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2013 Annual Gathering Report from the Executive Associate Conference Minister

2010_annual_gathering_report-keith-1cI am looking forward to being with all of you for our Annual Gathering on May 11th.  It is exciting to hold our gathering at a church where the congregation is seeking to join the United Church of Christ and be able to share with them our extravagant welcome as they welcome us into their place of worship.  Our Annual Gathering Planning Team has been working hard to arrange for an exciting gathering this year and I am sure we will enjoy the time together.

Strategic Planning:

Your Conference Board of Directors and Staff have been working on Strategic Planning over the past year.  We have determined that our focus over the next few years needs to be the vitality of our congregations, the training of our leaders and the building of our covenantal relationships.  Along with that we have been focused on restructuring of the board and staff’s work to support these efforts.

In January 2012 we restructured our staff with the following goals:

• Provide adequate support to allow the Conference Minister to focus on key issues of visioning, fundraising, and relationship building.
• Provide adequate staffing to manage complex strategies and critical relationships.
• Provide professional staffing to develop a comprehensive fundraising strategy.
• Enable the Conference to be strategic rather than reactionary.
• Provide for program development needed for the vitality of our congregations.
• Develop a much needed Young Adult Ministry in our Conference.
• Provide staff support for Outdoor Ministry as we face the new realities at Pilgrim Pines.

As a result, we added the positions of Executive Associate Conference Minister, Associate Conference Minister for Church Relations, and Young Adult Ministries Coordinator.

We filled the position of Associate Conference Minister for Church Relations with the Rev. Libby Tigner.  During 2012, Libby has spent nearly half of her time focused on General Synod planning, including fundraising.  Pledged giving to support our hosting of General Synod has exceeded $130,000.  After General Synod concludes, Libby’s attention will turn to the vitality of our congregations and our Conference.  In addition to General Synod planning, Libby has been assisting our Conference Minister with Search and Call and staffs our Church & Ministry Committees in the Northern and Central Associations.  Libby has visited a majority of the congregations in our Conference during her first year and continues to help build relationships in the Conference.

Our new part-time Young Adults Ministry Coordinator position is currently held by Ms. Thea Mateu.  Thea has been exploring the pockets of Young Adult Ministry within our Conference and has been working to network and bolster those ministries, as well as, develop strategies for reaching out and ministering to this key group of people within our communities.  Additionally, she is staffing the Outdoor Ministries Team.  Thea has agreed to serve as Acting Young Adults Ministry Coordinator through 2013.  A search committee will be formed this summer to fill the position.  Ms. Mateu will be one of several candidates considered for this role.

For more information on the role and strengths of each of our staff we have created a document called “Who Does What?”  You can download that document here.

Our Board of Directors has approved a plan for the development of a Conference Leadership Academy.  This new Conference Leadership Academy will provide both online and face-to-face learning opportunities that will help provide practical training for ministry for our authorized ministers and lay leadership.  We look forward with anticipation to the dramatic impact this will have on the vitality of all of our congregations.  You will hear more about the Conference Leadership Academy at Annual Gathering.

The Board of Directors has also established a task force to look specifically at our Association structure.  They are currently working on a study that will help us determine the best way forward in building the covenantal relationships and meeting the ecclesiastical needs of our congregations.  Other board committees are focused on the structure and work of the board and the financial sustainability of the Conference.

Conference Finances:

During the 2013 Annual Gathering, you will be presented with the financial reports for Fiscal Year 2012, a review on budget adjustments for 2013, and be asked to adopt a budget for 2014.  You can review the 2012 financial reports here.

The Conference operates on an Annual Fiscal Year (January – December)  during the Annual Gathering, the Conference Board of Directors presents a proposed budget for delegates to approve for the next fiscal year.  The budget that is presented at Annual Gathering is based on the most current information available (the prior year performance and the first few months of the current year).  In January, the Conference Board of Directors reviews the budget to determine if adjustments are needed based on data at the end of the current fiscal year.

Understanding the Conference Financials:

Our Conference budget consists of projects, programs, and of course administrative costs.  In order to help the delegates and the Board of Directors interpret the reports, we break our budget into two sections; “Basic Conference Operations” and “Other Program Funds.”  The Basic Conference Operations portion of the budget derives revenue from three primary sources:  Our Church’s Wider Mission, Per Capita Dues and our “Friends of the Conference” Annual Appeal.

These three sources of revenue are intended to support the basic operations of a Conference.  It is with this revenue that the Conference can provide support and training for local church pastors and lay leadership, help churches call new pastors, provide mediation in church conflicts, provide leadership for our youth & young adult ministries, be a resource center for information, as well as, help foster connections within the Conference and within the communities of Southern California and Nevada; helping us to be united and uniting with others in our community.

The other portion of our budget is the “Other Program Funds.”  This portion of our budget has derived the majority of revenue from the one time sale of properties the Conference has received in past years.  Because property sales do not occur every year and we do not budget for them, our “Other Program Funds” budget will always reflect a net loss.

We utilize the “Other Program Funds” to supplement our Basic Conference budget in providing youth ministry, young adult ministry, support our partnership with Justice & Witness Ministries to fund the Romero Center, support outdoor ministries, provide for additional staff support to focus on church relations and stewardship, and provide church vitality.

As you review the 2012 Financial Report, here are some explanations from our balance sheet (a.k.a. Statement of Financial Position):

Current Assets: ($1,204,801): Includes our checking account, cash invested in The Cornerstone Fund, Prepaid expenses (insurance, employee benefits, etc).

Accounts Receivable: ($107,843): Includes short term receivables that were collected in early 2013 or converted to a Note Receivable.

