2014 Year End Gift: Explanation and Description

GLOBAL MINISTRY OPPORTUNITIES

year-end-02

HPC MISSIONARY SUPPORT: This money allows us to give our missionaries a Christmas gift and encourage them and their families during the holidays. In addition to that, many missionaries are below the amount they need to stay on the field. As other churches shrink in size and as missionaries who stay on the field for long terms are forgotten, new sources of funding have to be built-in to keep those missionaries on the field in a way in which they are adequately resourced and not constantly coming back to the United States for funding. This funding helps make that possible.

CHURCH PLANTING:  We have supported a few church plants over the years, and this giving line is set aside to support whatever church plants come our way this year whose leadership and vision we strongly support. Church plants are great testing grounds for innovation. They tend to lead more people to Christ than larger more established churches. They put pressure on churches like ours to keep growing in excellence. They reach people that we could not. There are lots of good reasons to plant churches, and every local church should be involved in church planting, both domestically and internationally. We support church plants that:

  • are gospel-centered
  • have well vetted planters
  • are planting somewhere strategic

When deciding which church plants to support, we must make the decision prayerfully and strategically. We want to invest in what God’s investing in, and we also want to invest in church plants that we reasonably believe will do well. A high percentage of church plants fail in the first three years, so deciding which church plants to support is an important consideration.

D.R. PARTNERSHIP: We are in the second year of a 10-year developmental partnership in the Dominican Republic. $10,000 will capitalize the purchase of an SUV for Martires, the leader of Hands of Hope, our in-country ministry organization partner. Providing Martires with adequate transportation will allow him to get to all the the communities his ministry serves, as well as allow him to serve all the other churches and partnerships that his ministry facilitates. Martires is one of the long-term missionaries whom we support through our global missions budget. The other $3,000 will be used to train and equip pastors in the community with theological training so they can lead their churches.

REDEEM INDIA: Redeem India is a modular training ministry created to provide contextualized theological education for the thousands of uneducated Christian pastors in India. As many as 80% of India’s Bible graduates do not go into full-time ministry. The English training they receive in the Bible colleges often allows them to get better middle-class jobs than a small, rural local church can provide. So for many, the education provided in Bible schools does not make it back to the rural churches of India. Meanwhile, thousands of pastors who have received absolutely no formal training labor in these churches everyday. Their lack of training often produces a lower level of fruitfulness and a higher level of persecution for themselves and their churches. Redeem India provides contextualized ministry training in order to improve their fruitfulness and decrease the amount of unnecessary persecution Christians in the Indian church must face. Redeem India is a new ministry, but we have already seen high level of effectiveness in its ministry model and through its leader, Manohar James, who is finishing his PhD in missions at Asbury Seminary. 

LOCAL MINISTRY OPPORTUNITIES                                      year-end-01

THE FAITH PLACE AND THEIR HAITI MISSION: High Point has partnered with a predominantly African-American church on the East side called The Faith Place. The Faith Place is a fairly young church. They just moved into their own building a couple of years ago. They are now trying to start a global missions program, even while most of their members are living near the poverty level in Madison. This money will help them start their missions partnership in Haiti, rebuilding churches that were destroyed there some years ago. The Faith Place will use this money for match grants and as seed money to inspire and encourage their congregation to give sacrificially toward global missions in the context of a developmental partnership.

CARENET: CareNet is a ministry for women who are pregnant and seeking options besides abortion or are seeking help in making a decision concerning abortion. CareNet provides ultrasounds, counseling and other services for these women. One of their ministries, the Elizabeth House, even provides a place for women to stay for the duration of their pregnancies while helping them with job marketability and preparing them for the work of parenting and caring for the child. It is one of the only places in the city for women to go when they are in this situation.

NEHEMIAH FDN ACE SUMMER PROGRAM: The Nehemiah Foundation serves children who come from poor backgrounds and who may already be falling behind in school. The program is fun, educational, and spiritually formational. Pastor Alex Gee says that students in their after-school and summer programs have a graduation rate of approximately 90%, which is much higher than their statistical peers. Right now, we are test-driving this ministry for the second year and trying to make sure it is as good an investment as it seems. We will sponsor approximately ten children this year for their summer program, and we may partner with them in more ways in the future.

HOPE AND A FUTURE: Hope and a Future is an inter-generational micro-community designed to provide a dignified community for frail elderly people as an alternative to a nursing home. It is designed to partner young families with single mothers who may need love and advice with older people who need physical help. The program is already being studied by the University of Wisconsin, and we have hope that this will provide a model for the dignified care of elderly people in the future.

