office.

    But does this system make any sense now, when districts start and support only a few “mission starts,” and often those starts are made by local congregations without the help of district funds? What happened to the system where the national office controlled the monies allocated to each district for new congregations? Read the following document, and found out for yourself!

    I am attaching a file that is an excerpt from a very important document created by the synod in 1960-1961 via its “Synodical Survey Commission.” The complete reports are on file at Concordia Historical Institute.

    I have excerpted the Commission reports, including only those passages most relevant to explaining how district administration and its financing got started, grew, and changed. Click here for these excerpts.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  32. Can anyone do a comparison of how these districts and their giving will be grouped in the new regions of synod? Is giving shaped by regional custom, as well as simple economics and/or relative support for current synod policies?

  33. Martin R. Noland :
    Dear BJS Bloggers,
    I agree with Helen on the previous post, related to this one, that actual funds received are a better indicator than pledges….
    The Lutheran Witness data is valuable because, although not as accurate as actual giving per worship attendance, it is the most recent data we have….

    One thing I have recently become aware of regarding the Lutheran Witness information – the percentage change listed on district contributions is a bit of an “apple/orange” thing because it compares 2011 pledges to 2010 receipts. For example, it lists the percentage change for my home district as decreasing about 10%. That makes it sound like the district cut its pledge to Synod, which didn’t sound right to me. I have come to find out that the amount my district pledged remains the same as it did last year. Last year, the district was able to send about 114% of the pledged amount (thanks be to God).

    While I can understand the desire to have internal numbers that compare last year’s receipts to this year’s pledges, openly publishing such numbers without the additional information of comparing pledges and fulfillment of those pledges can be very misleading. For example, two districts maintain the exact same amount pledged to Synod. District A remitted only 80% of their pledge last year, while District B remitted 125% of their pledge. According to the way the LW table would read, District A would seem to be an example of stewardship and commitment to the efforts of Synod because their pledge is 25% greater this year (100/80), while District B is an example of “the problem” because they have cut their support by 20% (100/125).

    I don’t know that any of the districts with positive change failed to meet their pledge, but if one district is shown with significant cuts because the gave over and above their pledge, how many others with negative numbers had also contributed over and above their previous pledges in prior years?

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