The ministry "wins" of the past year or so also came with some significant losses. After ten years of growth (most of them in the double digits), we experienced a -1% loss in attendance for our ministry year (September to August compared to the previous year). The loss was worse than that if you compare September '07 attendance to September '06. For those of you who don't like numbers and feel the church shouldn't count, let me put it in human terms (by the way, the Bible is enamored with counting because those numbers represent people..."three thousand were baptized that day," The Book of Numbers, etc.).
The loss was such that we had to reduce the budget by about 10% half-way through the year resulting in hardship to many of our staff. Some people had hours cut back. Some people had to take on a lot more responsibility because staff hours and part-time personnel we were adding in September were eliminated. Our Campus Pastor position in Hudson will from full-time now to part-time next March '08, and we can't afford to fill the lost time with other work. This has been by far the hardest part for me. When you plan on growth, a loss of 10% translates into 15-20% because now you have to factor in the lack of growth you were expecting and planned on. This impacts real people.
It also impacts real ministry to real people. How do you plan for a new campus in the middle of all of this? How do you pay for it? We don't spend very much on promotion as it is (things like impact cards or the billboard on I94 that has resulted in more than a dozen household visiting the new campus), but as we plan a major outreach for early '08, we're running up against significant limitations because we have no margin. P.E.A.C.E. partnerships have been and will be impacted (10% of a smaller budget results in a smaller amount going out for missionaries we support and P.E.A.C.E. efforts we initiate).
We haven't publicized most this throughout the year, but we've talked pretty openly about most of it, so a fair number of you are aware. But if this is new to you, take a deep breath and remember...God is control. By the time this series of posts is over I think you will agree that God isn't through with Five Oaks yet and that our best days are ahead of us for ministry. Relax.
So, what happened? I'll give you my best-but-surely-flawed shot at explaining it in the following posts. I wish I could blame the road work or the slowdown in housing. They are real and significant factors, but they're not at the core of my analysis. In the end I believe I made a series of bad leadership calls. (If you know football, and you compared our ministry to a football game, you might say that as quarterback I made some errant reads and called some bad audibles on the field, fumbled the ball in critical situations and threw a couple of hail mary's that were intercepted.)