Mars Hill Global Helped Pay For Mars Hill Everett's Building

Now we know one thing that the donations to Mars Hill Global purchased.
In a post on the Mars Hill Church website, Mars Hill Everett franchise lead pastor Ryan Williams thanked Mars Hill Global for financial help with the down payment and restoration costs for the old Washington National Guard Armory building now occupied by the Everett church. Williams said:

Our people work super hard and are amazingly generous to the church, but we just did not have the income to fully fund our own down payment and renovation expenses.

According to this note, Mars Hill Global helped fund church planting efforts in Everett, WA.
Did anyone who gave to the Global Fund* during 2012-2013 know they were doing that? I doubt it.
However, according to the Mars Hill 2013 Annual Report, Mars Hill Global was a fund designed to help spread the Gospel internationally:

I wonder why Rev. Williams waited until now to thank Mars Hill Global. He could have thanked the Global Fund in the 2013 Annual Report. On the page devoted to reporting the accomplishments of Mars Hill Global in the report, nothing is said about Mars Hill Global providing funds to help Mars Hill Everett with a down payment and renovations. Instead, accomplishments in Ethiopia and India are featured.
However, the introduction to the thank you note from Everett lead pastor Ryan Williams says Mars Hill Global is not a destination for funds but a source of them:

Mars Hill Global is made up of 250,000 people around the world who tune in to the Mars Hill Church podcast on a weekly basis. You, our global audience, are praying and giving to Mars Hill Church to see more people meet Jesus, grow in him, and join his mission. One example of what your participation has done over the last year is the planting of Mars Hill Everett in their new home. This letter, from Everett’s lead pastor, Ryan Williams, outlines the specifics of the direct impact you are having on the church.

So what was/is Mars Hill Global? Is it how Mars Hill Church participates in international outreach? Or is it a large group of non-Seattle people who consume the media and donate on the website? Given the various descriptions of Mars Hill Global and Mars Hill Extended Family, I think it is easy to get confused.
Specific to the act of donating money, prior to May of this year, donors (wherever they were) were able to give to a specific Global Fund described above as an international effort. Now, donors can’t give to this fund since the option as been removed.
Prior to this message from Ryan Williams, I can’t find anything that linked Global to Everett. In the promotional video for Mars Hill Everett in October 2012, Mark Driscoll lays out the financial need to the people of the church in Everett and asks them to give toward the goals. There is no mention in the video of help from Mars Hill Global.

 
On the page describing the need for Everett’s move into the Armory, members were invited to give to the effort in a fund designated for that purpose:

According to the Herald Business article, the building’s purchase price was $1.275 million.

The property was ultimately purchased for $1.275 million not long after Mars Hill Church purchased the 104-year-old First Congregational Church building in Tacoma for about $1.9 million. The organization is not shy about handling restorations of historic properties.

When the church first bought the building, the story was that the people attending were going to fund the purchase and renovations.  According to an October 27, 2012 Everett Herald article, the leaders wanted the people to “own” the move to the new building:

Church members will be asked to help pay for the extensive remodel. “We really want our people to own what Jesus is doing here in Everett,” Mitchell said. “About $300,000 moves us in. We could do services there. We’re hoping and praying to be in there by Easter.”

In July 2013, executive pastor Sutton Turner told the church in an email that Everett was raising funds for their building with a report on the progress.

Tacoma & Everett Fundraising
Tacoma and Everett continue to make progress raising money for their buildings. Tacoma has $132,000 left to raise, and Everett needs another $360,000. Both churches are praying to finish fundraising and full occupy their new buildings by January 1.

On September 11, 2013, Pastor Ryan Williams asked the congregation to give more:

  • A big fundraising push: I am asking that everyone who calls Mars Hill Everett home to go back and see if there is anywhere in your budget you could trim in this next season and increase your Armory giving until we’re holding services in the building.

In October 2013, Mark Driscoll told the congregation that the people of Everett had been generous but that more gifts were needed. Nothing was mentioned about people giving to the Global Fund were helping pay for Mars Hill Everett. Driscoll wrote:

The people of Mars Hill Everett have been very faithful. Over 90% of the members have given to the fund. Since September 2012, we have collected 50% above and beyond our annual budget. (Mars Hill Everett brings in about $900,000 a year, and we are close to bringing in an additional $450,000 in the past 13 months.)
We don’t have deep pockets, or big givers. What we have are a lot of faithful givers doing what they can every month.What we need now, Mars Hill, is some help from the rest of you in order to finish making this home for the Everett church ready. We’re almost there, but we’ve still got a little ways to go. Everett is trying to raise $750,000 to get the building ready, and we’ve got $316,000 left to complete this project. As the people of Mars Hill Everett have demonstrated, all it takes is enough people giving a little bit together to make things happen.
We have amazingly generous people in Everett. They are all in. Will you help them move into their new home?

