Are Nazarene Taxes Equitable and Capping the Franchise Fees

 

The funding of the Nazarene mission includes the World Evangelism Fund (5.5% of total income), Pensions and Benevolence (2.25%), Educational support (2.25%) and district ministries (various percentages). No one I know legitimately argues against Pensions and Benevolence funding.  We need to take care of our retired ministers. While the World Evangelism Fund may have those that wonder how the funds are dispersed or the openness of the expenditures (for the less than complete view of spending and how the nearly 39 million in WEF funds were utilized see the 2015 Annual Financial Summery), still few argue against missions giving.  The college funds are less enthusiastically embraced by those in some regions of the country, but again most Nazarenes appreciate the core commitment to higher education. But legitimate questions can and should be raised in relation to the inequality of the district apportionments.

Why, for example, should a Nazarene in Wisconsin have 9.39% of their tithe used for district management, when a Nazarene in Kansas City pays only 3.25% and in Oregon only 3.05% of their tithe used in district apportionments?  I guess that means you get 6% more for your ecclesiastical dollar in Kansas City or Portland than in Milwaukee.   In 2015, Nazarenes in USA gave over 31 million to fund district management.  31 Million!  Did we really get 31 million dollars’ worth of benefit from our district taxes?   Last I checked districts didn’t baptize anyone. Districts don’t dedicate babies. Districts don’t lead anyone to Christ.  They don’t make funeral dinners.  But we spent 31 million dollars for their oversight.   Africa spent a little less that one million and has nearly twice as many districts (130 to 76) and about the same number of members.

I’m not advocating eliminating district budgets, but developing a more equitable system. More specifically, there should be a limit on district allotments and a cap on how much an individual church should be required to pay.  If the district can not make ends meet on a 3 or 4% limit then maybe it is time to consider merging districts.  Or maybe like in other parts of the world, the District Superintendent also pastors a church.  This bi-vocational DS in other parts of the world hasn’t hindered growth.  In fact, quite the opposite, those are the areas were the church is growing.  The amount of the cap on district apportionment could also be debated, but it seems that no church should pay more than $25,000 toward district management.  All this to say, districts in the future will need to get more lean or creative as local church dollars stay more local.

As USA church dollars are stretched more and more, it seems legitimate discussion should be had on how to keep more monies with the local church and less toward the costly endeavor of district management.

 

13 thoughts on “Are Nazarene Taxes Equitable and Capping the Franchise Fees

  1. mark

    Our church tithes 10%, and we break that up equally to each required “tax” as you call it. We support a ton of local ministries as well as sponsor two kids through World Vision. My heart is clear. We have an awesome DS who doesn’t hold us hostage, but supports our churches fearlessly. I think it’s unrealistic for him to do double duty as both DS and Pastor. I do think some DS’s are over compensated. And we could save lots of money if we did District Assembly every other year.

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  2. Gobeforegrace

    These are great questions. My district has one of the lowest allotments in the nation but still sits on a lot of cash. Originally those allotments were meant to be used for church planting and funding local missionaries and it was the DS’s job to oversee the district wide planting efforts. FTM has picked up a tiny bit of that slack but not much. I would love us to look at the District as an extension of FTM though. That would of course mean we use the majority of district budgets to actually hire missionaries and plant churches.

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  3. Edward Heck

    Rob, as always, you have raised a simple question that exposes a glaringly complex and complicated issue facing the Church. My initial response is to question the target of your concern for “taxes” and “franchise” fees. Clearly, the tone of your questioning leads one to believe you think the solution is systemic, global or at a minimum denominational. The reality of the issue you have raised, however, specifically focusing on districts, is solely a district-centric concern. What I mean is, the denomination, the general or global leadership of the church, extends no jurisdictional control over the setting of district budgets. Rather, that responsibility falls on the district finance committee and District Advisory Board. Also, in regard to the merger question, it is a fact that the role of the denomination has been thwarted in this by district leadership, even in districts that are probably not viable, because of their reluctance and resistance to relinquish control. Just some things to think about.

