Young Adult and Campus Ministry

Moneyball & The Budget

November 10, 2014
Young Adult and Campus Ministries

In November, I attended the Provincial Coordinator for Campus Ministry meeting at “815” (Episcopal Church headquarters in NYC).  There, among other things, we got to meet with Sam McDonald, who works closely with Bp. Sauls, the COO of the Church.  He talked about Bp. Saul’s plans to restructure the church, and what that may or may not do to campus and young adult ministry funding.  He spoke about Bp. Sauls taking the staff the see the movie “Moneyball.”  The Bishop’s theory is that the Church is looking at the wrong numbers.  Several times during the meeting, Sam talked about how they wanted to look at these numbers in a new way.  Now, full disclaimer: I haven’t had time to actually see the movie, but I’ll assume that this is the premise of the movie – looking at “the numbers” differently.

A few days ago, the proposed budget for the next triennium of the Episcopal Church was released.  Many bloggers have written about it, namely due to the fact that it nearly eliminates funding for all formation ministries, meaning: children, youth, young adult, campus, etc.  That currently constitutes about $3 million of the total budget.  Now I am not an accountant.  In fact, budgets make my head spin a little.  But when I look at the figure that states what TEC plans to spend – in total – over the next three years, we see that number is over $104 million (down from $109 million in the past three year time frame).  Let that sink in.  So to date, out of $109 million dollars, only $3 million was allocated to these ministries?!?!  That’s like 3%.  And people wonder why – WHY – these populations are absent from our churches.  Hmmmm…

So looking at these numbers differently, we see that in a budget of $109 million, only $3 million goes to these ministries.  And that dropping down to $104 million means that measly $3 million has to go away.  Again, I wasn’t a math major in college, but seriously?  Didn’t Jesus say something about where your treasure is, your heart is there too…

People have been asking what this will mean for us at the Belfry.  Truthfully, nothing immediately.  TEC stopped directly funding campus ministries many years ago (unlike the ELCA which is just now starting to yank that funding).  How it will affect us is that this cut will eliminate the big events that draw students together like “PROV” (our Province VIII annual student conference), the young adult festival at General Convention, the Chaplain’s Conference, etc.  Why do these ministries matter?  Well, while the argument is that these ministries should be done at the local level (and I mostly agree with that statement), the reality is that with a handful of exceptions (like here at UC Davis) by and large they are not being done at all, period.  There are many students who attend universities, colleges, or community colleges that don’t have a campus ministry at all (other than the pervasive options of CCC or IV, etc.), and while they may try to connect with the local parish, sometimes that’s not a viable fit either (see my blog post from last month).  So this is a problem.  Having conferences like “PROV” allows those students to stay connected to and active in their church.  (Notice: I said THEIR church).  So losing funding for these ministries will constitute an important loss indeed.

It has been heartening to read passionate blog posts and comments on them about how important these ministries have been to themselves and their children.  It’s clear that people are really shocked and outraged by this budget and wondering what TPTB are thinking.  While God did not grant me omniscience when I was ordained (darn it!), it seems like they are very much in panic/survival mode.  It looks to me like this $104 million dollars is going inward – is going to bolster the church administration solely.  I get that.  On a sinking ship you want to make sure your life boat is air tight and seaworthy with a seat on board for you.  But every expert analysis I’ve ever come across, every observer, every bit of advice directed to a dying church says: if you want to turn things around, turn OUTWARD.  Become missionally focused.  Look outside yourself.  And you will live.  And in truth, anecdotally at least, that analysis seems to be true.

And yet, instead of looking outside itself, TEC is turning inward with this budget, cutting out those who are invisible to them (“they’re not here anyway, so why spend $3 million on them?” perhaps is the thinking).  But what I’d want to say to TPTB is they ARE here!  50 some-odd of them will be gathering for PROV next month.  And those 50 students are just the ones who have the resources to go to the conference (subsidies are lower than normal due to, oh yes, budget cuts!).  There are many more college students in Province VIII that would like to go than these 50.

So are they looking at the wrong numbers?

Just for fun, last night I googled the operating budgets for Intervarsity and CCC.  It’s not surprising to see that IV’s budget in 2010 (the latest on their website) was over $85 million.  CCC was over $500 million.  Those are the numbers spent in the US alone.  And, if your campus is like mine, those groups are probably rather large.  Looking at these numbers begins to tell us why.  On my campus, those ministries have multiple full time staff and money to fund retreats and events, etc., things that are prohibitive on my budget and with just me on staff.  One day a few years ago, it hit me that proportionally speaking, my numbers – actually – are on par with those groups, when you look at it that way.

So let’s shift some numbers: what if TEC allocated $85 million to campus ministry?  What if they provided the resources and support that IV and CCC provided to their ministries?  Still not having the power of omniscience, I don’t know for sure, but my hunch is that young adults would no longer be absent from our churches.  I know people right now are mostly just wanting the $3 million to be put back in (and of that like $500,000 goes for campus ministry in particular), and that is a crucial start.  But what if even 10% of the total budget could go to these formation ministries?  Even if all it did was flow back to the local level?  Or Provincial level?  I know in Province VIII, there are dioceses that send nothing to the Province, so those funds are rapidly drying up (again: is it because dioceses are doing all this ministry themselves?  Usually – no.  They aren’t doing these ministries because they don’t have the funds, and so they don’t give to the Province either.  So at the end of the day, these ministries aren’t happening, period).

I know this is a little bit of the ‘what if’ game.  But having $104 million to spend is not an insignificant amount.  It seems what we need now is a courageous vision, leaders who will look at those resources and ask: how can we invest in mission?  In spreading the Gospel and reaching out to all in love as Jesus has asked us to do?  I know for sure that defunding these already woefully underfunded ministries does not do that.  My prayer is that we will come together to oppose this budget a nd encourage our Church to take a different course. 

There is so much living that we have left to do, and can do, if we have the courage to do it.

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The Rev. Shannon Kelly

Officer for Young Adult and Campus Ministries and Camino Project Grant

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