Friday, May 24, 2013

Soundtracks to a Budget Process

Last night, we had a budget meeting.  It's part of a long process wherein we try to drain the potential negative energy out of the process.  We present the proposed budget to the congregation during a week night.

We used to have long meetings after church--long, ugly meetings.  People were already there, so they stayed, and during coffee hour, we'd present the budget.  We always hoped that the coffee hour element would help people stay civilized.  It did not.

Now, we are happy to meet with people as long as they'd like, but in a different setting, one where newcomers won't see us at our worst.  We also require people to make some effort.  We've had much less ugliness after adopting this approach.

Now we hold our congregational vote on the budget during part of a worship service.  It's an up or down vote--no conversation.  If you want conversation/debate/discussion, you come to the week night presentation.

Last night was a bit surreal.  Our fellowship hall has 2 wings.  We met in one, while the drama group that uses our space with a stage met in the other.  They were having their end of the year talent show.

So, we talked about the budget with lots of different background music, like that song which says, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  Later in the evening, Annie sang "It's a hard knock life."

We had to admit that our congregational life was not so hard knock.  We have some issues, like a lot of roof repair to be done.  But we have resources.

And it's important to remember the message of abundance that we get over and over again in the Gospels.  In some of those Gospels, Jesus begins his ministry by turning water into wine for a wedding feast--and not just any wine, but good wine.  Jesus expands a simple lunch of loaves and fishes into enough for everyone--with 12 baskets of leftovers.

That message of abundance is one that doesn't often come through during budget meetings.  Could we shift our budget process to one of embracing abundance instead of minimizing ugliness?

It's a vision worth keeping.

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