Christians should not be ignorant about the costs of Christian ministry. Below are some easy-to-read charts which identify and itemise the expenditure of our churches (data from 2012 – updates are coming soon) but it would be as well to read the following text before jumping straight to the pictures.
There is a myth that the church is rich, and that the nobility bankrolls its activity. This may have been true a long time ago in history, but it is no longer. The responsibility for the upkeep of most parish church buildings and the cost of running the different ministries they offer falls squarely upon the shoulders (and wallets) of the worshipping congregation.
There is also a myth that the costs of ministry are low. To be fair, this is probably not a myth ever articulated, but rather a fact which is little considered by most people. When did you last wonder how much it costs the church to do the things it does?
A Dose of Reality
The church buildings in this benefice are all listed buildings and require particular care. A rolling programme of Quinquennial (five-yearly) inspections identifies necessary maintenance work, and often specialist craftsmen with prices to match their expertise are required to undertake the work. Heritage Societies are very keen to make sure the work is carried out, and carried out properly, whilst at the same time not always giving financial assistance (there are so many calls on their money). The government makes little or no provision towards the upkeep of our architectural heritage; if there is any funding, it comes from charitable bodies or from money set aside by the National Lottery.
Then there is the cost of training, paying and housing any full-time clergy (and providing for their pension). The Church of England pays a retainer called a “Stipend” to its clergy which is designed to be a living wage – enough money to keep them from needing to find another job so they can devote their full attention to the cure of souls!
Finally, there are the costs of actually conducting ministry. Like other public buildings and homes, the churches must pay insurance and utility bills, which are, by virtue of the nature of the buildings, all more expensive than apply to the average home. Churches also need to buy things like hymnbooks and wine (for Holy Communion), pay organists and architects, purchase resources for work with children and young people, send people on training courses and produce all kinds of printed documents from letters to service sheets. And Churches often give money away too; the Church of England gives more money to charitable causes every year than the Children in Need telethon!
So where does the money come from? The majority of it comes from people who attend church from week to week either by direct regular donations, by Gift Aid reclaimed on those donations or as a result of their labours in arranging other fund-raising ventures! The chart below shows a simple, if rather rough-and-ready, breakdown.
In the chart, the sum of regular donations from church members, fundraising and Gift Aid payments represents approximately 65% of the total income for the year.
“Other Sources” income includes fees charged for weddings and funerals, returns on investments, gifts from Parish Councils towards churchyard maintenance and one-off gifts like legacies, which this year, were unusually high. It is known that significant sums of money included in this category were also given by church members.
The pie-charts below give some indication of the costs of ministry in the three parishes of this benefice. Full accounts are available on request. (Parish Share is the individual parish’s responsibility towards the financial cost to the whole Church of England of providing clergy for the nation. It is calculated from a complicated formula including factors like regional deprivation statistics and average church attendance so that larger/wealthier parishes support smaller/poorer ones. In this benefice, we receive subsidy in order that we can have a full-time minister.)
During 2013, the PCC expects to pay around £11,000 for the stonework repairs highlighted in the last quinquennial report. The PCC is concerned that giving has remained static for the last three years. This is particularly concerning when costs are known to be rising. Accordingly the budget for 2013 forecasts a deficit on general funds at the year-end. The PCC is committed to increase income so this does not become a reality.
The Quinquennial report on the condition of the building is due in 2013. It is hoped this will not identify major problems, but there will undoubtedly be matters to which we must attend. The cost associated with maintaining the churchyard is expected to rise again in 2013 as the new area is included in the contract.
This year, costs have again exceeded income, so our reserves have been reduced. Furthermore, the 2011 Quinquennial report has identified a number of areas for expenditure in relation to the upkeep of the building, and unavoidable costs (e.g. insurance and utilities) are expected to rise again during 2013. In view of the fact that costs can be reduced no further, the PCC has no option but to find ways of increasing its income.