Five Romanians have just completed the course of study for ordination in 2021 and are expected to be ordained at the next district assembly. This is a tremendous milestone since there are no ordained ministers on the Romania District. These three men and two women are equipped and are being empowered to take on new leadership roles in the Romania District, both in existing local churches and in starting new works in neighboring communities.
The Romania District is a small district, consisting of 3 small churches – with many church members coming from disadvantaged communities. Since none of the churches are currently capable of financially supporting a pastor’s full salary, district and field leaders are developing local sources of income to support them, such as developing a carpentry business, selling handcrafts made by church members, and renting out church-owned properties. As these activities increase income, the churches will gain the means to support their pastor and cover other expenses.
With their official theological studies now behind them, these five ministers can invest their time previously spent with their studies in seeking to develop these income generating activities. Change, however, does not happen overnight. It will take time and effort to develop these income-generating activities to a point so that each local church can not only support their pastor, but also cover other expenses (like utilities) and fund the overall mission of the church by contributing to the World Evangelism Fund and to the district. It will involve educating church members to be good stewards of the resources with which they have been entrusted.
This project partners with local churches to provide up to 5 years of supplemental funding as they become financially sustainable.
Prior to the implementation of the project, the pastor and local church board, together with the district superintendent, will determine current and potential sources of income, as well as expected expenses. More than a budget, this financial strategy needs to outline specific ways the church will expand income-generating activities to cover their expenses, including specific actions to be taken and a time frame in which each step need to be accomplished.
The first step is for each local church to focus on covering all utilities from internal sources.
Next, the local church board will set the pastor’s salary, based on available local church resources. During the first year of the project, while the church is strategizing how to generate additional income and taking initial steps toward this goal, project funds may be used to supplement the take-home pay of the pastor, as long as the local church is contributing a portion. During the second year, project funds may be used to cover up to half of the take-home pay of the pastor. From the beginning of the third year onwards, project funds will no longer be used for take-home pay of the pastor; the local church will need to cover this from locally-generated income.
Throughout the duration of the project, project funds will be used to cover the contributions to the state related to pastors’ health insurance, income tax, and pension – which combined total an additional 66% of the net income of a salary in Romania. (In other words: for every $100 received “in hand,” $66 additional needs to be paid to the state.) At this point in time, our churches cannot take on this financial burden, but not covering it puts our pastors and their families at risk. At the end of years 3, 4, and 5, the amount of project funds allocated will decrease by a third (33.3%), as the expectation is that the church will be increasingly generating more income.
In order to continue receiving funding throughout the duration of the project, the pastor, together with the local church board, needs to submit quarterly status reports that outline the progress made and challenges encountered during that quarter, to ensure that steps are intentionally being made toward financial sustainability.
This gradual decrease of project funds will help the church and the pastor prepare for what comes at the end of the 5 year period of the project – either the church has the resources to pay the pastor a full-time salary, or the church will pay what it can and the pastor will need to seek part-time bi-vocational employment elsewhere. Either outcome is acceptable and can be planned for well in advance. Early in this process, each of the three churches will determine which is the most realistic and appropriate scenario for their local church.
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