USC freezes spending

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Publishing suspended, church planting projects on temporary hold

In an effort to avoid dipping into its reserves, the U.S. Conference has initiated a spending freeze, hoping that when the conference closes its books May 31 on the current fiscal year it will not have spent more money than it has taken in. The U.S. Conference went into the last quarter of its fiscal year March 1 with a negative balance of just under $46,000.

“Our hope is that because of continued aggressive fundraising and the spending freeze, we will climb out of that red ink,” says Ed Boschman, U.S. Conference executive director. “And as we plan for next year, we are going to try to match realism and faith.”

The U.S. Conference initiated a modified spending freeze in December and Boschman anticipates that the current three-month freeze will allow the conference to under spend its expense budget by about $100,000.

U.S. Conference staff members are actively reducing administrative and travel expenses, eliminating travel where feasible. Board of Faith and Life, Leadership Summit and Leadership Board meetings, scheduled for later this month in Fresno, Calif., have been intentionally planned to minimize lodging and meal costs.

The May issue of the Christian Leader will not be published, although editor Connie Faber says she anticipates posting news stories and new feature articles online.

Some new Mission USA projects have been put on hold or are not being funded at the level anticipated, says Don Morris, director of the denomination’s church planting and renewal ministry. Additional savings will be realized as some Mission USA projects that included a financial subsidy have been completed. While Morris is not actively pursuing as many church plant options as he had anticipated, he continues to review all prospects. “This is an important time to plant churches, so each opportunity to continue to start new churches is being very carefully analyzed for viability,” he says.

In setting the 2008-09 U.S. Conference budget at $902,973, conference leaders anticipated church contributions would total $500,000 and additional fundraising would add $287,973. An annual $50,000 grant from MB Foundation plus interest income and Christian Leader advertising revenue was expected to add an additional $115,000. These funds support activities of the Leadership Board, Mission USA, Christian Leader, the Board of Faith and Life and various other Mennonite Brethren and affiliate ministries.

“We put together an aggressive budget to support a ministry dream that was in a growth mode,” says Boschman. “We assumed a significant increase in fundraising and initiated a plan to invite additional churches to join our support team.”

Boschman anticipates that church giving will total $400,000 for the fiscal year and that staff fundraising will fall short by $50,000. Church giving, budgeted at $41,666 per month, has lagged behind the monthly target for seven of the past nine months and totaled $311,140 at the end of March. Staff fundraising currently totals $198,930.

Boschman says that the economic downturn is prompting the U.S. Conference and other denominational ministries to review their revenue expectations. “It is much more difficult for most people to hold up their generosity and stewardship (at the same level) they have in the past,” says Boschman.—USC

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