At the last Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches, a decision was taken which directly affects the financing of the mission work of the churches. It was a rather momentous decision, a departure from the ordinary practice of the churches to raise necessary funding through Synodical assessments. Yet few have been made aware of the decision. The Acts of the last Synod (at the time of the writing of this article) have not yet been distributed. The consistories have been informed of the decision under consideration, but even there some misunderstanding has arisen. The purpose of this article is to call attention to this action of Synod and to encourage our people to respond generously.
Briefly, Synod decided to raise a part of the funds for our mission labors through collections (four of them) in the churches during the year of 1976.
The Mission Committee presented to Synod a proposed budget for mission work. After revision through Synodical decisions, that budget included the following: $10,000 for radio broadcasting; $5,000 to send emissaries for two to three months to Jamaica; $35,300 for domestic missions; $5,000 for work in other fields of labor. The total amount adopted by Synod in this mission budget was $55,300.
The mission committee estimated that of this amount, $9,000 would be raised through collections on the various mission fields. This is itself a remarkable fact. This represents about 16% of the total mission budget or about 22% of the amount needed for our “home” missions (excluding radio and Jamaica missions).
Synod, in adopting an assessment for missions, took into account that there was a surplus in the mission funds. It estimated that for 1976, $6,300 could be used of accumulated funds in the mission account. Some of this balance arose when we assessed the churches for two home missionaries before these had accepted the call extended to them.
The assessments which Synod levied for mission work were $40.00 per family per year. This represented a drop of $3.00 per family from the previous year. The $40.00 assessment would raise from our 875 families a total of $35,000.
The difference between the total amount budgeted, and the amount raised by assessments and the collections from the mission field and from the surplus of last year, is $5,000.
It was in connection with this $5,000 figure that the Mission Committee came to Synod with the following proposal: “We ask Synod to authorize four mission collections per year in the churches. Ground: Many families feel they would like to contribute directly to mission work. Estimated receipts: $5,000.” The Synodical committee which presented its advice to Synod on this proposal, recommended adoption. And the Synod itself adopted the proposal (as I recall, without debate) in Article 102 of the Acts, “Motion is made to adopt II E 3 of Committee I Report that Synod authorize four mission collections per year in the churches. Ground: Many families feel they would like to contribute directly to mission work (cf. E 7 of the Mission Committee report) Carried.”
So—in harmony with Synod’s decision, $5,000 must be raised in 1976 by taking four collections in each of our churches. Each family will have to contribute an average of $6.00 per year in these four collections (or, $1.50 per family per collection). That is not much—but it will be needed to balance the budget Synod adopted.
The decision however, marks a change of course, howbeit slight, for our churches. In the past, the Synod has been inclined to raise required funds by assessing the churches annually. Within the congregations, families willingly paid their prescribed budgets—yet hardly could distinguish what their gifts supported. One might vaguely recall that something like $180.00 per family per year represented Synodical assessments. Yet, how this was divided into which funds, few would know. Assessments seem to be the easy way of raising required funds.
Nevertheless, it has become evident repeatedly that when the people of our churches are aware of a real need, they respond even beyond that which is expected or asked. The erection and payment of our Seminary Building is an example. Instead of assessing the churches over a period of ten or fifteen years to pay for this building, Synod asked for voluntary contributions. None was required to give. What was presented was given in love and in the consciousness of the need. Now, after only a few years, the contributions and pledges will more than pay for our Seminary Building. The overwhelming support was simply more than any of the Theological School Committee had dared hope for.
Perhaps that experience was part of the motivation of the Mission Committee to propose raising some of the funds for mission work through voluntary giving in four collections. The amount needed is relatively small. There ought to be no difficulty raising it. But this will represent voluntary gifts of God’s people who, in their giving, are aware of the fact that it will be used for a specific purpose: for the preaching of the Word of God in other places.
But just suppose, once, that our people overwhelmingly also supported this idea of contributing voluntarily to the mission fund through collections—and far, far more was given above that which Synod anticipates. That could only mean that the Synod of 1976 would be compelled to reduce again the assessments for missions because of the willingness of God’s people to contribute voluntarily. (In fact, $53.00 per family per year or $12.50 per collection per family would raise all that we need to carry out our proposed mission work in 1976.) If voluntary contributions would raise that much, then assessments would no longer be necessary for mission work. None would be paying any more than they do now through assessments—the difference would be that our contributions would be more meaningful and voluntarily given for a cause which is dear to the hearts of each of us.
How are you going to respond?
The last Synod also took other decisions of which the churches ought to be aware, approving the taking of collections in the churches to provide for certain necessities of the five ministers who presently labor in Jamaica with their brethren. The Synod approved the recommendation of the Mission Committee that the four young ministers in Jamaica be paid $10 per week each for living expenses and $10 per week each for travel expenses (the Rev. Elliott receives also this latter amount for travel). The total amount needed annually is $4,680. But again, Synod did not levy an assessment to raise this amount. The Synod rather approved the request of the Mission Committee that collections (the number was not specified) be taken in the churches to raise this sum. At the present time, however, the mission committee is embarrassed by the fact that it does not have the funds to pay these laborers in God’s vineyard in harmony with the decisions of Synod. Our churches, perhaps, have not been impressed sufficiently with the need and the Synodical decision with regard to their recommendation for help. We trust that our God will lay upon our hearts a willingness to give in harmony with this need. Collections taken for this cause ought to be sent to Rev. R. Van Overloop who is serving as treasurer of this fund