Earlier this week, Randy Wray made a little post about New Year’s Resolutions that got me to thinking about a common experience we share.
The tradition in most churches is to have a budget presentation at the end or beginning of each year. Different churches follow different procedures on this, but the tradition in Arlington was to have the first sermon time of the new year alloted for reviewing last year’s giving and this year’s budget. The unfortunate elder who was tapped to make this presentation last year did as good a job as could be done. Unfortunately, there is very little one can do to spice up a budget presentation. I love to hear the adjectives that float around after a business meeting like this. I won’t repeat them, but they are fun to hear.
On the first Sunday of 2006, a young lady attended worship at Arlington for the first time. She had called several days earlier wondering how to start going to church. She didn’t have any experience with Christianity but had become convinced that she needed to give it a shot. Her New Year’s Resolution was to attend church. Little did she know that her first experience was going to be "Budget Sunday".
One of the things that I really admired about this young lady was her openness. At some point following the budget presentation and before our next elders/ministers meeting, she approached Randy and said, "You may want to consider doing that at another time. Some of us who are here are trying to fulfill New Year’s Resolutions". I still laugh every time I think about it. While the elders were already considering changing the format of Budget Sunday, this story really helped them make the decision to dissolve the practice.
There were a couple of "a-ha" moments for me in this encounter. First, there are still many things we can do for our worship services to make visitors feel more comfortable. Driving out the needlessly boring is a good start. Second, we need to be more sensitive to the thoughts and thinking of those outside the church. We have different motivators than some do, and we need to be able to respond with encouragement and support. If we think New Year’s Resolutions are silly and that is what brings people to church, we should find a better way of addressing the topic than to share our inner thoughts on that one.
So, for those of you who were hoping for a budget presentation this year… sorry! Last year we made a New Year’s Resolution to not do them anymore.