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2015 Annual Gathering Report from the Executive Associate Conference Minister

Keith Clark, Executive Associate Conference Minister (and Iris)



I look forward to see you all once again at Chapman University.  The Annual Gathering Planning Committee is working hard to improve on last year, with changes in the schedule, a move to the Fish Interfaith Center for our plenaries and a lot of great workshops to choose from.








A year of transition!

At our Annual Gathering in 2014, the Conference Board of Directors presented and the delegates affirmed our revised Mission Statement and Core Values:

Mission Statement:

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

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


We then set out to hold Town Hall meetings in the Fall of 2014, gathering information about what the Conference thought we should do that we are not doing, what we should be doing that we are not doing, and what things we are currently doing that we should stop.  We have been processing what we have heard in those town hall meetings and in other conversations and have been exploring new ways of doing ministry in the Conference to move to a more sustainable model of ministry.


This included the very difficult choice of eliminating two staff positions early in 2015.  Looking to the work done by the Outdoor Ministries Team to work towards a sustainable model for outdoor ministries, we are now working towards a similar shared leadership, volunteer driven model for youth ministry.  Felix, Libby, and I are seeking out ways that Conference ministry can take place with fewer staff, knowing that our financial restrictions will not allow us to maintain our current staffing beyond a few more years.  It is our goal to utilize the time we have to help all of us together learn to share in the ministry in such a way that we no longer rely on staff to drive the ministry of the Conference.


As your board reported at Annual Gathering last year, the core functions of the Conference; search & call, crisis intervention, leadership development, building community among settings, speaking to justice and empowering action with current staffing cost over $755,000 with income from Our Church’s Wider Mission, Per Capita and the Friends of the Conference Appeal being approximately $498,000, leaving a Net Loss of approximately $256,000.  This does not include the support of Pilgrim Pines, Urban Mission or funding for Youth & Young adult ministries.


The Board of Directors are committed to balancing our budget.  Yet, the goal is to do so in such a way that we do not make immediate and drastic cuts that prevent a transfer of ministry from staff to volunteers to take place.  They set a goal of reducing the budget that would be presented this year for 2016 by at least $200,000.  The elimination of the Youth Minister and Young Adult Ministries Coordinator positions were a first step towards this goal, reducing expenses in 2016 by over $90,000 while maintaining the commitment to ministry for our youth and young adults.  The board then asked the remaining staff to reduce professional expenses in 2016 by 10%; worked with the emerging ministry at the border to establish a new model for ministry at the border, resulting in a reduction of expenses for the Romero Center; and are bringing to you a proposal reducing the amount of Our Church’s Wider Mission that is forwarded to the National Setting from 40% to 10% (see the resolution here).  All of these together result in a reduction of Net Loss for the Conference in the amount of $268,000 from the budget the Annual Gathering approved for 2015.  Additionally, these changes reduced the budget for 2015 by $89,000.  This extends the period of time the Conference has to make decisions regarding the budgeted Net Loss by approximately two years, giving us until 2019 – 2020 before Unrestricted Cash is exhausted.


An important note in all of this:  The Conference is not broke!  After Annual Gathering last year, rumors that the Conference was nearing bankruptcy began to emerge.  The Conference is not nearing bankruptcy.  We are approaching a deadline to transform the model of ministry.  We are approaching a deadline for spending down assets that we committed to spending years ago.  We are not near bankruptcy or near being broke.  The Conference has no debt and has assets in excess of $5 Million dollars (this does not include the camp).  Your board and staff are working proactively to ensure a balanced budget before we expend unrestricted cash reserves.


We have made several attempts to work towards a balanced budget over the past decade, all of them relying on an increase in giving to Our Church’s Wider Mission and Per Capita.  At the same time, we have seen giving to these offerings decrease.  The current 2015 budget and the proposed 2016 budget include a budget for Our Church’s Wider Mission and Per Capita with a 10% increase over what our congregations gave in 2012.  Your board and staff are reaching out to the congregations who do not currently give anything to either of these offerings, asking them to give as they can, along with encouraging other congregations to consider reaching for that 10% increase.  Your board and staff are looking for ways to increase other income sources and reduce expenses.  We are currently evaluating a move of our office, seeking to reduce building expenses.  However, our current building expense is minimal.


Where my work has been focused in relation to our Core Values:

Building The Future:  Supporting the Conference Board of Directors in their 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, the organization that manages the operations at camp; staffing the newly formed Pilgrim Pines Mission Keepers, an oversight committee working towards a sustainable future for Pilgrim Pines and outdoor ministries; working with our realtor in the marketing and sale of Conference owned property we have held for sale; working with Felix to explore new possibilities with Conference owned properties that are currently under-utilized; Exploring the possibility of relocating our Conference office; and, of course, serving as your Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operations Officer.  I also completed my M.A. in Ministry, Leadership, and Service at Claremont School of Theology this year.


Equipping Leaders: 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;  Staffing the Southern Association Church & Ministry committee; staffing Youth Roundtable and seeking additional support from our Conference for Youth Ministry; 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, a Workgroup exploring ways to increase diversity, and the Transition and Search Committees.


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; Seeking ways to increase involvement of our diversity in youth ministry.


Understanding the Conference Financials:

During the 2015 Annual Gathering, you will be presented with the financial reports of Fiscal Year 2014, a review on the budget adjustments for 2015, and be asked to adopt a budget for 2016.  You can review the 2014 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.


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 outdoor ministries, provide for additional staff support to focus on church relations and stewardship, and provide church vitality.


As you review the 2014 Financial Report, here are some explanations from our balance sheet (a.k. Statement of Financial Position):

Current Assets: ($1,571,950): Includes our checking account, cash invested in The Cornerstone Fund, Prepaid expenses (insurance, employee benefits, etc).

Accounts Receivable: ($154,690): Includes short term receivables that were collected in early 2015 or converted to a Note Receivable.

Fixed Assets: ($1,977,992): Includes properties owned and in use by the Conference, furniture, and equipment, less accumulated depreciation.

Long Term Assets: ($1,795,785): Includes our investments in United Church Funds, Equity Sharing Agreements, Real Estate Held for Sale and long term notes receivable.

Current Liabilities: ($174,781) These are current liabilities and include such items as the amount of 2014 OCWM, Special Offerings & National Directed Gifts that were collected during November and December and the first week of January (designated for 2014) 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 2014 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 $18,516.  Approximately 2/3rds of our churches support Our Church’s Wider Mission.  You can review giving from each church in 2014 here . The budget for OCWM was a 10% increase above 2012 figures.

Per Capita fell short of budget by $19,032.  If all of our congregations paid the $12 per member Per Capita Dues, we would have seen an increase over budget of more than $21,000.   Approximately 2/3rds of our churches pay Per Capita.  You can review giving by each church in 2014 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 $15,938 under budget in 2014.

Basic Conference Net Loss was lower than anticipated due to the decrease in expenses for 2014.



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 $107,808 under budget.  This is primarily due to the lower than expected development of the Conference Leadership Academy and cancelled plans for use of funds for Church Development.

Overall Net Loss was $245,681 better than budgeted due to the gains earned on investments, and the expense reductions mentioned above.


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.  UCCR had success in 2014, although reported a smaller return than they did in 2013.  Your Outdoor Ministries Team continues to work towards 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 2015.  Volunteer here or help someone else get to camp and donate here.


When UCCR reports positive returns, 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 $120,300 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 2 – 3 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 5th!


Keith Clark

Executive Associate Conference Minister



Other Annual Gathering Reports:

Coming Soon




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