So at the end of the day, who paid the costs for Mars Hill Everett’s relaunch in the Armory? Most likely both the Mars Hill Global Fund and donations from Everett members actually paid those big bills. Global Fund givers might or might not mind that the donations they thought were going to Ethiopia and India (according to the 2013 Annual Report) went at least in part to buy and renovate a building in Everett. This arrangement certainly seems to run afoul of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability’s guidelines; but maybe they don’t care now. It’s all water under the bridge now, right?
Even though the money is spent, it might be interesting to find out what else Mars Hill Global purchased. Perhaps more thank you notes are coming.
*Mars Hill’s use of the term Mars Hill Global is inconsistent. Sometimes they seem to refer to it as the source of funds, as in our “global audience” or “Mars Hill Extended Family.” Other times such as in the 2013 Annual Report, Mars Hill Global refers to the destination of the funds, as in funding international mission work to Ethiopia and India. Sometimes, it appears that they mean both at the same time as in the international audience is helping to fund mission efforts with local Mars Hill church planting and international efforts. The real issue according to the ECFA is donor intent. A key question is are the funds going where the receiver implied they are going and the donor intended. In this case, giving to a Global Fund would naturally create the impression that the funds were going to international use. These are the funds that I am interested in knowing more about. Were the funds given to the global funds used for international purposes? The source of the funds doesn’t matter that much. It is the intent of the donor that matters.
For all posts on Mars Hill Global, click the link.
 

Question for the Leaders of Mars Hill Church: Where Did the Global Fund Go?

In my prior posts on Mars Hill Global, I have established that in 2011 Mars Hill leaders reworked Mars Hill Global into a means of raising revenue and that nearly $2.3 million was donated toward the Mars Hill Global Fund in the fiscal year from July 2o12 to June 2013.
From the Mars Hill Church 2013 Annual Report:

According to a presentation at a recent Mars Hill vision breakfast, giving to Mars Hill Global remains robust. For instance, in December 2013, just over $340k was given to Mars Hill Global.

Prior to  May 2014, donors could designate gifts to the Mars Hill Global Fund which was distinct from the Mars Hill General Fund. However, sometime in May, the Global Fund disappeared. Now, donations for all purposes have to be given to the Mars Hill General Fund since the option to designate money to the Mars Hill Global Fund is no longer available. One wonders where the Global Fund went in the midst of the fiscal year.
As noted above, Mars Hill reported 2013 giving to the Global Fund but did not report disbursements from that fund. Here is the 2013 statement of income and expenses for the church from the Annual Report.

There is nothing here about Global Fund disbursements. Almost $2.3 million came in. Where did it all go?
The 2013 Annual Report has a whole page on Mars Hill Global activities (click the link to see the page) so some funds must have been spent. The “Church planting and partnerships” line item seems to be the most plausible place to look but disbursements from that line are quite modest.
In contrast to the current Mars Hill Global web page, there is no mention of the United States on the 2013 Annual Report Global page. Along with the accomplishments, the report presents the purposes for Mars Hill Global:

As noted, the focus is decidedly international and appears to be the international mission outreach for the church. Donors would naturally believe that their funds were going for international purposes.
After the recent changes to Mars Hill’s giving webpage, it is clearer that funds given for global outreach now go to the General Fund. There is no Global Fund option. Those who want to give to Mars Hill’s work in Ethiopia or India must hope that some of their donations will go to those ends, but there are no guarantees. However, prior to May of this year, donors could give to a specific Global Fund. According to guidelines of Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, funds designated for the Global Fund should be allocated to global outreach. However, Mars Hill has declined to respond to requests to provide an accounting. Also, while the ECFA informed a correspondent recently that the watchdog group was “in communication” with Mars Hill, the ECFA has not responded to my inquiries.
Sources within Mars Hill have consistently informed me that the church uses very little of the Mars Hill Global money for work in Ethiopia and India, reportedly less than 5%. This may or may not be true, but at present, there is no independent way to know. The only leaders at Mars Hill who can speak to those claims are the Executive Elders (Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas, and Sutton Turner) and the Board of Advisors and Accountability (independent members Michael Van Skaik, James McDonald, Paul Tripp, and Larry Osborne).  However, at present, they are not talking.

Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability in Communication with Mars Hill Church

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability is “in communication” with Mars Hill Church amid questions about the Mars Hill Global fund.
Recently, Michael Martin, Legal Counsel and Director of Member Services told a questioner via email:

We are aware of the issues you mention and are in communication with leaders of Mars Hill concerning matters which relate to ECFA standards.

