The Church of the Brethren General Board ended the year 2007 with a net income in its Core Ministries Fund, in pre-audit figures. The pre-audit financial report presented to the spring General Board meeting revealed an increase in total giving to denominational ministries by individuals and congregations, but a continuing decline in congregational giving to the board's core ministries.
The board ended the year with a net income of about $130,000 in its Core Ministries Fund, in a total core ministries budget of around $5.6 million. The Core Ministries Fund supports most of the program and administrative work of the board. The board also has self-funded ministries including the Brethren Disaster Ministries (funded through the Emergency Disaster Fund), the Material Resources program that warehouses and ships relief materials on behalf of the church and ecumenical partners, the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center, the Global Food Crisis ministry (funded through the Global Food Crisis Fund), Brethren Press, and "Messenger" magazine.
Total giving to the board increased by 9.5 percent over 2006, adding in all individual and congregational gifts to all the funds of the board, and
including bequests and donor restricted gifts. Gifts from individuals, donor-restricted gifts, and bequests increased considerably from 2006, reported Ken Neher, director of funding and donor development. The total of individual giving to all of the board's funds including donor restricted gifts and bequests rose more than 28 percent to more than $2.5 million. Individual giving to the Core Ministries Fund increased .4 percent.
Total giving from congregations remained constant, when giving to all the funds of the board, donor restricted gifts, and district disaster fundraising was included in the figure. However, giving from congregations to the Core Ministries Fund fell two percent. The congregational giving to the Core Ministries Fund was a significant shortfall of $411,000 from the budgeted projection, and presents the General Board with a major challenge since the same amount for congregational giving has been projected in the budget for the years 2008 and 2009, noted treasurer Judy Keyser.
This decline in congregational giving to the denomination's core ministries continues a 10- to 15-year trend of about a 2 percent decline per year, Neher said. He said the decline is related to the denomination's membership decline, the number of churches closing, and changing priorities of congregations.
Other highlights of the General Board's financial report for 2007:
- The Emergency Disaster Fund gave a total of $1.42 million in grants in 2007. Donations to the fund totaled $878,688.
- The Global Food Crisis Fund gave a total of $341,612 in grants. Donations to the fund totaled $319,994.
- The General Board's bequest quasi-endowment has hit the $6 million mark for the first time. This fund helps support the board's core ministries budget.
- Brethren Press total sales were especially strong in 2007, reaching over $1 million. After several unexpected inventory writeoffs and adjustments and a budgeted payment toward early Gather 'Round curriculum expenses, however, Brethren Press ended the year with about $81,000 of expense over income.
- The Gather 'Round Sunday school curriculum--a joint project of Brethren Press and the Mennonite Publishing Network in its first full year of sales had gross sales of just over $500,000. This represents mostly wholesale orders to the two publishing houses and their cooperative users. During 2007, a total of 310 Church of the Brethren congregations used the curriculum.
- The New Windsor Conference Center, which has struggled financially in past years, had gross sales of $56,000, and a net income of $24,660.
- The Emerging Global Mission Fund--which mainly supports the denomination's mission work in Brazil--spent a total of $64,614. Donations to the fund totaled more than $66,000.