Conley Zomermaand, Interim Pastor/Head of Staff

Third Church’s Annual Meeting took a slightly different form this year for a few reasons: 1) No installed pastors are presently on staff, so no terms of call needed to be discussed and approved. 2) The Congregational Nominating Committee had spent its time preparing a slate of members of the Pastor Nominating Committee, and required a little more time to present nominees for elders, deacons, and trustees. The published Annual Report was shared, a 2020 year-end financial update given, and the 2021 budget presented for informational purposes. The best news: Third Church is in a very favorable financial situation due to the continued generosity of Third Church supporters and significant cost reductions in a transition year.

One issue elicited a measure of discussion: the apparent reduction of resources dedicated to the outreach efforts at Third Church. The 2021 Operating Budget does include an exceedingly small reduction in total outreach spending—about $3,000 fewer dollars in 2021 than in 2020—but this is a smaller percentage reduction than the projected decrease in revenue, and it is a smaller percentage reduction than is seen on most other spending lines.  

The historical ideal of committing one-third of Third Church’s financial resources to outreach has not been in effect in a number of years—long enough for many of members of the congregation to not know about it, even members in leadership positions. The one-third goal originated at a time when the church had very different revenues and expenses (including a larger, wealthier congregation, and a very heavy annual draw on the endowment). Joint Budget and Finance (JBF) members made a note of the “one-third to outreach” tradition and agreed to review the matter, to determine whether a return to this commitment would be feasible and sustainable in our current climate.

JBF also agreed to develop a more comprehensive report on outreach spending, which would factor in the following considerations:

  1. Dedicated outreach staff members previously had portions of their salaries counted toward the one-third figure. Presently, no staff member has that specific mandate (although Pastor Zomermaand estimated that perhaps one-fourth of his time was so used).
  2. Several of our outreach efforts are accounted for outside of the Operating Budget. For example, the East Avenue Grocery Run, which fully supports Third Church’s budgeted hunger reduction programs, also sends thousands of dollars to other agencies for the same purpose. Those expenditures do not show up in Third Church’s Operating Budget, even though this is a Third Church effort in the larger community.  

Because of the monetary value of dedicated staff time as well as extra-budgetary outreach spending, Third Church is actually devoting a higher percentage of its resources to outreach than appears on the Annual Operating Budget. Dedication to outreach continues to be a central component of Third Church’s identity. That commitment will not change as we continue Renewing Church for a New World that is unfolding before us in 2021.