The questioner informed the ECFA that Mars Hill Global has been raising money under the heading of “Mars Hill Global” but may only use a fraction of those funds for global outreach. Martin responded that ECFA is touch with Mars Hill leaders about those issues.
ECFA has not responded to any of my questions regarding the standards for reporting donations made to special funds. Until recently, Mars Hill gave their donors an option to give the a fund called Mars Hill Global fund. Nearly $2.3 million was raised during the last full fiscal year. However, there is no information easily available about where those funds were disbursed. Mars Hill insiders tell me very little money goes to international outreach. However, it is not possible to check this since no reporting is available. With the changes Mars Hill has made thus far, the next step would be to post an accounting of how the money donated to that fund have been spent.
Recently, Mars Hill has changed the way they collect donations. The church no longer gives donors the option of giving to the Global Fund. All donations are to be given to the General Fund or the Mars Hill Foundation.
Related posts:
Website Changes: Donations to Mars Hill Global Are Now Donations to Mars Hill Church General Fund
Megachurch Methods: Apparently Mars Hill Global Money Can Be Spent Anywhere
Megachurch Methods: And By Mars Hill Global We Mean Mars Hill Local
Megachurch Methods: Mars Hill Global Wakes the Sleeping Giant

Website Changes: Donations to Mars Hill Global Are Now Donations to Mars Hill Church General Fund

Without admission or acknowledgment, Mars Hill Church continues to change the focus of Mars Hill Global.
Previously, I have raised questions about where Mars Hill Global funds go. Church sources have told me on condition of anonymity that very little of the money designated as Mars Hill Global donations (nearly $2.3 million from July 2012 to June 2013) are disbursed to international missions. In recent days, someone at Mars Hill has directed changes to the website to make it clearer that donations to Mars Hill Global are also spent in the United States.
Recently, this sentence was added to the description of Mars Hill Global on the MHC website:

Mars Hill Global has the same mission as Mars Hill Church – evangelizing, making disciples, equipping leaders, and planting churches all over the world, including but not exclusive to Ethiopia, India and the US.

This sentence was added after my articles on Mars Hill Global were published.
Now, in contrast to the Google cache yesterday, a very similar wording has been added to the Mars Hill giving page.

This description alerts givers that all gifts go to support “evangelizing, making disciples, equipping leaders, and planting chures (sic) all over the world, including but not exclusive to Ethiopia, India, and the United States.” The language is now the same as on the Mars Hill Global page. Even though the Global promotional video is shot in Ethiopia, the new language does not restrict the donations to international causes.
Another change is the deletion of “Global Fund” as an option for giving. Currently, there is a drop down menu titled “Fund.” Now, there are only two options, General Fund (Local & Global) and Foundation/Endowment Fund (see below):

 
However, a screen capture from late April demonstrates that, at that time, donors had the option of designating their donation to the Global Fund.
 

Even though the page then noted that donations would help “global ministry efforts,” someone donating prior to the recent changes very probably believed that a gift to the global fund would actually go to international efforts.
Without acknowledging the situation, Mars Hill appears to be bringing themselves closer to compliance with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability guidelines on designation of giving.   I have written the ECFA several emails asking for comment over the past week but have received no answer. I have received no answer to my email to giving@marshill.com.
While Mars Hill appears to be giving more disclosure to potential donors, I cannot find on the Global or giving pages any disclosure of how much money has been disbursed to domestic and international efforts. Perhaps, the leaders won’t feel obligated to do so now, since they are being up front with the fact that Global and non-Global donations all go into the General Fund. However, potential donors might still want to know how much goes to Ethiopia and how much goes to the lease of a building in Bellevue, and past donors might want to know how much of their funds designated to the Global Fund went to that purpose.

Megachurch Methods: Apparently Mars Hill Global Money Can Be Spent Anywhere

Those in charge of Mars Hill Global seem to agree with me that Mars Hill Global is really Mars Hill Church.
Last week, I posted a 2011 document about the rebranding of Mars Hill Global (among other things, “cultivate an international audience and giving base”) and a slide showing the dramatic rise in giving on behalf of the MH Global brand. After those posts appeared, a sentence was added to the website description of MH Global:

Mars Hill Global has the same mission as Mars Hill Church – evangelizing, making disciples, equipping leaders, and planting churches all over the world, including but not exclusive to Ethiopia, India and the US.

