Too early to determine effects on contributions

Synod leaders say that it may be too early to measure how the stock market downturn will affect contributions to LCMS congregations or district and national work.

“This has happened so quickly,” said Dr. Thomas Kuchta, LCMS vice president-finance/treasurer. “My concern is the level of contributions and whether we can maintain at the level we’ve budgeted.”

He said the cuts to the national budget leave little reserve for this fiscal year, which runs through June 2009.  However, he noted that districts are keeping up with their commitments of gifts they receive from congregations.

Kuchta also commented that some evidence indicates that church attendance and contributions tend to increase during economic downturns.  At the same time, he encouraged church members to keep up with their pledges and contributions.

So far, the LCMS Foundation has not noticed an adverse effect on direct gifts to LCMS ministries, according to Rev. Thomas Ries, president.  But he said the effect may be seen in year-end gifts, when donors give appreciated stock, which usually has added value and results in tax advantages.

Ries also said the stock market downturn will affect income from endowments, which may decline during the fourth quarter.  Some organizations and colleges use that income to support operations.

Deposits with the Lutheran Church Extension Fund have not decreased significantly during the past 30 days, according to LCEF President Merle Freitag.  He said some investors have deposited funds, saying they believe the church is a better safe haven than commercial institutions at this time.

During early October, Freitag said, three investors who represented LCMS organizations deposited more than $4 million, believing it was better to be positioned inside the church for security and to support the mission of the Synod.

Posted Oct. 23, 2008

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