Thursday, September 16, 2010

An Alternative to the Proposed AC Funding Plan

It is no secret that, in the world of non-profit organizations, administration is often neglected and chronically under-funded. Some are puzzled by this and others, particularly those who are involved in administration, become discouraged. Those charged with administrative tasks correctly see that any organization must run well or else it will trip over itself along the way. They cannot understand why others don’t see the vital importance of what they do. This is the situation that faces the Administrative Committee of our denomination.

One need only look at the chart supplied by the Administrative Committee to see that their responsibilities are broader than most can conceive (note: I am referring to the organizational chart found in the AC’s brochure entitled, “We Connect PCA People, Churches and Ministries” available at this link: ). A cursory glance reveals that this office does more than plan the General Assembly or field parliamentary questions about the Book of Church Order. This office does the administrative work for the Standing Judicial Commission. It organizes the work for Review of Presbytery Minutes. It is charged with recording the history of our denomination. It serves our denominational committees and agencies (CEP, CC, CTS, MNA, MTW, PCAF, RUM, RBI, RH). It communicates with all 77 presbyteries and provides services to all of our 1,740 churches. Externally this office represents our denomination at NAPARC, the NAE, and the World Reformed Fellowship Board.

Only after one sees the scope of their responsibilities and the corresponding lack of financial support can we get grasp their frustration. Thus the proposed ‘tax’ on churches and ministers seems to be the only way out of this dilemma. Though this plan may be well-intentioned I believe that it fails to address the root cause of their chronic under-funding.

A Potential Alternative

I suggest an alternative funding model for the Administrative Committee that consists of three parts. First, separate byFaith Magazine from the AC budget and fund it through different sources. Second, require the committees and agencies of the General Assembly give to the AC a small percentage of what they receive. Third, keep the current voluntary askings that are in place.

Part 1: Fund byFaith Magazine by separate sources

If we are going to make sure that the AC is properly funded then its budget must be confined to those matters that have to do specifically with administering the work of the General Assembly and its ministries. byFaith Magazine is not necessary to the administration of the denomination.

This does not mean that we should eliminate byFaith. We should simply fund it through other sources. These would include subscriptions, advertising, and private donations. The result is that around $400,000 would be taken from the proposed budget under the AC’s proposed funding plan. This would reduce the proposed 2011 budget from $2,250,000 to $1,800,000.

Part 2: Contributions of GA Committees and Agencies to the AC

Much of the AC’s under-funding problem can be traced to old-fashioned American pragmatism. We are prone to support things that give us the most “bang for our buck.” Thus, it is much easier to raise money for evangelism, church planting, mercy-ministry, reaching unreached peoples, or even putting up a building because there are tangible, quantifiable results that can be measured. Those who have contributed money to such things thrive upon the stories about lives that have been touched. They see the photos, hear the accounts, and they give thanks to God for being able to have a part in this project. Such things can never be done with administration. Balanced budgets, organizational oversight, efficiency in the use of resources do not pull at the heart-strings of potential donors. They know that such things are important but they would prefer to give their money to people, organizations and projects that have tangible, measurable results.

How have non-profit organizations gotten around this dilemma? They take a piece of each dollar that is raised to fund administrative overhead. The second part of the plan is that all GA committees and agencies would give a small portion (up to 1%) of what they receive to the AC. This makes perfect sense since the denominational agencies and committees receive services and oversight from the Administrative Committee.

This is a point that the AC has made to the General Assembly before, but it appears that it has never been seriously pursued. The AC noted as late as 2009, “One of the unique features of the PCA is that funding of support services (AC/SC) is a separate funding request to churches. We do not know of any other denomination that operates that way” (p. 332 Minutes of the 37th General Assembly). I believe that this proposal will help place the AC on better footing.

Why do I make this suggestion? As it stands right now we have MTW missionaries, MNA church planters, RUM ministers all knocking on the doors of PCA congregations for support. These individuals raise tens of millions of dollars from our churches. Why can’t 1% of those donations be funneled to the Administrative Committee?

Additionally, denominational agencies with development (i.e. fund-raising) offices travel the country soliciting funds largely from PCA churches and individuals. A percentage of these funds ought to be given to the AC as well. This would include capital projects, like Covenant College’s recently completed campaign which netted $55,000,000.

For those who object that up to 1% is too steep please consider Campus Crusade for Christ which has over 25,000 staff in more than 190 countries. That organization funds its worldwide administrative needs with a 5% surcharge on every dollar raised by a staff member or raised for special projects. Most non-profits take anywhere from 7-15% off the top.  What I am proposing is miniscule by comparison and would provide upwards of $1,000,000 annually to the AC.

Part 3: Retain the Current Church Askings Program.

By its own account, the AC receives money from a higher percentage of churches than any other committee or agencies (p. 332 Minutes of 37th General Assembly). In fact, contributions to the AC have averaged nearly $1,000,000/ year for the last five years (See p. 406 of 2010 General Assembly Commissioner’s Handbook, line 1 Support and Revenue).

A closer look at the 2009 statistics reveals that only 470 churches out of 1,740 (26%) gave to the AC. That is an appallingly low number. As Presbyterians we pride ourselves in one of the distinctive features of our form of church government: ‘connectionalism’. We all have a sense of what this means but for the sake of clarity let’s define it. Here is Dr. L. Roy Taylor in his own words:

“I define a connectional Church as follows: “By connectional‟ we mean that local churches see themselves as part of the larger Church, that local churches are not independent but are accountable to the larger Church, and that local churches do not minister alone but in cooperation with the larger Church.” ( L. Roy Taylor, “Presbyterianism” in Who Runs the Church: Four Views on Church Government (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 2004, p. 75).

It is my strong conviction that one of the best demonstrations of our ‘connectionalism’ is shown by contributing to the Administrative Committee.

Though the current percentage of churches currently contributing to the AC is relatively low I believe that this could be rectified by simply publishing the names of those churches who fail to support the AC. With a little sunlight shone it is entirely reasonable to expect that giving via the church askings would increase.


Our current practice of forcing the AC to ‘compete’ with other denomination agencies and committees for funds is ludicrous. So is amending our Book of Church Order to force churches and ministers to pay an annual fee. We should keep the current voluntary practice of askings and follow the examples of other denominations and non-profit organizations and the way they fund their administrative offices.

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