The May 15 Google snapshot of the page looks like this:

The current page adds a sentence at the beginning:

My guess is that the sentence is designed to slightly better inform potential donors (remember the purpose of MH Global – “cultivate an international audience and giving base”) that the money they give to Mars Hill Global may not go to Ethiopia or India but to the general fund of Mars Hill Church.
Given the pictures of Ethiopian churches and children, some donors might think that their money was going to Ethiopia. However, according to current and former Mars Hill sources, that is not necessarily the case. This new disclosure hints that my sources are on target.
In the Mars Hill 2013 Public Disclosure package, there is no mention of Mars Hill Global, Ethiopia, India, etc., and only one mention of a mission fund:

In October 2012 alone, nearly $150,000 came in to the Mars Hill Global brand. From July, 2012 to June, 2013, nearly $2.3 million was given to Mars Hill Global. However, in available reports (the 2013 Annual Report and Public Disclosure package), where the Mars Hill Global money was disbursed is not reported.
What would be nice is Mars Hill leadership would simply indicate on the website how much money is given on behalf of Mars Hill Global and then where that money goes.  In fact it would be more than nice, it would satisfy the guidelines of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.  The guidance is clear that reporting should make it clear where money is spent. According to the ECFA:

Historical practices of faith missions and other charities has conditioned donors to give for specific purposes and to expect their funds to be used for those stated purposes and not for the organization’s general use. Such practices include raising funds to support specific projects or programs as well as the ministry of specific workers. Fundraisers acknowledge that specific use appeals are more effective than general appeals.

Currently, I cannot find such an accounting. Last Thursday, I wrote giving@marshill.com and asked if donations to Mars Hill Global go to missions or the Mars Hill general fund. Perhaps some accounting exists and the folks at giving@marshill.com will let me know this week, although it is possible that the sentence added above indirectly addresses the matter.

Megachurch Methods: And By Mars Hill Global We Mean Mars Hill Local

Yesterday, I posted a Mars Hill Church document about the rebranding of Mars Hill Global as a revenue source. The document was sent out by MH Pastor Sutton Turner in 2011 to the Media and Communications Teams and began:

When it comes to giving potential, Mars Hill Church’s global audience is a sleeping giant.

Since 2011, the giant has indeed ceased from slumber. At a recent Mars Hill vision breakfast meeting, this slide was presented to the congregation:

These numbers are increasing rapidly while overall giving has been flat, and according to sources in Mars Hill, declining in recent months.  In fact, the situation is troubling enough that sources tell me that the church will be approaching an entity known internally as “The Lucas Group” to help raise money. In addition, I have heard from several former staff members that the amount of Mars Hill Global money disbursed on behalf of missions outside of the United States is very low, less than 5%.
According to these sources, the rest of the funds are pooled in the general fund which is used to support administration of the  Mars Hill franchises. Consistent with that claim is the fact that MHG website lists the United States as a target of Mars Hill Global. All the franchises are listed, including the churches surrounding Seattle. Reviewing the April Mars Hill Global newsletter, it looks like global is local with most of the material being about the U.S. churches.
In 2011, Sutton Turner asked if there was a better name than Mars Hill Global for the cultivation of the international giving base. I think the better name would be Mars Hill Church.
 
 

Megachurch Methods: Mars Hill Global Wakes the Sleeping Giant

Subtitle: “Mars Hill Global Cultivates the Giving Base.”
Like businesses and other organizations, megachurches like to brand things. They brand pastors (Mark Driscoll: “I am the brand!”), and brand ministries. Probably nothing really wrong with that if the brand accurately represents what is being done and offered. For Mars Hill Church, Mars Hill Global is a phrase that describes the Christian market outside of Seattle. According to the MHG web presence, Mars Hill has things going on in Ethiopia, India, and online which is everywhere else.
In addition to whatever else it is, MHG appears to be a source of funding for Mars Hill Church. In November 2011, Mars Hill Executive Pastor Sutton Turner sent a document to the Media and Communications Team touting Mars Hill Global as a way to cultivate the international “giving base.” The document is here:

Note the prime purpose for MHG is to cultivate donations to Mars Hill. The strategy involves what appears to be a lot of good things, but it is hard to escape the impression that the end game is an increase in revenue.
Mars Hill Global existed prior to this memo. However, this memo promoted a new strategy. As a part of that strategy, the Media and Communications team is urged to “Craft the Origin Story.” Everybody likes a good origin story. Perhaps Mark Driscoll really did receive letters requesting resources. But maybe he didn’t. It is hard to tell. I can’t tell from the current website what story was originally crafted.
Currently, MHG takes in about $300,000 monthly. This is a dramatic increase from when this memo was sent. Apparently, the sleeping giant is awake.