From my conversations with many of you (along with what I've heard from other elders), I wanted to help clear up a few things.
Your Choice vs. the Choice of Others. Several folks have said they do not wish to continue with the organization of GCC, but they want to support others who want to continue, and they are not sure how to vote. Our advice: please vote along with your personal commitment.
- If you are ready to step up your involvement and responsibility at GCC, please vote to keep the organization.
- If you are not prepared to increase your responsibility at GCC, please vote to dissolve the organization. With such a small group (we have 26 eligible members), if you are not able to take responsibility in the organization, but you vote to continue the organization, you may be putting too much responsibility on those who stay. That is not fair.
What exactly are we voting on? The following chart illustrates some of the broad decisions that we need to make. The vote on Sunday about dissolving the organization of the church is only the first decision (the top box). The other decisions are not the main subject for Sunday's decision. They can come at a later time.
This page is only available to those with the link.
Anticipating the Vote
Our congregation will be voting on April 22 on the matter of dissolving the organization of Grace Community Church. This page will help you in two ways: First, it will give you a good idea of what to expect that vote will mean for the future. Second, if the congregation votes to continue the organization of the church, this will provide a blueprint for the next few weeks.
Melanie and I (Pastor William) have worked hard to pull this information together, and we will continue to work hard to support the congregation however we can until May 6, our last Sunday.
Without staff, it makes no sense to keep the office, so we will need to clear out the office, too. Our last day in the office is actually May 31 (had to be the last day of a month), so we have some time with that.
The Vote Itself
Only members of the congregation may vote. The vote only requires a simple majority (50% +1), and a decision to dissolve the organization of our church is a recommendation to our Presbytery that has the actual power to dissolve the organization of the church. I have no doubt that they will do so if requested.
If we vote to dissolve the Church
- We will stop worshiping on Sunday mornings as a church.
- We release the temporary, borrowed elders, thanking them for their years of service to our church.
- We close down the bank accounts (which are empty anyway), the insurance accounts, The City, the Planning Center, etc.
- We sell or donate the few things that belong to the church, stored in the office.
A vote to dissolve the organization of the church does not mean that you all cannot (nor should not) encourage each other spiritually. You can (and maybe should) get together to pray, to sing, to study the Bible, to encourage one another in love and good works. Honestly, this is what I recommend. This allows you to move forward with the healthy spiritual growth, without the burden of the unsustainable organization. If the community grows enough to become sustainable again, a church plant is a real possibility here. I really hope this happens.
If you believe the organization of the church will be unsustainable after Melanie and I leave, you should vote to dissolve the organization of the church. Of course, no one can stop the church universal, and no one can stop the relationships and spiritual growth of God's people. No one is interested in that.
If this happens, I will help you all find a place to worship (I'll be looking myself, too!). I want to make sure you get into a good, healthy church. That can be overwhelming, and I want to help you, and walk with you in that process.
If we vote to continue the church
Here are some basic things that will need to happen right away.
- You will need a new budget, which can only officially come from the Session. I expect they will seek your input on this. A new budget will be based on those who remain and how much they are giving.
- You need a treasurer who knows Quickbooks. Melanie has been doing this for years now, and she estimates that it takes her about 10 hours each week (more for the first few months as you get used to it). That’s with a paid bookkeeper. The accounting needs of the church will probably decrease, but not by much. Payroll and office rental payments are really the easiest stuff here. Some of the work here is filing the financial records in a way that is in accord with the IRS. This also includes keeping up with our (required) insurance, CCLI, etc. This person also will keep track of tax records for our donors, reimbursements, reconciliations, etc. If you do not continue with a paid bookkeeper, you will also need a separate person to sign checks and pay the bills of the church.
- You need a place to store the church’s equipment, including communion supplies, children’s ministry materials, signage, financial records going back 5 years (this is an IRS requirement), and various other things. This storage place needs to be in a place that is close to wherever you worship, and is accessible every Sunday. If it is at someone’s house, that person needs to make their house available even when they go out of town, on vacation, etc.
- You need someone to coordinate the worship services (could be several people together) including musicians, song selections, liturgies, worship guides (formatting and printing), scheduling preachers, taking offering, etc. I do most of this, and Melanie does some, too. I estimate this will take about 5 hours each week (more at the beginning).
- You need a mailbox. The church office has been the mailbox, but it is going away. We get lots of junk mail, but a fair amount of important correspondence from the Presbytery and denomination. This needs to be sorted and answered properly. I estimate this will take about 30 minutes per week average, but it varies widely by individual week.
