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2014 Annual Gathering Report from the Executive Associate Conference Minister

Keith Clark, Executive Associate Conference Minister

Keith Clark, Executive Associate Conference Minister (and Iris)


I look forward to being back at Chapman University for our Annual Gathering!  We certainly find this space to be welcoming, conducive to our needs and accessible.  Your Annual Gathering Planning Committee has been working hard over the past year to provide an amazing experience.  I look forward to being with you as we explore our Mission and Core Values this year.








Strategic Planning:

To embody a covenant of extravagant Christian love that empowers leaders, congregations and communities in pursuit of a just world.


The sentence above is the result of a great deal of thoughtful work by your Conference Board of Directors, with input from many people around our Conference.  This statement is our proposed mission statement.  Along with the following core values, this mission statement is now the focus of our ministry as a Conference:

Core Values:

  • We experience covenant through extravagant hospitality that connects us in interdependent inclusive Christian community
  •  We empower educated, innovative and ethical lay & clergy leaders for ministry
  •  We are mission centric and relational
  • Our faith demands that we seek justice


Your Conference Board of Directors and Staff have been working hard in these past two years to discern the mission and values of the Conference going forward and to structure the work of the Conference around them.  In 2012, the staff was restructured 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.


In 2013, your board restructured their work around the above mentioned core values, providing them a structure that enables them to be mission focused.  We have four mission teams on our board; Building the Future, focusing on the future sustainability and vitality of the Conference, Equipping Leaders, focused on the development and equipping of leaders in the Conference, Loving Community, focused on developing the covenantal relationships within our Conference, and Seeking Justice, with a focus on how we as an entire Conference can seek justice.  These teams all report to the Mission Keepers, who ensure communication between the teams and ensure our work is focused on the mission of the Conference.  As I am sure you can imagine, this kind of transition has been hard work and time consuming, not without a few bumps along the way.  Congratulate your Board of Directors on their dedication to the process and for their hard work!


Where my work has been focused in this process:


Building The Future:  Supporting the Conference Board of Directors in their transition to a missional structure, helping in the planning and providing the financial reporting necessary to understand the complexities of our Conference; Providing staff support to our nominating committee, assisting them in their search for future leadership;  Staffing our Outdoor Ministries Team, assisting in the administrative areas and ensuring communication between this team, the Board of Directors and UCCR; working with our realtor in the marketing and sale of staff houses and some land at Pilgrim Pines, providing the financial resources to eliminate debt and reduce our mortgage; working with Felix to explore new possibilities with Conference owned properties that are currently under-utilized; and, of course, serving as your Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operations Officer.  Additionally, I continue to work towards My M.A. in Ministry, Leadership and Service at Claremont School of Theology.


Equipping Leaders: Collaborating with staff and our ministry partners in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to develop vitality events and improving our relationship and collaboration in other areas; staffing our Conference Leadership Academy Team, helping in the development of our course structure.  I will also be teaching a course in Finance and Administration in the Fall; Staffing the Church & Ministry Committee in Southern Association, assisting them as they do vital ministry in the authorizing of ministers, welcoming new congregations and developing the covenantal relationships within the association; Partnering with the Pacific Southwest Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to recreate Boundary Awareness Training that emphasizes empowerment of our authorized ministers to make wise decisions around boundaries and to provide this training more affordably as part of other events, also allowing our lay leadership to be exposed to this same training;  Providing assistance to our congregations in the areas of Finance, Administration, Human Resources, Insurance and assisting in areas of strategic planning.


Loving Community: providing support for our newly formed 20-45 clergy group; staffing our outstanding Connecting Voices editorial committee; serving as the Conference representative to the Pilgrim Place board, serving as the Audit Committee chair and serving on the Strategic Planning Committee and a Workgroup exploring ways to increase diversity; Helping the Joint Ecumenical Interfaith Relations Committee with initial planning of their “Creating a Community of Communities: Muslim and Christian in Conversation” event at Chapman University in October 2013.


Seeking Justice: Felix and I are members of the Los Angeles Council for Religious Leaders, working together to address various issues that impact all of our communities.  2013 was focused on Immigration Reform.  We helped facilitate an Immersion trip, taking many judicatory leaders to see first-hand, the challenges on both sides of the border.


Conference Finances

During the 2014 Annual Gathering, you will be presented with the financial reports of Fiscal Year 2013, a review on the budget adjustments for 2013, and be asked to adopt a budget for 2014.  You can review the 2013 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 2013 Financial Report, here are some explanations from our balance sheet (a.k. Statement of Financial Position):

Current Assets: ($2,199,178): Includes our checking account, cash invested in The Cornerstone Fund, Prepaid expenses (insurance, employee benefits, etc).

Accounts Receivable: ($28,504): Includes short term receivables that were collected in early 2014 or converted to a Note Receivable.

Fixed Assets: ($2,030,296): Includes properties owned and in use by the Conference, furniture, and equipment, less accumulated depreciation.

Long Term Assets: ($1,823,089): Includes our investments in United Church Funds, Equity Sharing Agreements, Real Estate Held for Sale and long term notes receivable.

Current Liabilities: ($162,349) These are current liabilities and include such items as the amount of 2013 OCWM, Special Offerings & National Directed Gifts that were collected during November and December and the first week of January (designated for 2013) 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 2013 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 $157,558.  This was a significant factor in our performance in 2013.  Approximately 2/3rds of our churches support Our Church’s Wider Mission.  You can review giving from each church in 2013 here . We anticipated this shortfall and you will notice that in our planning for 2014, we adjusted the budget for OCWM to be a 10% increase above 2012 figures.

Per Capita fell short of budget by $48,782.  If all of our congregations paid the $12 per member Per Capita Dues, we would have seen an increase over budget of more than $21,925.   Approximately 2/3rds of our churches pay Per Capita.  You can review giving by each church in 2013 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 $28,264 under budget in 2013.

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 2013.



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 $312,792 under budget.  This is primarily due to the slower than expected development of the Conference Leadership Academy and cancelled plans for use of funds for Church Development.  A portion of these funds were added to the 2014 budget (which you will see during my presentation at Annual Gathering).

Overall Net Loss was $521,083 better than budgeted due to the gains earned on investments, and the expense reductions mentioned above.


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 2008 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 slowed and we will be presenting a budget with no increase in 2015.  Your Conference Board of Directors are in the process of re-imagining conference finances, looking for new income sources, as well as increasing communication with our congregations to encourage more faithful and covenantal giving.


Currently we have resources to operate the Conference at the current expense levels for approximately 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 operate at 50% of our expense budget in 2008).  Our challenge is not expenses, it is 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.


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 and then again in 2013.  During 2013, we sold two of the staff houses, which allowed us to pay off debt and reduce the mortgage by $100,000. Your Outdoor Ministries Team has successfully reduced their expenses, moving us closer to sustainable outdoor ministries.  This team continues to work hard to recruit campers, counselors and campership donations.  They need your help!!!  Please plan on spending some time with us during Summer Camp 2014.  Volunteer here  or help someone else get to camp and donate 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 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 – 4 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 will see you at Chapman June 13th!


Keith Clark
Executive Associate Conference Minister



Other Annual Gathering Reports:

Report from the Conference Board Chair

Report from the Executive Associate Conference Minister

Report from the Associate Conference Minister for Church Relations

Report from the Conference Youth Minister

Report from the Acting Young Adult Ministries Coordinator

Report form the Urban Mission New Church Start Planter



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