MIDDLETON HS STUDENT-LED MEALS: Several mothers and their teenage students have started a mealtime at Middleton High School where as many as eighty students come to discuss spiritual things during their school day. The food for these events is relatively expensive, but the opportunity is exciting. When this many students coming together to discuss spiritual things in a public high school through an unofficial program and at the initiation of young people themselves, we need to get behind it. Let’s see what happens.

INTERNAL MINISTRY OPPORTUNITIES     

year-end-03

STAFF CHRISTMAS GIFT 2014: This allows us to give a Christmas gift to our staff members, many of whom work for much less than they could make with similar skills in the secular workforce. Working for a church, for most people, is a significant financial sacrifice. It’s great to be able to give them a gift and show them our appreciation at the time of year when we celebrate most God’s generosity to us.

WEST RAMP RECONSTRUCTION: The first impression all visitors have of High Point when they enter the West ramp is a terrible scraping sound under their car. We need to reconstruct the Western ramp so that this is no longer the case. Like most people, we hate to spend money on this kind of thing – especially to redo this kind of thing. However, this an important part of responsible maintenance of the facility God has entrusted us with, and it is an act of hospitality to everyone who comes on this campus.

RESERVE FUND ADDITION: In order for us to pay all of our capital expenses each year as we go, we have to set aside approximately $68,000. This is mainly because no money was set aside for this for more than a decade. The church was struggling, and the leadership of that time either wasn’t able to or didn’t choose to set aside what would be needed in the future. The good news is that we are able now. We can also make sure that this is not a problem for the generation that will come after us. It is my goal that when today’s teenagers and twenty-somethings end up in charge, they will have the blessing of no debt, adequate capital reserve to pay for things that break, and a modest operational expense reserve fund so that the church doesn’t live hand to mouth financially. I believe we will be there in ten years, which would get us there approximately ten years early. I think that’s exciting. But for two more years, we will have to have this $25,000 in our year-end gift until it can be fully placed in the annual budget.

WHAT IF WE GIVE MORE, LIKE LAST YEAR?

Plan for Overage: Anything given over the $96,700 will be dispersed and spent at the discretion of the elder board after the deduction of 15% of the overage going directly to the Global Mission Discretionary Fund.

I’m one of the few pastors in America who has to be concerned about his church being uncharacteristically generous. The elders and I all consider it an essential value that we demonstrate constant fiscal discipline in order to build trust with everyone in the congregation. I also don’t want to be one of those churches that is always asking for more money from the congregation. I think it’s wrong to constantly push people to give more and more. And yet, I want people to know that there are great opportunities to partner with people in ministry and many things we have yet to do that will cost money.

Because our staff is growing, and we have five interns currently in the recruitment process, we may need more offices soon. We have a team developing a plan for where we can create more offices within the building, but that’s going to require some construction money.

We also have an acoustic corrections plan for the sanctuary. Most people don’t realize this, but the music in our sanctuary sounds a lot louder than it is, causing some people to feel like the music isn’t loud enough while others are actually physically in pain because it feels too loud. That’s partly because the sound is loud in some of the wrong ways, and yet not very loud in some of the best ways. But the acoustic corrections have a price tag of about $20,000. That’s why we haven’t done it yet. We’d love to.

If we could put more money in the capital reserve fund, we might feel free to take it out of the year-end gift for next year. We need an operational reserve fund so that when opportunities come our way we can take them. Remember, when most businesses have a new idea or something they feel like they need to try, they usually take on debt in order to try it. We can’t do that. If we want to try new things in the moment and be free to seize opportunities when they come along, we actually have to have money saved and set aside for just such a thing. Some churches have a “winds of the spirit” fund, a fund specifically set aside for when we see God doing something that we want to be a part of, like those meals at Middleton HS right now.

In addition to this, we have a waiting list of three or four homegrown missionaries, people who’ve been going to High Point Church and feel called to the mission field.

And lastly, we want to invest in training our staff, making sure they have the equipment they need, and funding our ministries better (if you look at the budget you’ll find they have very small budgets to do what they do).

I don’t tell you this because we need more money. I just want everybody to understand that there is no shortage of opportunities. It’s the job of the elders and leaders of the church to encourage people to be generous, but to also be content with what they give and to show financial discipline in a very rigorous way. It’s our job to make sure that we don’t overspend and that we live within our means. It’s our job to make sure that we never ask people to out give our unwillingness to make hard choices and do what we should do as leaders. And yet, I never want that to be a wet blanket on your generosity. I spend hours and hours every year to try to make sure that every dollar that comes into High Point is being used in a way that every sacrificial giver can be happy with, that will make them feel like their sacrifice was worth it.

I know people at High Point every year decide they will go without things because of their generosity. You go on more modest vacations. You don’t buy the nicest car you could afford. You don’t go out to eat as much as you could. And some people make much greater sacrifices than those. I try to carry that around with me when we make financial decisions, not so that it will make me stingy, but so that it will make me courageous – both to say no and to say yes. But I want you to know that we will respond to whatever level of generosity the church puts forward with an equal level of discipline and action to invest that money in God’s work the best way we know how.