Fixed Assets: ($2,083,771): Includes properties owned and in use by the Conference, furniture, and equipment, less accumulated depreciation.

Long Term Assets: ($3,031,738): Includes our investments in United Church Funds, Equity Sharing Agreements, Real Estate Held for Sale and long term notes receivable.

Current Liabilities: ($230,829) These are current liabilities and include such items as the amount of 2012 OCWM, Special Offerings & National Directed Gifts that were collected during November and December and the first week of January (designated for 2012) that were not sent to the National Setting until after our books closed in early January, various donations from our local churches to be sent to other ministries such as Pilgrim Place, Pilgrim Pines and Pacific School of Religion.  These funds were sent on in January after our books were closed.

Long Term Liabilities: We have no long term liabilities

As you review the 2012 Financial Report, here are some explanations from our Revenue & Expense Statement (a.k.a. Statement of Activities or Income Statement):

Basic Conference Operations

Our Church’s Wider Mission fell short of budget by $112,681.  This was a significant factor in our performance in 2012.  Approximately 2/3rds of our churches support Our Church’s Wider Mission.  You can review giving from each church in 2012 here.

Per Capita fell short of budget by $37,240.  If all of our congregations paid the $12 per member Per Capita Dues, we would have seen an increase over budget of $21,925.   Approximately 2/3rds of our churches pay Per Capita.  You can review giving by each church in 2012 here.

Due To National is the amount of OCWM (40%), Special Offerings and National Directed Gifts that we sent to the National Setting to support the wider church.

Basic Conference Operations Expenses were $5,420 under budget in 2012.

Basic Conference Net Loss was significantly higher than anticipated due to the decrease in contributions to Our Church’s Wider Mission and Per Capita during 2012.

Other Program Funds

Total Income was significantly above budget primarily due to gains in our investments (we do not budget for investment gains or losses).

Total Expenses were over budget by $197,429.  This is primarily due to the fact that the support of Basic Conference Operations was over budget by $161,028 and an expense in Church Development and Renewal that was not expected.

Overall Net Loss was only off from budget by $18,154 due to the gains earned on investments offsetting our overage in expenses.

Balancing The Budget

The reason we separate Basic Conference Operations out from the rest of our budget is to demonstrate the most basic costs of operating a Conference.  In 2007 we set a goal of balancing that portion of the budget by 2013.  Unfortunately, we have not yet met that goal.  Our Five Year Plan included increases in giving to Our Churches Wider Mission and to Per Capita Dues, as well as, increase to the Friends of the Conference offering.  At the same time we developed this plan, we saw significant challenges for our congregations as the economic downturn took place.  We believe the decline in giving to OCWM has stopped with 2012 and expect to see increases in the future years.

Keith Report Graph3

Currently we have resources to operate the Conference at the current expense levels for approximately three to four years.  Our board has worked diligently over the past five years to address the financial challenges, dramatically reducing expenses within the Basic Conference Operations portion of the budget.  We know the only area we can focus on is the growth of our income.  We need to increase giving to Our Church’s Wider Mission, Per Capita and our Friends of the Conference Annual Appeal.  We need for all of our congregations to participate together in covenant with each other for us to accomplish our goal of balancing the budget.  We will also need to find new sources of income.

We have revised our budget planning to reflect the realities of our current levels of giving to Our Churches Wider Mission and Per Capita.  Based on the results in 2012, we need to grow our income by more than $160,000.  We will be presenting a plan to do this over the next five years.

Pilgrim Pines Camp and Outdoor Ministries

In May of 2012, we entered into an agreement to have United Camps, Conferences and Retreats (UCCR) manage the operations of Pilgrim Pines Camp.  This was in response to the ongoing financial challenges the camp was facing.  This new agreement was determined to be the only possibility for us to keep Pilgrim Pines Camp ( a treasured and valuable resource in our Conference).  The results have been very positive.

Pilgrim Pines reported better results in 2012 than expected.  We anticipated a Net Loss of $329,194 for the year.  The camp actually had a Net Loss of $44,402.  The sale of Palomar Cedars was a major contributor to this change.  More importantly, the cost of running summer camp was less than anticipated due to the tireless efforts of our Outdoor Ministries Team, chaired by the Rev. Petra Malleis-Sternberg.  This team worked hard to increase campership registration and recruited over 200 volunteers in just a few short months.  They are working hard again this year and need your help.  Please plan on spending some time with us during Summer Camp 2013.  Volunteer here.

UCCR has reported better than expected results as well.  This means they have been able to build some reserves for deferred maintenance issues at the camp.  The UCCR team has done an outstanding job of maintaining the camp and have been able to make several repairs at significantly less expense than what we would have paid if they did not have the expertise to do the work.

The Conference is currently budgeting $120,000 for Pilgrim Pines Camp.  This is a new expense in 2013.  This covers the cost of the mortgage on the camp and the program costs of running summer camp and the various other programs we hold as Pilgrim Pines each year ( Confirmation Camp, Minister’s Retreat, Apple Pie Day, etc).  The Conference will only have the resources to subsidize the camp for another 3 – 5 years.  This means we need your support to keep Pilgrim Pines a vital part of our Conference.  We need you to attend events and retreats, bring your congregation to Pilgrim Pines, and we need you to financially support Pilgrim Pines.

I look forward to discerning God’s Vision for our Conference with you!

Keith Clark
Executive Associate Conference Minister


Other Reports to the 2013 Annual Gathering:

Report from the Conference Board Chair
Report from the Associate Conference Minister for Church Relations
Report from the Associate Conference Minister for Border & Latino Ministries
Report from the Youth Minister
Report from the Acting Young Adults Ministry Coordinator

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