It is hard to understand how the leaders of Doxa are behind this when some of them are still involved in keeping information quiet at Mars Hill Church. However, this communication to church members is a breath of fresh air. In addition to other items, this memo addresses several questions that have been placed before Soma leadership.
A Word About Transparency
Pastor Timothy Patton
From Pastor Timothy Patton:
Doxa Church Family,
We have shared for the last couple of months a prayerful desire for the new church, now named Doxa Church, to be one that is characterized by shared leadership and transparency in finances. It is our intention to be held accountable to the congregation, and to walk in the light with respect to our decision-making and spending.
The purpose of this post is to address the topic of transparency and the level of disclosure you should expect to see in financial communication from our new church. In some sense, this is family business that is quite detailed. It may not be important to some—but it will be very important to others. Thus, we wanted to address these issues in a public manner.
Transparency and Access to Information
As Doxa Church, we believe that the congregation is better served if the people are informed and equipped to ask questions, share concerns, or voice affirmation. We are committed to providing access to information that includes the monthly summary level data shown below, as well as more detailed monthly and year-to-date revenue/spending reports. An annual audit will be conducted by an independent public accounting firm and their audit report, together with the accompanying financial statements, will be made available at the church office and online. Specific financial statement line item detail will also be made available to our members, upon request, at the church office. We will hold an annual business meeting with the full church, but also want to be available to answer your questions each Sunday and through regular open Q&A sessions.
We will also, as per our bylaws, inform the congregation of any purchase that would be over $100k and describe both the nature and the need for the expenditure. Following discussion and prayer, we would then seek a vote of the congregation to move forward.
Our accounting, payroll and other books and records will be maintained by an outside accounting service.
Salary and Compensation
As you would expect, Doxa Church provides financial support for staff members in order that they can be freed up financially to focus on equipping others for ministry. In the specific context of Bellevue, Washington, this leads to salaries that may appear higher than some surrounding areas. However, we believe these salaries are reasonable given the nature of our workplace and context, when compared to national salary surveys for similar positions in similar sized churches.
Jeff Vanderstelt will be the highest paid staff member and has requested that his annual salary of $125,000 be made public as we launch the church. Specific salary ranges for other positions will fall within the following ranges:
Senior Leadership Positions – between $90k and $125k
Ministry Directors – between $60k and $90k
Administrative Positions – between $40k and $60k
No employee will receive any compensation prior to January 1, 2015. Following January 1, 2015, employees will receive a salary as described above and benefits including insurance and participation in a 403(b) plan (the retirement plan offered by tax-exempt organizations).
“Seed Money” from Mars Hill Church
Doxa Church will begin regular operations on January 1, 2015, and will be the recipient of “seed money” from Mars Hill Church as a replanted church in Bellevue. This “seed money” comes in two categories: (1) start up costs and (2) a final gift. The start up cost category represents the tithes and offerings Mars Hill Church members gave in the last few months as the new churches, like Doxa Church, were being created. The amount is intended to approximate three months of operating expenditures. We are planning to use this money to fund and offset some of our start up costs in the first year. The second category, a final gift, would come from any residual balances after Mars Hill Church liquidates its assets and pays off its obligations. At this time, there are simply too many variables to know the timing and/or amount of this final gift.
The elders of Doxa have made the determination that we will live within our own means. Specifically, we want to support this new church based upon the giving we receive from our members and attendees of Doxa. That is why we are not budgeting to use the latter category of “seed money” mentioned above in the daily operations of the church. To the best of our ability, we will use these funds to build cash reserves and save for the future. We will prayerfully consider how to allocate those funds with wisdom, integrity, and full disclosure once their timing and amount are known.
We also want to be clear that no Doxa Church funds will be going to Mars Hill Church. We are receiving “seed money” because Doxa Church was birthed out of two former Mars Hill locations, however, there are no financial ties or obligations from Doxa to Mars Hill.
Doxa’s ability to stay in our facility and hire staff is, in part, made possible because the budget model of our church is very different than that of Mars Hill Church. Mars Hill Church existed as one church in many locations, which meant that a significant portion of giving went to help other church locations. In the Doxa model, as one church in one location, we have the ability to make independent decisions. The congregation’s generosity thus has an even more direct impact on the people of this church family.
Based on recent giving trends at Bellevue and Sammamish churches, we believe that Doxa will likely operate with a annual budget of approximately $2.2m. This projection is preliminary and will need to be further reviewed as we move through the first part of the year. Currently, we have a budget that breaks down in the following general categories:
Church Planting Tithe: 10%
These percentages include start up cost category “seed money” from Mars Hill Church described above, without those funds the percentage breakdown is 35%, 46%, 9%, and 10%, respectively.
We will share more details of this budget in the new year, once we have a clearer picture of giving and expenses, but wanted you to be aware of the framework within which we are making current decisions.
Our Church Building
Doxa Church leadership has made the determination to stay in the current facility (John Danz Building) through the remainder of the lease term (October, 2017). Mars Hill Church would have paid the full remainder of the lease to leave—something that we, together, believed would have been poor stewardship. Through discussions with our landlords, we came to a mutually agreeable solution—that, in essence, Doxa Church would simply continue on with the lease, but with no penalty payment. The new lease contains a 12 month notice clause—meaning after notice to move, our landlords would be able to redevelop the property. However, the property is no longer under contract and there are no current players in mind for this redevelopment.
Our monthly payment (including auditorium and office lease, parking, and common area maintenance) will be $82k. To offset some of this cost, and because we desire the partnership, we will host classes from Western Seminary, who will be paying for use of the space to hold weekly graduate-level classes.
We do not yet know what might happen after October, 2017. However, we believe that staying in this facility is a sustainable choice that also allows the members of the church to have time to heal without the pressures of relocation, and to prayerfully consider a longer term plan for a future church location.
It is important to note the difference in church model between Mars Hill Church and the Soma Family of Churches. Mars Hill Church was one church in many locations, which meant operating from one church budget and with one central governing body. The Soma Family of Churches is made up of many independent churches with a shared vision. The network is currently comprised of twenty-four independent churches with no legal or financial obligations existing between them.
To be clear, while we will work toward affiliating with this body at some point in the future, financial resources of Doxa will be stewarded by the elders of Doxa Church. There may be times we choose to help our brothers and sisters in Christ at Soma or another local church, but those decisions will be made out of love, prayerfully led by the Spirit, and not out of obligation.
When You Have Questions
Your elders and staff desire regular communication and want to be both transparent and accountable. When questions come up, you are welcome and encouraged to bring those inquiries to any of the elders. I will be serving as an elder and as the Director of Administration, and will most readily have access to specific details.
Thank you for your continued prayers, support, encouragement, and faithfulness.
I realize that the leaders of Doxa may not feel any obligation to address unfinished business at Mars Hill Church. However, I believe that since some of the leaders are the same at Mars Hill and Doxa, Doxa should now acknowledge the unfinished business and indicate what former Mars Hill leaders are doing to address those issues.