Mr. Miedema is an elder in the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, MI. He has served as a delegate to synod.
Hearing of the high cost of building the new churches in Holland and in Georgetown leads me to believe that as churches we must look at different ways to fund church expansion. I am told that it will cost around 1.7 million dollars for Georgetown’s building. Holland’s building, without the auditorium, cost approximately $950,000. A like sum will still be needed to complete their sanctuary. This is an astronomical amount. With the escalating costs of construction, the day will come when no one will be willing to leave the mother church to form new congregations if the new group is expected to fund the majority of the cost by themselves. If you take the amount which the new group receives when they leave as compared to the value of the facilities, it appears that those who form the new church are left saddled with a very great debt. This is not said to point fingers in any way at those who stay, but it appears to be a fact of life. When one divides the total worth of the present facility by the total number of members to determine the value per member, the amount which is given to the members who leave to start the new church is something less than 50% of the actual value per member.
When people from other churches join in with the group forming the new congregation, the obligation of these other churches (from which these people have come) to contribute is sometimes forgotten. Perhaps it is mistakenly believed that this is the obligation solely of the mother church. A more equitable method of distribution and assistance is necessary.
Because the entire denomination benefits when a new congregation is formed, I suggest that the entire denomination participate in the funding. There is the increased enthusiasm that is generated by the new congregation which is a joy to behold. It is contagious, and this enthusiasm manifests itself in the active participation of the members. Look at the large number who take part in the work and the number who attend the societies when they are formed. There is a feeling of unity and purpose by those members which draws them closer together.
Providing additional pulpits is another benefit. At present, we do not have any vacancies, which in itself is not a healthy situation for the denomination. When new congregations are formed, they provide pulpits for our seminary students, which is another positive.
Anyone who has been to the mission field in Northern Ireland knows firsthand the need of our brothers and sisters there for different facilities. We hear of needs in Singapore, Myanmar, and other places. What a wonderful thing to be able to assist these fellow saints also.
Making our existing buildings larger is not the answer. Congregations of more than 120 families place too great a burden on the pastor and the consistory. The “closeness” which is experienced within a smaller group is lost, as can be seen in the mega-churches around us. Society life suffers, and supervision by the elders is not as good. It becomes impossible for the pastor to teach all the catechism classes.
The financial benefits for our churches in having a special line item on their annual budget for future new church expansion are easily recognized. When a mortgage is taken out by the new church for a period of 30 years, every gift which is given to help that church multiplies around threefold. A gift of $75,000 to that church, which has a mortgage at 8%, would have a realized benefit of around $250,000, since this is the amount which the church would have to pay when the interest is included for 30 years. This gift eliminates those dollars which would have to be borrowed for the entire 30 years and, of even greater impact, the interest on those monies.
A line item for this purpose by all our churches would have a tremendous impact because a “little help” from each church adds up to a substantial amount. And, since each congregation participates on its own, its autonomy is not affected, as it would control the disposition of its funds. Many creative methods of funding are available, and our churches could use them for projects such as these.
When less money has to be borrowed, it makes more funds available for our schools, benevolence, and missions. There are many, many worthwhile causes which cannot always be funded because these causes sometimes compete against each other for the same dollars. By implementing a program such as this, their needs can also be met. This is good stewardship.
May God continue to bless the efforts of our people to form new congregations and give us the means to do so.