We wanted to share an update on the financial status of Fairlington United Methodist Church, including a significant 2022 budget gap and how we are positioning the church for the long-term.
The church ended 2022 with a $96,000 operating budget loss, the largest in our history. On the cost side, 2022 posed several, unexpected one-time cost increases: information technology infrastructure to improve our online worship capabilities, church and parsonage repairs, rental of a temporary air conditioning system for the sanctuary, and ultimately purchasing a new system. On the revenue side, income was about 9% below projections, explained in part by trends affecting many churches: disruptions in church attendance and participation caused by COVID and well documented data showing a wider spread demographic decline in church membership, particularly among younger generations of Americans. Unique to United Methodists might be effects from the splintering of our denomination.
However, the financial posture of Fairlington UMC is still solid and strong. We possess assets of land and buildings valued at tens of millions. Our location just off I-395 positions us to be a vital location from which to serve and be a gathering place within the community. We are seeing an uptick in building use as we emerge further out of the pandemic. Membership rolls have remained steady during COVID and we have seen a shift toward online worship and meeting attendance.
The Finance Committee, with support from the Leadership team, adopted a plan to close the 2022 operating budget gap. We are blessed to have an extremely generous congregation, with many members over the years who have either left bequeaths or made second-mile giving donations for designated church needs and ministries. Outside the annual operating budget, there are a series of specially designated funds totaling approximately $210,000 that mostly represent additional congregational contributions for special building and mission projects. The uses for many of those funds are restricted, but many purposes align with and are available to supplement funding the operating budget. To cover the $96,000 operating budget shortfall, certain special funds were identified and tapped in a way that ensured the need matched the purposes of those funds.
We recognize that this solution to mitigate 2022 operating losses is only short-term and are developing a sustainable operating budget plan that acknowledges changing societal patterns in church participation, while leveraging our property and assets. Relying primarily on giving from Sunday morning worship is no longer a reliable financial model. Like many churches across the country, we envision the property at Fairlington UMC being a dynamic part of our community where it is used and visited by people every day of the week, which can generate additional sources of income. On-line giving has become and must continue to be part of our church’s giving model, as it is more cost effective than processing paper-based currency.
As we develop a new, long-term financial model to sustain the vibrant ministry of Fairlington United Methodist Church, following are ways the Leadership Team is re-imagining our fiscal future and ways that our members and friends can be part of that vision.
What the Leadership Team is Doing
- Parking Lot. As communicated to the congregation, a special group is developing ideas to leverage the $8 million (market appraised value) upper parking lot asset into a dynamic and mission-focused benefit to the community that can also produce an income stream for FUMC.
- Kitchen Remodel. Plans are underway to remodel our kitchen. A commercial-grade kitchen will allow us to rent out to and host more groups in our building, again, providing another potential revenue stream. This includes exploring afternoon preschool or other classrooms, which are not possible today without an adequate kitchen to support lunchtime meals.
- Sanctuary Air Conditioner. Our old sanctuary air conditioner broke in the summer of 2022. The church applied and was approved for an $800,000 loan in part to replace that air conditioner (and also the kitchen remodel). Building maintenance and capital improvements are essential for our church to be in active ministry to the congregation and community.
- Space Renovations. We will build on renovations already done to make our building more accessible and welcoming, including use of the new chapel, fellowship hall, and classrooms. Applying for public funding to improve those spaces for community use is under exploration.
- Welcoming New Visitors and Members Task Force. A task force made up of a diverse cross-section of the congregation has been established to identify new ideas and strategies on welcoming and assimilating new visitors, members and groups to our church.
What You Can Do
- Fulfill any outstanding 2022 stewardship pledge.
- Complete a Generosity Card. Submit a 2023 generosity card as part of our Imagine Fairlington campaign; your commitment enables us to better plan and implement ministries and programs.
- Switch to On-Line Giving. Regular, on-line giving provides more predictable cash flow for our church and is more cost effective than processing traditional cash and checks.
- Special Giving. Respond to special giving needs or requests, beyond your pledged giving to the operating budget, that can address unique needs of the church. For example, we expect to launch a capital campaign to help pay off the loan for the air conditioner and kitchen remodel.
- Stay Informed. Monitor and read the weekly e-mails and announcements from the clergy. These announcements are available in various formats – paper, electronic, and social media. Please be sure to use whatever format works best for you, and if there are other mediums that we need to explore to get the word out, please let us know!
- Get Engaged! Join a small group, help with Sunday school or the youth, or attend open church meetings. Be on the lookout to join a pop-up team to execute a critical church initiative.
The Leadership Team will stay in communication with the congregation on the church’s financial status and long-term strategic plans now in motion that will have a significant impact on our financial future. We welcome feedback on your ideas on ways to diversify our church’s revenue streams, and on the longer-term projects underway that affect use of our land and buildings.
Fairlington United Methodist Church is at an important juncture as we imagine the immediate and long-term future of our ministry in Alexandria and beyond. We give thanks for your generosity, faithfulness to mission, and commitment to neighbor. Sustained by the grace of God, love of Christ, and power of the Holy Spirit, our church has a bright and fruitful future ahead of it.
In Christ, Your Leadership Team:
Andrew Hunter, Chair
Connie Cartledge, Secretary
Lana Hurdle, Trustees
Stephen Ng, Finance
Mark Elder, Lay Leader
Karlene Masters, United Women in Faith
Marc Dapas, United Methodist Men
Janine Howard, Lead Pastor
Christian White, Minister of Congregational and Family Life
Jackie Weavill-Donoghue, Pastoral Assistant
Louise Wilson, Director of Music
Holly Sapp, Treasurer