"On January 26, Dr. Scott Self, Chair of our Finance Committee, shared these words with our congregation in worship. It was a powerful moment in our sanctuary, and I share them with you now. For those who were not there, I ask you to prayerfully consider them. For those who were there, physically or virtually, I hope you will visit them again." 

Good Morning, I’m Scott Self and I am coming before you this morning on behalf of the Finance Committee. 

My family has been a part of this church for 20 years. Because neither Deana nor I have parents in TN, this church has become our family. When preparing to speak to you, I came to the realization that with all families, sometimes we just have to have difficult discussions. This is one of those times. 

About a year and a half ago, we as a committee began to see a bothersome trend in that our sole source of income, the tithing dollars that we receive on a weekly basis from the congregation, was beginning to decline. Because of this, several actions were taken to adjust our expenses so we could continue to operate in a financially responsible manner.

Since that time, we have seen the trend continue to the extent that we felt it was necessary to have a candid financial discussion. 

We are basically a million dollar a year company. Give or take a few thousand dollars, our operational budget is a million dollars. In 2019, our pledges as a result of our Stewardship Campaign were just shy of $800,000. Doesn’t take a mathematical wizard to realize that we needed an additional $200,000 to break even. We finished the year with $900,000 in tithes and gifts. Thanks in large part to our pastors and staff, several expense adjustments were made so that we finished the year with a financial loss of just $66,000. Please don’t misunderstand my statement of “just $66,000” as a dismissal of the loss; it’s just that it could have been much worse. 

Moving forward to 2020, again realizing that we are basically a million dollar operation, our Stewardship Campaign in November received pledges of $600,000. If that number holds true and our tithes and gifts for 2020 are $600,000, we are facing some significant decisions in the near future. 

The most obvious discovery when considering our declining funds is that our total number of tithing units has decreased significantly. In other words, the number of families that tithe to this church on a regular basis is considerably less than it was just a few years ago. Like many religious organizations, we have had members pass, we have had members leave our community and we have had members leave our church. Also, like many other churches, we have members that choose not to participate in the Stewardship campaigns, nor do they choose to tithe. 

We are also mindful that the impending decision facing the Global United Methodist Church at General Conference in May is having a direct impact on our gifts and tithes as well. A quick Google search on the United Methodist Church produces numerous headlines about a denominational divide. None of us can be certain of the voting outcome nor its impact on our Global Church. What we can be certain of though is, this church, Dyersburg First United Methodist Church, is so much more than one decision being made at the General Conference level. We are a church driven to serve those within our body as well as those outside these walls. We are a vital part of many missions and ministries within our community and extending to the far corners of the world. And most importantly, we are a family. We love one another, we stand by one another, and we support one another. 

At the end of the Team Leader Jump Start retreat yesterday, we broke off into our committees and discussed many things, one of which was “why are you serving on this committee?” Keith Guthrie shared a powerful thought in his answer and with his permission I would like to share it with you. Keith said there are many committees in the church he’d much rather serve on than Finance. However, you have to consider this: my children were born and baptized in this church. They were confirmed here and walked down this aisle in their cap and gown celebrating graduation. They were married here and, unfortunately, we had to have a funeral for one here as well. This church has been a part of every aspect of my life. How can I not serve it in any capacity asked of me? That’s the story of our church, not one vote being taken in Minneapolis in May, but rather a commitment to each other, through good times and bad, for richer and for poorer. 

When someone steps forward to join our family, they are asked the very important question: will you support this church with your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness? All five of these are critical but today, I’m asking you to prayerfully consider your gifts and tithes to our church. If you have not made a financial commitment to this church for the 2020 year, we ask that you please do so in the form of a pledge. If you have made your pledge for the year, I ask that you reconsider your level of commitment. When prayerfully considering these things, I ask that you remember this: as we have all experienced great joys and overwhelming losses and disappointments, this church family has been there to celebrate and support us through these times. It is now more important than ever that we return the support to our church family.