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Wonderings: What is the LEAF Fund and How Does It Work?

Pastor Alexa, Pastor Kellen,  and I have finished all of our Meet and Greets! We loved getting to have conversation with you and getting to know this wonderful congregation.  We so appreciated your thoughtful questions, your reflections on your values and longing, and your openness to welcoming a whole new pastoral team.  

At the Meet and Greets, we were asked numerous questions. We tried to answer them as they came, but there were some that we heard again and again. I thought I would write a series of reflections for The Courier answering the frequent questions we heard.

Also, our door is open to new wonderings and conversation. If you want to talk, reach out and let us know. Just because the Meet and Greets are over doesn’t mean we are done getting to know you!

So, let’s get started with the first question: How does the LEAF, or Community Assistance Fund work? Are we giving out too much money?

This is a great question! Church finances can be a bit confusing because most churches have different accounts for keeping track of money. First, there is the General Budget or General Fund. This is the fund that holds all of the regular donations to the church, building use fees, and other miscellaneous money. If you put $100 in the offering plate, the money goes into the General Fund.  

This is where all the major bills are paid for the church. Employee wages, electric bill, water, sewer, regular building maintenance, paper for the copy machine, the lease for the copy machine, supplies for Kids’ Church Party and Youth Group. All of this and more is paid for out of the General Fund. The budget, developed each year by the Lead Pastor in cooperation with the Finance Committee, Trustees and the employees or teams entrusted with certain line items (Angelina, for example, estimates how much Kids’ Church Party might need for the year). The budget is approved by Church Council and guides spending decisions for the coming year.

The General Fund isn’t glamorous but it is what keeps the church functioning. Without the General Fund, and the support of this congregation through tithes and offerings, the church building could not remain open, employees wouldn’t get paychecks, and the building would fall into disrepair. The General Fund giving and spending is what makes all ministries of this church possible so, Thank YOU! For your support.

Second, we have a fund called the Restricted Fund. This represents what we often call Second Mile Giving. We consider giving to the General Fund to be the most essential because, like I said earlier, without General Funds there would be no church as we know it.  Second Mile Giving is giving that goes above and beyond general support of the Church. For example, if you gave money to help with school supplies at Madison Elementary this year, that is Second Mile Giving.  

This money goes into an account that is Restricted, meaning the money can ONLY be used for the purpose it was designated. Money raised for Madison School cannot be used for paying the church electric bill, for example. 

So, all of this is leading us back to the original question. How does the LEAF, or Community Assistance Fund work? Are we giving out too much money?  The LEAF Fund is Restricted, or Second Mile Giving. People give specifically to this fund and the money can ONLY be used for community assistance. Most churches have a fund like this so that people who come to the church looking for help can receive it in some small measure. When Pastor Alexa and I started in July the LEAF Fund had quite a bit of money in it. We were able (really YOU were able) to help people with electric bills, water bills, minutes on a phone, gas money to get to work or doctor’s appointments, overnight stays in motels while waiting for permanent housing, and more.

With each LEAF request comes a story and part of what we do, both the pastors and the staff, is listen. There have been times when we haven’t given out any money but we have offered care and the dignity of giving someone time and attention. Sometimes we are able to connect people to other community resources that can be more helpful, and sometimes the help simply comes through being present to their situation.

Another way the LEAF Funds are distributed is through regular donations to Family Support Center, a local non-profit that helps families in multiple ways. FUMCO makes monthly donations to Family Support Center through the LEAF Fund so Family Support Center has funds to help families in the most effective way possible. They have the knowledge and staff to help families in a way that churches cannot. 

In my years of ministry, I find community assistance to be some of the most difficult and life-giving work that comes with being a pastor. Sometimes, people lie about their circumstances, ask for more than we can give, or become angry when we cannot help them. Most people are grateful and appreciative of both the monetary assistance and the time we give them. For many people, asking for money is the only way they will have contact with a church or a pastor. Each time, it is a unique opportunity to show the love and grace of Jesus.  

Grace and peace,
Pastor Heather

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