Yesterday, Mars Hill executive elders also provided a financial update for members:
We praise Jesus for his grace and faithfulness in caring for Mars Hill Church for 18 years. In January 2014 the church was in the great financial shape. God continued to be faithful, through your gifts, to also help us end the fiscal year strong this past June. Thank you for your support and service, as many have learned about Jesus and countless lives have been changed by Jesus’ work through you.
It is your continued support that is needed now more than ever. While we were able to end the fiscal year strong, giving and attendance have declined significantly since January. Specifically, we have seen a substantial decrease in tithes and offerings these past two months, due to the increase in negative media attention surrounding our church.
We have done much this year to prepare for a decline in giving, such as two rounds of staffing reductions and the cancellation of various events and projects, but we now find ourselves in a tougher financial position than we expected. The drop in giving revenue has exceeded what we have been able to cut in expenses. This has required us to now consider further ways we can reduce expenses, such as additional staffing reductions. The reality is that just because we are a church does not mean we can defy economic gravity—we can only operate the ministries and programs our members and attenders provide the resources for. We simply cannot spend money we do not have; this is true for any church.
Please pray for your church as we make some tough, but needed, financial decisions. If you consider Mars Hill your church home, now is the time to pray, serve, and give. As we head into the Fall we need your support now more than ever, and we are trusting in Jesus to continue his good work through you and Mars Hill Church.
As always, you may can make a gift and manage your giving online at marshill.com/give.
Well, first of all, I would like to ask the executive elders if the budget was adjusted to allow the church to finish strong in June. Sources tell me that the budget had to be amended to reflect the lower giving. Second, there is finally an admission that giving and attendance are down. Two rounds of reductions have taken place.
The reason given is a window into the mindset of the leaders: “increase in negative media attention.” Thanks to their lead pastor, Mars Hill has always had negative media attention. However, now the decline is because that attention has increased, according to the executive elders. Could there be a reason for this season of increased negative media attention?
Hiring Mark DeMoss was certainly a nod to the need for help in the PR domain. I will offer some additional pointers. To decrease negative media attention, follow these tips:
1. Don’t use church funds to manipulate literary best seller lists to make your pastor appear to be a best selling author. In a related tip, don’t cover it up and threaten staff not to disclose this fact. Furthermore, when it is revealed, reduce the number of explanations from three to one that is accurate.
2. Advise the lead pastor to avoid offending people with vulgarities, name-calling and bullying.
3. Don’t spend dedicated funds meant for ministers in third world nations on nice facilities to expand the Mars Hill brand.
4. If you say you are raising money for a Jesus Festival, you should have a pretty big party.
5. Don’t ignore requests for information from media and members. When members want to see the bylaws or know where their money was spent, comply. When media ask for an accounting of how you spend money, disclose that information. Remember, it wasn’t your money and the information is in the public interest. Refusing to disclose looks like you are hiding something. It is not too late to follow this tip.
6. Don’t make technically correct, but misleading statements to the public and press. The press and the public are smart enough to see through that. Eventually even people who want to give you the benefit of the doubt will see through it.
7. Going forward, revamp the whole Board of Elders/BOAA thing. Most of the people who have been appointed to these positions are known vocal and financial supporters of Mark Driscoll. This will all come out soon. The verdict, if favorable to Driscoll, will invite another “increase in negative media attention.” For the sake of balance and fairness, you should appoint some of the nine elders who wrote you a letter to the group who will examine the charges against Rev. Driscoll. Another possibility is that everyone who has presided over the church during the season of increased negative media attention should step aside. The BOAA should change the bylaws to allow the current elders to elect new executives and get a fresh start. I suspect that would lead to a decrease in negative media attention.
I may think of some additional tips. I imagine that people who comment on this post will add some as well.
In short, be more transparent about what you are doing in the name of God. Mars Hill Church has become known for the mysteries it hides more so than for the mysteries of the Gospel it proclaims. This, brothers and sisters, should not be so.