Ken Taylor rolled back from his desk and stretched out. It had been a long day, starting with the company’s auditors in the morning. Could there be anything worse than audit days, he thought. On the other hand, tonight was the big board meeting at the church and there would be no relaxation in tension until the wee small hours of the morning. He reached for his church files, walked to his car, and started his homeward trip.
Grabbing a quick sandwich at a fast food outlet, he drove the 20 miles to his home community and then down the street to the church. The tall steeple was reassuring, giving a message of stability to all who saw it.
The church was an important part of Ken’s life. He had grown up in this church, been baptized and had gone away to school. After graduate school and a term in a public accounting firm, he had returned to his home city to be married and also to take a position of Vice-President, Finance, for a fork lift manufacturer. The job paid well and Ken was able to make significant contributions to the financial success of the company.
Along with his involvement in the allocation committee of the United Way of Kendrickville, Ken was quickly tapped by his church to become Treasurer. He often quipped that his interests were in "uplifting people." The church was large, with about 800 members, and a weekend attendance of 1,800 for three services. Total offerings for the church were about $1,500,000 per year, and currently the church was discussing a move to a new building on 120 acres in a new upscale suburb. As the pastor of the church had remarked many times, "The Lord is good!"
Ken’s role as treasurer was to supervise the financial affairs of the church. It had seemed when he took the position that it would be an enjoyable, but time-consuming, volunteer activity. The church had a full time bookkeeper who looked after the day-to-day operations, but Ken completed the financial statements and presented the reports to the congregation. The church was audited by 3 of its members on a regular basis but, when Ken had taken on the position, he requested a full audit by an outside audit firm. The audit had been qualified as to revenue, a normal qualification for a charity of this sort, but no other problems had been found. Now the number of issues were starting to overwhelm Ken.
Growth at the church had been phenomenal during the past three years of Ken’s term as Treasurer. The arrival of a new young pastor, the introduction of worship services customized for various age groups, the use of contemporary music in worship, and the development of caring for the community in the form of day-care all contributed to growth rates in excess of 20% per year. However, it was in sharp contrast to the previous 5 years when the church had declined significantly. Interestingly, the sharp reversal in the church’s fortunes had brought other visitors in to Kendrickville Community Church to study the changes. It was rumoured that some of the visitors were actually Pastoral search committees from other churches.
Still, the role of Treasurer brought him into conflict with Pastor Welman. First of all, the pastor had negotiated a large salary and benefits. While he believed in adequate income, Ken felt that the pastor should lead a more sacrificial life, and had consistently recommended lower than average annual increments. Certain other areas of concern had emerged. The pastor had recently convinced the board to hire his spouse as his personal secretary. The arguments had been simple. The church was looking to hire part-time help for 20 hours a week and the pastor had offered to take a cut in salary to fund an additional 20 hours a week, if his spouse could have the position. It would also require the church to supply a computer, printer and other appropriate equipment for her home office. The pastor and his wife had two young children but child care would not be a factor since she would work at home. Since Ken had argued against the proposal raising issues of controllability, there had been a definite coolness in the relationship between the pastor and himself.
Second, opposition to the pastor was starting to emerge on the church board. Many of the older board members were unhappy with the flashing lights, guitars and drums now used in the morning worship service. Ken actually enjoyed the music and thought that it, plus the powerful teaching of the pastor, were the basis for the church renewal.
Jeb Clancy, was one of those board members who were concerned and had approached Ken. "I’m not sure that he knows what he’s doing. Fooling around with all this stuff, it’s the devil’s instruments for sure. Not only that, but we never see him. He’s traveling around all the time and chatting with people, rather than visiting sick people in their homes. I’m going to ask the board to set a time clock for him, and to set some ministry standards as well."
As a member with 20 years of experience on the board and a reputation of being extremely generous to the church, Jeb’s words were sure to bring about a reaction. Jeb was proposing that the church board set standards of work performance for the Pastor so "we can see him more than once a week." While it was true that Pastor Welman was doing a number of paid duties outside of the church, it was not clear to Ken that the situation was excessive. Nevertheless, he agreed with Jeb Clancy to support a proposal that would set specific hours of work standards for Pastor Welman. He thought that using a standard of 20 hours a week visitation, 10 hours a week sermon preparation and 7.5 hours a week for counseling would be a rough guide, but it could be further refined if the Pastor kept a log of his time in 15 minute intervals.
Pastor Welman was also presenting plans at the board meeting for moving the congregation to a new site some 5 miles away. The 120 acre site was for sale by a member of the congregation. Pastor Welman recommended that the church buy the site for $1,000,000, to be raised by bonds issued to the congregation. In addition, the vendor was willing to accept $800,000 in cash, with the balance to be written off as a donation. While the church was unaware of this, Ken had investigated the property and discovered that it had been purchased by the vendor four years ago for $800,000. However, the vendor had been experiencing some financial difficulty and needed the money quickly. An appraisal for $1,000,000 had been done by an appraiser within the church. The church would supply the $1,000,000 to the vendor, who would then return $200,000 to the church in return for the charitable receipt.
Finally, a proposal had been written by Pastor Welman to obtain mortgage financing for the new $11,000,000 edifice. The auditorium would have seating for 2,000 people, would have an atrium that would allow for food service for 500 people at a time, and would have room for expansion in terms of a proposed gymnasium/auditorium complex. The building would be a modern style, with little religious decoration. The proposal had extrapolated the current offerings into the future for the next 5 years with continuing growth of 20% per year.
Basic funding for development would be available by using $750,000 of the missions fund of the church. This fund had been established by a bequest from a wealthy member approximately ten years earlier. At the present time, the fund was invested in Guaranteed Investment Certificates from the major chartered banks and earned a return of 5% which was used to support the church’s foreign missionaries. Pastor Welman proposed that the church "borrow" these funds and pay a 6% return for the use of the funds,something that would allow the church to expand its missions program as well as reducing the interest cost of the mortgage, estimated to cost the church about 7 3/4%.
Ken was concerned about the risk of this proposal, since he felt that the growth rate was quite optimistic. His firm was growing about 8 to 10% per year and predictions were that there would be a slowdown in the economy after the upcoming election. Ken had arranged for the church to use the Canuck bank for financial affairs. Since Ken had shifted the fork-lift company to the Canuck bank, the bank was quite happy to assist the church with lower service charges and interest rates. The bank had a high degree of confidence in Ken, based upon his professional qualifications and his position with the company. Since Ken would have to do the mortgage negotiations with the Canuck Bank, he was anxious about the riskiness of the figures in this proposal.
As he drove into the church parking lot, his cell phone rang. It was his thirteen year old daughter, Trixie. "Daddy, you’ll never guess what’s going to happen. Pastor Welman is going to take the Tweenties youth group on a missions trip next year. He wants me to go......Daddy, he’s sensational. Love you!"
If you were Ken, what would you do?