The U.S. Conference of MB Churches (USMB) finished the 2019 fiscal year in the black by $110,489, according to bookkeeper Donna Sullivan who released the year-end report Jan. 30, 2020.
While expenses for the year came in under budget by $13,000, receipts were also up. Two estate gifts received in December and a strong showing on Giving Tuesday ($38,305) contributed to the positive outcome.
“Obviously ending the year in the black is worth celebrating and thanking God for,” says Don Morris, USMB national director. “We were blessed by receiving a couple of estate gifts that made a big difference for the bottom line. We know we aren’t always going to get those so when they come it’s a true blessing and allows us to catch up financially. Plus, it’s a wonderful testimony of how people continue their generous legacy of supporting God’s work even after they’re gone from this earth. We must use those—and all—funds wisely and pour them into effective mission and ministry.
“In addition, our USMB Giving Tuesday campaign ended better this year than it has in the past three years,” Morris says. “We worked at providing compelling and relevant stories about how God is using funds given to USMB to make a difference, and I believe people responded to that. People enjoy giving to things that work, and there were many ways they had opportunity to make a real difference when giving to USMB projects.”
USMB depends on regular giving from local churches, says Morris.
“USMB isn’t a ‘them;’ it’s ‘us’—all of us doing certain things together that can’t be done apart,” he says.
Morris’ review of giving church giving in 2019 revealed both good and bad news.
“We saw 17 churches increase their giving and two churches that hadn’t given previously began giving,” he says. “But, the overall amount (contributed by local churches) decreased.
“I’m sure there are several factors related to this, but we also found that 17 churches decreased their giving to USMB by 8 percent or more in 2019. There were a couple more that dropped by more than 20 percent.”
Church giving for the 2020 fiscal year is budgeted at $406,000, and Morris sees this as a reachable goal.
“Our churches are generous and want to keep our USMB national presence a healthy one,” Morris says. “I appreciate that. We have some churches going above and beyond and that is recognized with great appreciation.”
Morris continues, “I would love to see those churches that decreased their giving in 2019 to ramp back up to what they had been giving. I know there are some circumstances where particular churches have been hit hard by various things, including many of our rural churches that faced weather-related losses of income.”
Not all USMB congregations financially support the national conference and Morris would like to see that change.
“We have a huge percentage of churches that don’t support the national MB family and I don’t quite get that. Some want to be involved at all levels except for giving. I’m not quite sure how to respond to that. If all of our churches supported the national USMB family, we could do so much more, and we also wouldn’t have to rely on fundraising as much to cover the budget.
In 2019 just over half (56 percent) of the 212 USMB churches did not contribute to USMB.
“MB Foundation is a huge partner, and their support gives our budget a foundation to build from,” Morris says. But church giving is still the main source for our functioning. If we could raise the amount of overall church support by 8 to 10 percent, we’d be in good shape.”
The USMB Leadership Board approved a 2020 budget of $809,200, $3,000 less than the 2019 budget. This budget, Morris says, reflects the mandate given to the national conference at the 2016 convention to “help empower each local MB church to reach its full God-given ministry potential, within the framework of our Evangelical and Anabaptist distinctives, focusing on church multiplication/evangelism, leadership development and intentional disciple-making” in a number of ways:
- Ongoing LEAD initiatives that include LEAD One leadership training events, LEAD Coaching and LEAD cohorts;
- LEAD Pods, a new resource in which Mennonite Brethren will teach on relevant topics;
- Webinars, including those offered in partnership with Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary’s Center for Anabaptist Studies;
- An enhanced social media presence;
- Communication through Christian Leader magazine, C-Link, Snapshot and E-ideas;
- Summits for immigrant churches;
- A “solid budget line” for church planting that includes assessments, gatherings, training, coaching and scholarships; and
- A partnership with Everence for pastoral debt reduction grants as well as the USMB First Fruits Fund to assist USMB pastors who find themselves in challenging financial circumstances.
USMB congregations are asked to contribute “first fruits” financial support of 2.5 percent of their general offerings to fund USMB ministries. This proportional funding model was initiated in 2012. Church contributions provide 50 percent of USMB’s needed income. MB Foundation, Christian Leader advertising income, fundraising and interest from fund accounts make up the other 50 percent.
Connie Faber joined the magazine staff in 1994 and assumed the duties of editor in 2004. She has won awards from the Evangelical Press Association for her writing and editing. Faber is the co-author of Family Matters: Discovering the Mennonite Brethren. She and her husband, David, have two daughters, one son, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law and one grandson. They are members of Ebenfeld MB Church in Hillsboro, Kansas.