Pain. That is the only word to describe the past few weeks. We have met, prayed, agonized, prayed some more, and plead with God to help us find some other way. But in the end, today we had to tell 8 friends that their position has been eliminated. We can no longer pay them to do their ministry. And 15 others were told today of reductions in their hours.
The global economic crisis is alive and well in our small midwestern community. The NY Times described our area as "the white-hot center of the meltdown of the American economy." Every day I hear of someone else in our church who has lost their job. Want to hear about trickle-down economics? Here it is: A poor economy affects jobs; loss of jobs affect income; loss of income affects contributions; and lower contributions mean we can't pay as many staff.
Today's decision is the end result in a slide in contributions that began about 18 months ago. We did everything we could to avoid this move--cutting budgets, freezing salaries, eliminating capital expenses, and delaying projects. But in the end, it wasn't enough.
The past few weeks have been some of the most stressful and difficult that I can recall. But in it all, our senior team has been as unified as I've ever known. We have the greatest staff on the planet, and even though I know today's news will be very painful to several families, I believe in each one of them and am confident God will guide their steps in the coming days. And we will be doing everything we can to help them.
In these hard economic times, the message of the church is needed more now than ever. It has been said that people are most open to God when they are in crisis or transition. A higher percentage of the people in our community fit that profile than has been true for years. Even through the pain of today, I remain optimistic that these decisions will enable us to make a bigger difference in our city...communicating the love of Jesus to those far from God.
If you have time, whisper a prayer up for these families today and leave them an encouraging comment below.