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    1. Rob Prince Post author

      Ed, you are right that the district advisory board or finance committees and district assembly set the district ministries budgets. But you’ve been a part of all of those gatherings as have I and you know that they would not always be described as “visionary,” “creative” or “missional.” Not in all cases to be sure, but there have been some districts who have continued to raise their allotment requests to maintain the status quo even when the status quo is not productive and is limiting the mission. It’s asking people to write themselves out of a job or authority, and generally that is not something that human nature likes to do. If we legislated what the maximum level a district ministry could expend, I think these districts would be forced to be creative and missional or merge with another district that is. Just my two cents…

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  4. Richard Stricklen

    Missions and P&B are the only budgets I think we should pay. I have never seen a representative from MVNU in the past 12 years at my church. I have also been on several districts as a Pastors Kid and being in the military. The salary and benefits package is way to high for a District Supt. All the church gets is a visit once a year. Where are the efforts to train churches and promote evangelism? I don’t see them. I know my opinion may not be popular among the high levels of leadership in the Church of the Nazarene. That’s OK. I have big shoulders. Just check your district annual journal for DS compensation and how much of it comes tax free. I know of DS’s that make a total package of 150,000 to 190,000 per year. Can’t deny it the facts are in district journals.

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    1. Willis Young

      Richard, I agree that overall DS salaries and benefits packages are much too high. On our District the DS doesn’t even visit the churches once per year. I’ve been in my current assignment nearly four years and he came to our church a couple of weeks ago for the first time (I wondered if I’d done something wrong). No pastoral reviews, no contacts, no leadership. The whole picture saddens me really because I know of so many of our churches where the pastor is working two and three jobs to make ends meet and to pay all the budgets.
      I don’t mean to complain but I do think there are much better ways to organize our Districts so more funds could be targeted toward evangelism and growth.

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  5. Mark Fuller

    Rob,

    Having paid budgets in full for 30 years and now 6 years from the other side of the issue, I am more convinced than ever that our denominational apportionments are too high, especially for growing and large churches (over 1000). We would do well to learn from our Wesleyan sister denomination. They have effectively adjusted their budget requirements creating a culture of growth in their larger churches resulting in more money to fund the mission.

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    1. Rob Prince Post author

      Mark, , I think the tendency has been to maintain the status quo no matter what and in the meantime the status quo has gotten us a stagnant church (in the USA) with little creativity and missional efforts. I would love to see our church leaders tell the leading churches “lead the way.” Be innovative. Take risks. We trust you!

      Reply
  6. Mark Lail

    Brother Rob, it is interesting that you chose the Africa region as your illustration of district efficiency. They may have spent less than $1 million operating their districts but that amount is just over 10.2% of their income. Maybe if we moved all of the USA districts to 10.2% we’d grow like them? 🙂

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  7. awright022

    I don’t quite understand the rationale for instituting regressive economic policies, e.g. a hard cap on a single church’s contributions. It seems like you just tossed that in there as if it was continuous with the problem of high spending on district management. Is there anything to this proposal other than the fact that, apparently, big churches don’t want to pay their apportionments?

    Reply
    1. Rob Prince Post author

      That’s a great question. A cap on district apportionments would effect large churches. No question about it. This suggestion is not so that ministry wouldn’t happen— in fact just the opposite. As I stated the district doesn’t baptize, dedicate babies, etc., but the local church does. It seems we would get more “bang for our buck” if local churches were investing in their neighborhoods and evangelizing their community instead of investing in the district management.

      Let me explain it this way, most businesses have a cap on what they will pay for certain positions. For example, a business might decide that the max pay for a janitorial position is $15/hour. That’s all that they will give to this position. Even if the worker is there for a number of years, there is only so much that the business will pay for that role. In the same way, under our current system, no matter how much the church raises they pay on that amount. It seems to me that most districts will find a way to spend the money rather than reduce the percentages required from the churches or cap the amount a single church will pay.

      I guess, from my perspective, I would rather see more funds in the hands of the local churches that are involved in every day ministry meeting the needs of real people rather than the management of the district. Again, I think districts need to get leaner and more creative in the days ahead.

      Reply

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