- You need a phone. My phone has been the church phone number. I get about 2 or 3 calls each day (on average) about the church. About half of these are sales calls. Many are calls from people looking for help. One or two each week wanting to know more about the church. Someone needs to answer these calls.
Those are the absolute basics, and they need to happen right away. This does not take into account any childcare organization, Century Center contact person (surprisingly time intensive), website & facebook management, setting up the signs on Sundays, pastoral care concerns, Bible study leaders, nor even a pastoral search committee. It also does not take into account any time devoted to attracting or integrating new people into the life of the church community. You may know that this was something I spent lots of time doing (and loved every minute of it!). All this work is in addition to the setup team (already overworked, and losing the Sofields at least), the music team, the counting team, the children’s ministry team, the audio team (may not be needed, actually), and the coffee team.
Someone asked me about the idea of continuing as an organized church without worshiping for the summer, at least. This idea helps to minimize the immediate organizational needs. I think this is a very bad idea. First, I think this is contrary to the Bible's directives for weekly worship. Small group Bible studies are great, but they are not a replacement for God's Word preached, and the sacraments administered. Second, only the Session can authorize this, and I doubt that would happen. Even if it did, I think the Presbytery will have a real problem with a church that intentionally does not conduct public worship. Finally, if the church is not organizationally strong enough to conduct worship services, it is simply unsustainable.
If you think the congregation will be organizationally sustainable after Melanie and I leave, you should vote to continue the church, and we should get to work immediately on the 6 points above.
Boundaries for Current Staff
Since the church will be run exclusively by volunteers, I anticipate a lot of ongoing questions about how to operate the organization of the church extending into the future months. For examples: Where is the financial policy? Do we have to pay this bill from CCLI? Do we have an account with XYZ Insurance Company? How do we transfer someone’s membership from one church to another?
Let's do as much of this before May 6 as we can. Melanie and I will be happy, happy to help anyone who wants to begin this process of transition. However, after we leave, things will be different.
I want you to know that I need to set some boundaries around my time, and Melanie will set boundaries around her time, after our employment is ended. We both need to protect our time and energy for our families and our future endeavors. While I have not yet decided exactly what it will be, I expect I will be willing to help answer questions and advise like this. Starting in May, one person can send me one email on Mondays with all the questions for the week, and I will work for one hour answering the questions, and get back to you by Thursday. I will do this for 4 weeks in a row, and then I’m finished. All requests like this should come to me, and not to Melanie. Again, I want to be clear that I need to set boundaries like this for my own emotional/relational health.
To be clear, this boundary does not apply to our relationships in general. Heavens, no! Let's continue to have coffee together, to laugh and cry together, to eat and drink together, to pray and sing together. I'm going to need friends and a community of people, and I love you all so much. This boundary applies to working on the organization of Grace Community Church.
Basic Financial costs to Continue
- Liability Insurance, about $2100/year
- Century Center: Rooms 2/3: $65.25/week; Century Hall: $184/week
- Guest Preachers: $100-150/week
- CCLI, $300/year
- Communion Supplies
- Post office box
- Website (not The City), $250/year
With a few other expenses, I estimate that you’ll need about $1200/month for the most stripped down situation. This would require that volunteers do everything except preaching, and you’ll be able to meet downstairs at the Century Center. There is no money going to missionaries here (or anywhere outside the church). The finances are reasonable, honestly.
As has always true, if you are interested in seeing our current budget, I'm happy to provide that. A future pastor will range from free (bi-vocational pastor) to very expensive.
finding a new pastor
If Grace Community Church continues, I expect that your goal will be to attract a new pastor. I want you to know that this will be difficult. The last time you looked for a pastor (me!) it took about 8 months, which is a little faster than normal. The church is now in a weaker position than it was then. There is no money, no property, no elders in the congregation (and none in training), no deacons, and the congregation has been through a very hard few years. Based on the financial position, I think your most likely scenario is to find a part-time or bi-vocational pastor. Unless you find such a pastor who already has a job in the local area, this will take even longer to find. A person who wants to be a bi-vocational pastor for Grace Community Church will need to go through the regular process of a pastoral search committee and afterward, the person will need to look for a job in the area before moving here to be your pastor. All this to say, that I think you should expect to be without a pastor for quite a while.
Wow! That’s a lot of information. It’s a big decision. A vote to dissolve the congregation is simply a recognition that the organization is unsustainable. A vote to continue the congregation is recognition that the organization is sustainable for the foreseeable future.
Again, I’m so sorry that we are in this place. I would love to talk to any of you about any of these logistics. And I would be even happier to talk to you about how you are doing. Just give me a call, text, or email!
Love you all!