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Foundation helps churches navigate tough economic times

Foundation helps churches navigate tough economic times

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Foundation helps churches navigate tough economic times

By J.A. Buchholz | March 19, 2009 {0985}

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Rev. Bonnie Ogie-Kristianson spends her time traveling throughout the Florida Conference talking with churches about a topic that’s on everyone’s mind but not easily articulated: money.

Rev. Bonnie Ogie-Kristianson

Ogie-Kristianson was hired during the summer as director of fund raising for the Florida United Methodist Foundation Inc., which includes serving as a fund-raising consultant to local churches. In that role, the graduate of Candler School of Theology at Emory University has been spending much of her time talking with individuals and churches about the spiritual aspect of giving.

Ogie-Kristianson estimates she visits an average of three to four churches each week. The reasons vary, from offering advice on an annual stewardship campaign or retiring building fund debt to general advice on getting optimum performance from the general budget.

Given the current economic climate Ogie-Kristianson says the calls being routed to her these days lean toward questions about general operating issues. Helping churches navigate turbulent waters, she says, often involves simply listening to what is transpiring in a certain situation or confirming that a church is on the right track.

“Churches that once could raise money with little effort are now experiencing a situation where their giving is diminishing,” the Columbus, Ga., native said. “There are options out there. We have tools that can help. A church may have decreased giving, but maybe there is a way to restructure the budget or use other programs to make it work.”

“We are willing to help churches with this,” she adds. “It’s just better to involve us early on than later in the process.”

Clergy and church leaders sometimes have a hard time broaching the subject of money, Ogie-Kristianson says, so she’s helping empower pastors to address it as a spiritual issue.

“It’s a spiritual issue because how we use it reflects our beliefs and values,” she said. “Some people use it to show who and where we are. Some people are materialistic, and their consumption is about feeling better about possessing specific things so they can feel worthy of what they own.”

Money begins to take on new meaning, Ogie-Kristianson says, when it is seen from the perspective of being responsible for the resources God has provided.

“Everything we have is from God,” she said. “How do I use these resources to glorify God? God is revealed in how we use money.”

Some finance committees have instructed pastors not to address the issue, Ogie-Kristianson says, but with so many people experiencing financial hardship she believes now is the perfect time to discuss money.

“There is shame and embarrassment when you don’t have a job or money,” she said. “That needs to be addressed in the community.”

Preparing the way for future ministry

Ogie-Kristianson is also working with the Bishop’s Capital Campaign Commission to secure major gifts for the Florida Conference Together! capital and endowment campaign. The overall campaign goal is to raise $30 million for a variety of ministries.

The campaign’s capital objectives include $14 million toward ministries with children, youth and families. Targeted results include improvements at the conference’s camp and retreat sites, construction of two residential cottages at the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home, and hiring an executive director for Wesley Group Home Ministries Inc. and establishing two new group homes.

God is revealed in how we use money. ... It’s a spiritual issue because how we use it reflects our beliefs and values.”

Rev. Bonnie Ogie-Kristianson

Endowment objectives, allocated at $16 million, also include supporting ministries with children, youth and families, as well as assisting the conference’s New Church Development and Congregational Transformation offices in establishing new churches and helping existing congregations recover their missional effectiveness. Funds will help the conference’s Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry develop the campus ministry program, Ministerial Scholarship Fund and the Student Scholarship Endowment. And new ministry initiatives are part of the campaign.

Ogie-Kristianson said the campaign is being conducted like fund raisers for hospitals or universities, in which individual gifts are being pledged before gifts from local churches. During this first “silent” phase, she says she will be visiting churches to determine if there are individuals within congregation who might be able to financially contribute to the campaign.

Recognizing that many church members are experiencing financial hardships, Ogie-Kristianson says the silent portion of the campaign is “decelerating.” Regardless, she says she’s confident the campaign will reach its goal.

“We already have more pledged than was raised in the (conference’s) last capital campaign,” she said.

Ogie-Kristianson is a clergy member of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference. She moved to New Smyrna Beach in July 2004, and was on staff at Coronado Community United Methodist Church prior to her work with the foundation. During her tenure in the Northern Illinois Conference she served local churches, as a member of the conference program staff and as director of the conference Council on Ministries.

Churches may reach Ogie-Kristianson through the foundation office at 866-363-9673.

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a freelance writer based in Seffner, Fla.