The budget formation committee of Executive Council has released a preliminary draft of the 2019 budget. The budget, which will be finalized over the summer and voted on at diocesan convention in November, is published in draft form each spring to allow for input from members of the diocese.
This year’s budget draft represents the first step in what diocesan leaders expect to be a multi-year process of aligning the budget with the new mission strategy being developed by Bishop Jennifer and Executive Council. That plan includes concentrating resources on programs and initiatives that will promote congregational vitality and community engagement.
“In the past, our budget process has kind of been to take last year’s budget and make little tweaks to it,” says Laurel Cornell, a member of Executive Council who serves on the budget formation committee. “Our budget document has lots of categories that are mostly historical. We need a whole new set of budget categories, but we can’t do that in one year.”
This year, Cornell says, the committee began adjusting the budget by dividing the money traditionally allocated for mission strategy into two parts. One part will continue to provide direct aid to parishes, while the other will support what Cornell terms “parish discernment.”
“We want to encourage greater engagement and growth in congregations by supporting parishes thinking about why they are there and what their connections with each other and in communities can be,” she says.
“How can we encourage congregations to be more involved in their communities and to get out and engage with people?” Cornell says. “Congregations have a lot of inherent vitality that needs to be encouraged so that we utilize different kinds of spiritual leadership. The budget will need to reflect this over time.”
The 2019 budget also supports parish initiatives by making funds available to any congregation that receives a grant from the Center for Congregations grants. The center, funded by the Lilly Endowment, awards up to 50 percent of the budget for strategic initiatives developed by congregations. The funds included in the draft diocesan budget would fund an additional 25 percent of any Lilly-funded project, leaving the congregation with only 25 percent of the overall cost to raise on its own.
The Rev. C. Davies Reed, chair of the budget formation committee and rector of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Zionsville, says that Executive Council’s conversations about the diocesan structure will drive future changes to the budget process.
“We want to understand who we are partnering with and how we are providing ministries across contexts,” he says. “In particular, we need to have big imaginative discussions about mission strategy and campus ministry.”
Cornell agrees. “The budget doesn’t make policy, but the process of putting together the budget identifies areas of concern that Executive Council needs to consider,” she says. She cites health care costs and ministry to young adults, both in and out of college, as key issues in future strategy and budget conversations.
“We need to think of ourselves as having abundance instead of having scarcity,” Cornell says. “We can do anything we want to do, but we can’t do everything we want to do.”
The budget formation committee will meet again in late August to finalize the budget that will be presented to Executive Council for review before being considered at diocesan convention.