SOME FINAL WORDS ON WHERE WE ARE FINANCIALLY:

For some time I’ve been talking about getting us to a “fully financially responsible budget.” What I mean by that is that we can

  1. Pay all of our bills
  2. Pay all of our debts
  3. Pay for all of the depreciation of our assets and facilities.

We accrue all kinds of bills everyday. We have a payment for our mortgage. And everything we own is falling apart a little bit everyday. We need to save a little bit everyday in order to pay for what is in the process of breaking before it happens. I also believe that we need to save a certain amount of money into financial reserves – basically a savings account – for unexpected hard times or unprecedented opportunities.

We’re getting really close to that. Four years ago, it was way beyond our reach. We were struggling just to get by. In the last four years, we have increased our budget, added more staff, and made progress in all of these areas. Two years ago, when we had a number of heating and cooling units break, it was an emergency. This year we had four break, and it was just a Wednesday. We just wrote the checks because we had the money already saved and in the proper account. That account is now partly in our budget, and partly in our year-end gift. In two years, I believe it will all be in our budget, and hopefully we won’t have to think about it again for a long time. $20,000 is already in the annual budget; we have $48,000 more to go.

In two to three years, our five-year loan for our building will come up for renegotiation. At that time, I believe the interest rates are going to be somewhat higher than they are now, perhaps significantly. I think it’ll be a really good time for us to do a debt reduction campaign. This will allow us to pay many thousands of dollars less towards financing, and allow us to pay off the building much sooner. This will free up a significant number of dollars in our annual budget that can be used to pay off the debt even faster, since it will all be applied to principal or to be used for other ministries, primarily, global missions. I suspect we will split the budget amount that will be freed up about 50-50: 50% to increasing the speed at which we pay off the remaining debt (if we don’t pay it all off) and 50% towards ministry, with a certain percentage of that going to global missions.

GETTING MISSIONS TO 15%:

If you watch the Blueprint videos, you’ll soon know that I said I thought we could get our budgeted amount to global missions from 10% to 15% over the next five years. I know that sounds very ambitious, but I think it’s really doable. First, if we increase our giving to missions by a half percent next year, and increase our increase by a quarter percent each year, that will get us to 15% in five years.

Year 1: .50%                           Total: .50%
Year 2: .75%                           Total: 1.25%
Year 3: 1.0%                           Total: 2.25%
Year 4: 1.25%                         Total: 3.50%
Year 5: 1.50%                         Total: 5%

This is not official High Point policy. I can’t promise we’re going to be able to do this. However, I find that difficult goals can only be reached by starting with some kind of concrete plan. We can only get from here to there by moving, whether it’s by a little or a lot. This is the plan I expressed to the elders recently and to some folks on our missions team. This is the scheme I have in my head. I’m praying and hoping we can do it.

Also, remember that if we do a debt reduction campaign in two to three years, then even if we have fallen behind in the first couple years, we could still more than catch up in the third year if the campaign goes well. Whatever we are able to do, having a concrete plan in our minds will help us accomplish something very few churches in America even attempt – to get their giving to global missions over 10%.

One last consideration: we can only accomplish this if people are not only generous with their money but also with their time and talents. You may have read what I wrote above and feel like you don’t have a lot of money to give. Well, if you don’t, you don’t. However, one of the main reasons why churches don’t give much to anyone outside their church is because they have to hire so many staff to accomplish what needs to be done inside the church. This is because the people inside the church don’t do the ministry of the church; they hire people to do it. But if we didn’t have to hire lots of people to do the ministry we are called to do – if we did it ourselves – then we would save huge amounts of money which we could give to others who can’t do the ministry themselves.

If you don’t have any money, you can still be part of these goals. You can serve. You can give your time. You can help build up other people in the faith. You can still make a huge contribution. And remember, Jesus sees all of our gifts in proportion to how much sacrifice is involved in our giving.

AN IMPORTANT ROLE:

Lastly, I’m looking for a couple great facilitators for Financial Peace University. We have done this class a number of times and it has made a huge difference in people’s lives. Very few people ever learn about how financial freedom is achieved, and feeling like you are in financial bondage is the norm, not the exception. We have seen piles of people and families experience freedom from unwise debt and fear about their futures. We have seen people make bold decisions about their futures that past debts would have made impossible. We do this to help people live free. Yet, one side effect is that people always grow in generosity. When they get to the point that they have something to give, they do.

If you would like to volunteer, come and talk to us. We might have a place for you. If you haven’t taken the class. Keep your eyes open. It’s coming.

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