Everyone is aware of and affected in some way by the recent economic downturn. Many analysts believe things have 'bottomed out' and we're on the way up, but only time will tell. Churches aren't immune from the stress and strain that emerges in times of pressure such as this. Tough times affect giving.
In a recent report about the state of the church in America, it was revealed that 19% of churches have recently laid off staff, with many other churches freezing salary levels or reducing ministry costs. This is due to a decrease in church giving. Many non-profit entities have also been hit hard.
Australia has been affected less than America by the current global financial situation. However, there are many churches whose income is down and who have had to lay off staff or downsize ministry activities.
At CityLife, we have been blessed by the continued generosity of our people. However, our giving is considerably lower than we anticipated for this year, though still slightly above last year's giving levels. Over the last month we conducted an entire review of all of our ministries. In addition to our lower than budgeted for income, we discovered that we had an imbalance of resource allocation (staff and budget). Some ministries were being significantly over-resourced in proportion to others who had gradually become significantly under-resourced. As a result, we decided to reduce and realign our staffing budget. This means that there are a number of staff roles that have recently been made redundant, as well as some reduction in hours for other staff, while a number of staff members have taken voluntary redundancy packages. These changes are organisational not personal, although obviously they do affect individuals who we love and appreciate very much. This has not been an easy thing to do. There is nothing worse that having to inform a faithful staff member that their job has been made redundant.
For those staff whose positions have been made redundant, we have given what we consider a generous financial package and the offer of human resources support (such as career counselling, resume creation and interviewing training). Most staff are finishing up fairly soon so as to not prolong this process unnecessarily. One of the reasons we have done this now rather than at the end of the year is to give people ample time to transition into new jobs or situations well before the Christmas and January period where it is much more difficult to look for work.
In addition to this, we are looking at a number of other cost-saving initiatives including closing our bookshop (underway), moving our audio-visual resources online (free weekly audio messages), closing our CONNECT television program (to be replaced by a possible video podcast), and moving towards more web-based communications (we will shortly cease printing of the bi-monthly glossy coloured magazine and replace it with an interactive e-newsletter with hyperlinks to web, as well as a simple black and white bulletin each month for those without internet access).
This has been a period of uncertainty for all of us as a staff team. Pruning is an unpleasant but necessary activity at certain seasons in all of our lives. I would like to commend all of our staff for their excellent attitude during this time. It is very important that churches and ministries pull together during times like these and move forward with a strong sense of unity. This requires continued prayer and support so that transitions such as these are carefully navigated. We trust that God will work everything out for each person's ultimate good.