Happy New Year! As each year goes by, it’s nice to take a moment and think about where we have come from and what our goals are for the new year. This year, we close out one decade and begin another one.
Where have we come from?
This congregation is nothing if not busy! The west building project is completing its fourth year of planning. They have met with Laborers for Christ, with Puetz, and with one another dozens and dozens of time. This fall, a vote to proceed with an official project failed by just a few votes, and the great part is we had asked for 70% to pass it! During this time, great improvements have been made on our site. From paving the parking lot, buying and razing three houses to the north, a new furnace and boiler, and lowering our chimney, our trustees have certainly been busy this decade.
Regarding spiritual care, it’s been a busy decade there, too. We thank God 166 baptisms since January 1, 2010! We changed our office computer software in 2016, so the exact number of funerals for the decade is hard to come by, but there were 45 since April of 2016. We also thank God that we confirmed 122 saints into communion fellowship here at Zion. In addition to all that, we had over 50 weddings during the last ten years. The ministry at Zion touches a lot of lives!
Outside the congregation, we are blessed for opportunities to serve in our community and region. Zion continues to be a popular place for District events like meetings, dart ball, and more where we practice our hospitality. Pastor Grimmer and Brown are both involved throughout the district in various positions.
To date, we have 341 households under the spiritual care of Zion, which is 768 members. 681 people attended worship this year (and filled out a card), which is up from 586 last year.
Where are we going?
With so much going on around us, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important things. That is just as true in the church as it is anywhere else in life.
As I often say, what we do at Zion isn’t supposed to work. The world tells us we need to continue to twist and bend to the whims of our world. The world says that to grow we need to not just be forgiving of sexual immorality, but affirming of it. The world says that to grow we need to focus less on historic Christianity and more on insights into sociology.
We don’t do that. And yet, we continue to grow, or at least hold our own
Here is why I think that is true: Zion is the largest non-Roman Catholic church in town that is dedicated to confessional, traditional worship and teaching. I believe that – more than anything – this is our biggest strength. Our identity is found in Jesus, not in the cool fad of the day. Our teachings come from the Word of God, not the words of the world. Our style of worship and education is timeless. It has truly stood the test of many centuries of time.
The great temptation of a church today is to bend to the will of the world, and to give itching ears what they want to hear. The temptation is there because the devil is also there, telling church leaders that such “flexibility” will bring in the numbers. But according to demographic research, the more flexible, loose, and liberal a denomination’s teachings, the faster their decline. Sure, there are anecdotal examples of individual congregations that beat the odds for a while. Usually, that involves a cult of personality – and when the personality leading the church leaves, so do the people. It is churches like ours that are not built on personalities, but on the solid, unchanging Word of God that have stood and will continue to stand the test of time.
|Annual General Fund Offerings||2017||2018||2019|
|$0.01 and $500||96||85||71|
|$500 and $1,000||39||31||42|
|$1,000 and $2,500||56||55||55|
|$2,500 and $5,000||38||32||31|
|$5,000 and $10,000||11||13||11|
|Memorials, Building or other unique special offerings may not be represented.|
How will we get there?
There is one metric that could be improved: financial giving. At the time of writing, it’s hard to see how we will fully support our budget in 2019. Certainly, our offerings are not keeping pace with our membership growth.
Here is a graph I included in the letter to our donors. Let me first say I am incredibly humbled by the generosity of so many people! It is encouraging to see the number of low givers dropping, and the 2nd level of givers rising! But we have a steady decline of named givers over the past few years. Overall, while we are underfunding our budget, our giving is fairly steady, even with fewer givers. God be praised! God help us improve, as well.
Consider this: The US Census Bureau estimates that the average household income in our zip code is right around $50,000. Assuming our members are something like the average, if every household increased their support by 1% of their income, that would be an increase of over $126,000. If we all increase our giving by even a small amount, it will pay off in a huge way in our budget. If you are already supporting generously, then please accept our big-hearted thanks for your incredible generosity!
Did you know that our electronic offerings are more than 29% of our income? That’s up from 20% a year ago! If you’d like information on how to support Zion through electronic giving, bequests, or even from your IRA, please talk to Doug Nelson, one of the pastors, the church office, or sign up at ZionMitchell.Org.
Where are we right now?
As we give thanks to God for 127 years of ministry at Zion, humanly speaking, we are blessed to trust that we have many years ahead of us. But whatever happens, we know how the story ends. Christ has already won the victory. We literally can’t lose! Happy 2020!