The Synodical Council (SC) held its regular winter meeting on February 24-25. At that meeting it finalized and approved the 2017-19 Ministry Financial Plan (budget) it will recommend to the synod convention this summer.
Areas of ministry began work on the plan in April 2016 with a directive from the SC that the planning should assume no increase in synod support. The directive was given in view of declining Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) and flat support from other sources.
Last November, the SC reviewed the support forecast, and although the forecast hadn’t improved, the SC determined that ministry needs justified greater use of reserves. At its February meeting, the SC approved the 2017-19 support forecast and affirmed that a $3.2 million drawdown of reserves in the Financial Stabilization Fund (FSF) was prudent based on ministry needs and opportunities.
The FSF still has a healthy balance for the short term, but the SC recognizes that this level of drawdown is not sustainable in the long term. Inflationary pressures are increasing costs 3.5 percent annually and the SC hopes that congregations, through the efforts of the Conference of Presidents, will increase their CMO by at least that amount annually, so that ministry programs and services do not need to be cut.
The support forecast, which includes CMO, bequests, grants, and gifts, shows a slight improvement over the current year as CMO is planned to grow 0.5 percent annually. In addition, lower-than-expected operating and debt retirement costs, plus the gift of a closed congregation’s property are projected to increase reserves.
This overall improvement enabled the SC to approve a Ministry Financial Plan that includes a modest increase (approximately one percent) in synod support each year of the next biennium. The plan maintains the level of ministry in all areas. It provides funding for a Director of Discipleship who will oversee the Commission on Youth and Family Ministry and the Commission on Adult Discipleship. It also provides an additional Christian Giving Counselor in the second year of the biennium, a partial adoption of the recommendation from a special committee that has conducted a review of the Ministry of Christian Giving. The plan also includes a list of unfunded priorities that will be addressed if additional funds become available.
In other business, the SC:
- Adopted a number of bylaw changes that will be presented to the synod convention in July.
- Heard a presentation from Martin Luther College regarding its strategic plan and its recommendations for addressing the needs of its campus master plan.
- Reviewed the report of the Capital Projects Committee, which has been working to identify and prioritize the capital needs of the synod.
- Adopted a long-range plan for 2017-25 that will be recommended to the synod convention in July.
- Modified the spending plan to enable the Conference of Presidents to begin calling for the Director of Discipleship in April.
- Appointed Mr. Michael Brereton to the WELS Foundation Board; Mr. Seth Hansen and Mr. John Wenker to the WELS Investment Funds Board; and re-appointed Mr. Joel Luehmann to the WELS Investment Funds Board.
- Reviewed and made minor adjustments to the policies governing the Financial Stabilization Fund, unfunded priorities, and the rate of distribution from permanently restricted funds.
- Endorsed in concept the report and recommendations from the Compensation Review Committee that will be considered by the synod convention in July.
As happens at every meeting, the SC also received reports from all of the departments and entities for which it is responsible.
Unless events in the coming months dictate otherwise, the SC will not need to meet for its scheduled meeting in April.
Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder
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