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Fun with Funds

The title of this week’s B&P should be an indication of just how lame it is. But, sometimes, we need to get into the lame, because, thankfully, that’s where a lot of life is lived. This week’s discussion was inspired by a conversation I had with a colleague last week, serving a part-time appointment that is in fairly poor financial shape. My colleague lamented that they could not pay their bills, while their designated fund accounts held a lot of cash. Of course, Finance wants to draw on those funds, but can’t. So, it struck me that we should have a short primer on designated funds here at NBUMC.

The United Methodist Book of Discipline runs some 800 pages, give or take a few. In all that, the subject of Designated Funds takes one whole sentence! It strikes me a bit like the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. While other amendments are wordy and filled with legalese, the second is basically one sentence. "Move on to the other amendments, nothing to see here,” it almost communicates. Likewise, here is what the BOD says about designated funds: “Contributions designated for specific causes and objects shall be promptly forwarded according to the intent of the donor and shall not be used for any other purpose (Para. 258.4.{f}).”

Let’s take a look at “shall not be used for any other purpose.” If money is given for a widget ministry and a widget ministry is never launched, the funds are frozen forever, or until the church closes, in which case the Conference Trustees can use the funds for real ministry. Monies given to the General Fund, on the other hand, can be used at the discretion of the Finance Team to carry out the ministry and life of the church.

Here is a brief recap of the Funds at NBUMC as of 7/31/22: Elevator Fund: $11,995, Bequests: $10,051, Building Fund: $6,387, Memorials: $1,070, Youth/Camp: $364, and, Good Samaritan: $375. Two items above pop out.

First, the Elevator Fund. This is a worthy cause if we used more than one floor of our building, and if there was actually a place to put an elevator that would service all three levels (Keep in mind that Fellowship Hall is on its own level). Contributions continue to come in for this fund and we have no choice but to designate them, effectively freezing the funds until the end of NBUMC, or our building a new building with an elevator. $12,000 are simply not available to do ministry. The fact of the matter is there will not be an elevator built at our current location.

The other, and I’m lumping in Bequests and Memorials is slightly over $11,000. We do not have a Memorial/Endowment Team, governed by the BOD, so we will have to puzzle through the intent of the giver(s). Traditionally, when a bequest is made, a letter of intention is requested, informing the Finance Team how to best employ the funds to honor the deceased and do relevant ministry. The Finance Team should review its guidelines to provide clarity for the use of these funds.

The other funds are pretty self-explanatory in terms of how they should and can be used in ministry.

So, here is the take-away from all of this. Designated funds are an excellent way to provide seed money for or to fund specific ministries not included in the General Budget. However, care needs to be taken by the giver to ensure that funds will actually be deployed and by the Finance Team in accepting said gifts.

Statistically, the vast majority of UM congregations that close do so with money in the bank; frozen as designated funds.

Please, prayerfully rethink designating your giving to the church.

Our work in Hebrews continues Sunday. I am envisioning a massive marathon, which concludes in a venue like the Rose Bowl, with a great cloud of witnesses cheering the runners on. It’s always great to have home field advantage.

See you Sunday,


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