Due to the failing economy and a decline in attendance numbers, The Chapel in Akron, Ohio needed to make budget cuts. They had to trim $760,000 from their staff budget … which meant laying off people that they loved. Below is the note from the Senior Pastor that went to the congregation when they were informed of the staff layoffs.
I have plenty of mixed feelings this week: Feeling a bit reflective after a week of praying my 80-year-old mother through surgery, being part of a sad but Christ-honoring funeral and feeling joyous that my first granddaughter’s birth could be any day now.
This is after a few of the most difficult weeks of my ministry life … letting staff team members go to help reduce a budget by more than 3/4 of a million dollars. And withstanding the predictable pain and turmoil that ensued. Here are a few thoughts.
I love The Chapel. And I sure love Christ. Brenda Burnham Unruh’s memorial service reminded me of both. Faith and heritage joined hands to celebrate that fine lady’s entrance into eternity. And we, The Chapel, must always and exclusively be about loving Christ and following only Him.
I love my staff team. When pastoring a large church one must choose the “flocks” to personally shepherd and touch. A major one for me and Sue is our staff. To have to let some go, to talk with and pick up the pieces of ones dear to our heart has been nothing less than gut wrenching for me.
I hate telling bad news. Pastors are called and trained to proclaim good news. To be doing the opposite lately has been very unnatural. I and our Executive Pastor, David Fletcher, are grateful for the support and assistance of our Trustee board and staff leaders.
That’s all for now. By that I mean, the cuts we made are presently done, God willing. We revisited several other potentials, not wanting to hurt ourselves any further and trusting God for our future finances. Generous and worshipful giving is imperative as we move forward.
I hate being imperfect. Did we do everything just right? Probably not. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying. As we pored through the options, no name was spared as a possible downsize. I even threw my name in. I am sorry for any confusion. Throughout this ordeal I have tried to be thorough in communication and yet also respectful to all those involved.
Saying that’s all for now doesn’t mean that someday in the future, God won’t call some staff members to other places and churches in the world. I love my staff, but I hold onto them somewhat loosely. In the sense that I know that we have a fine staff and as a large church, God uses our training and experiences here to equip ministries elsewhere. I am proud of that. And even encourage that.
I am looking forward to the future. We will be a bit sleeker and even simpler in our ministry focus. Is there work to be done in our church? You bet. Are there improvements to be made? Of course. And I believe there are greater days ahead for us; for our youth ministry, our worship ministry, our pulpits, our care ministry, our outreach and the mission of The Chapel. So we press on!
Our focus in these days, and all the time, must be exclusively on Christ. One of my stated goals when I came several years ago was that we would talk more about Christ than we did about The Chapel. Our lives shall be fixated and enamored with Him and Him alone. Its time we were about that.
Please let me urge us together to refocus our hearts on Christ; He is the Lord of our church and our lives. He will accomplish wonderful things among us and through us in the days to come.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Heb. 12:1-3).
With a deep sense of privilege and humility.