Taking action to ensure sustainability
Two things that characterize BCC’s financial thinking are strategic planning and broad support from its members. Over the course of many years the church has built a solid financial base, which is managed in accordance with a long-term financial plan beginning in 2019.
It has now been more than three years since the plan was adopted by the Assembly of Representatives, and it is necessary to conduct an audit that takes into account all the unforeseen events, increased risk, and anomalies in recent years.
While the new 10-year plan is being developed, the Finance Committee, under a mandate from the Assembly of Representatives, will continue with quality control, analyzing and assessing the plan until Easter 2023. But more on this later.
The overall finances of the church are complex, and here we will give an overview of the factors affecting them and what it means for the members. You can click on the buttons below to go directly to the topic you want to read about.
“First and foremost, the church’s finances are international, made up of both local operations from around the world, and central operations. For many decades we have worked to ensure sustainable finances, and in recent years there has been a particular risk associated with the expansion projects at Brunstad and management of the property”, says Tore Aslaksen, CFO for the BCC Federation.
Factors that affect BCC’s finances
Factors within the BCC Federation
The donation model necessitates that members contribute a percentage of their gross income as a gift to their local church. The Assembly of Representatives passed a resolution defining the budget framework for churches in the BCC Federation as a maximum of 10% of members’ gross income. The largest portions of the central finances are for international conferences, media operations, mission work and administration. The strategy is to have employees with key skills in central functions, and these in turn will facilitate that as many tasks as possible can be carried out by volunteers from the local churches.
In addition, the local churches have their own operational and property management costs.
Factors outside the BCC Federation
Some factors outside the church itself also affect its finances:
Brunstad: Ever since the church bought Lower Brunstad farm in 1956, it has been the international gathering place for its conferences. BCC and its members maintained and owned the site for 50 years, until ownership was transferred to a foundation in 2002-2006. But Brunstad is still strategically important for the church, as all its international conferences and youth camps are held there.
Saving for accommodation during conferences: A cooperative has been created for members who want to participate in our conferences every year. We encourage members to obtain contracts for hotel accommodations at our conferences, and Samvirk makes it possible to save for future use.
Young people under the age of 26 are not included in the donation model. This means they do not contribute with financial donations to local church life, and that they attend conferences free of charge.
All these factors together form a larger picture, affecting BCC’s finances and establishing the framework for what is possible to implement.
“For finance professionals, the BCC’s finances are no more complex than other organizations, and the fact that we plan for the long-term, have transparency and solid reporting routines, ensures that both members and the authorities can be assured of the direction we are heading”, says Tore Aslaksen.
Brunstad has united the church
As shown above, Brunstad is the biggest economic factor that affects BCC’s finances. The location has been strategically important for the church’s global development.
During international conferences, church life unfolds, and those who participate get to see and experience the fellowship that arises when people from all corners of the world meet. One might assume that the possibility of watching the conferences and meetings from Brunstad via satellite broadcasts, which started in the late 90s, would reduce the need to physically meet. But it has turned out to be the opposite. The experience of coming together creates an appetite for more, and registration for conferences in 2023 is at a record high.
In reality, BCC has developed more and more into one united church. Brunstad has been absolutely central to this, not only because people can meet, share and hear the same message, but also the joint economic effort to finance the expansion. Across cultures and national borders, members all over the world feel a great sense of ownership of Brunstad, and when the church gathers here, it is a celebration.
Many members have also invested privately to secure accommodations during conference. This has been done through 20- and 50-year contracts, with advance payment for hotel accommodation. Without this, the expansion project would not have been possible.
Financial support for the facilities at the conference center is a central part of the overall economy. The members who have helped fund this sizable facility have made good use of it at both conferences and camps.
For the investment to be sustainable, it is not the time to sit back and relax. The church depends on Brunstad being managed properly, and here BCC’s use plays an important role. Both the existing and the new long-term financial plan assume that new generations will follow up the good tradition – that those who benefit from the facilities should also help pay for the investment. Many members are therefore in the process of saving for the future in a cooperative, which will offer contracts for accommodation at conferences and camps for future generations as well. Savings like this make the young people more goal-oriented, because they have to think strategically, and decide whether they want to share the burden so the church can continue to have a place to gather in the future.
The idea is that each generation in the church does their fair share – with the next generation in mind – and, at a minimum, covers the investment for the duration of their own lifetime. Willingness to invest in the future keeps the church energetic and resourceful as a community.
This has also been noted by the editor of the newspaper Dagen. Last year, the editor Vebjørn Selbekk wrote:
«The Norwegian Christian community needs some of that dogged determination and resilience that characterizes Brunstad Christian Church. Oslofjord Convention Center at Brunstad in Vestfold, which the organization has built, is a tribute to volunteerism, faith in the future, and a willingness to take risks.»Vebjørn Selbekk, Dagen
Therefore, a new plan must be drawn up
Back to the financial plan that is being revamped.
The context is that the Assembly of Representatives adopted a long-term financial plan that would be in effect from 2019 to 2029. Prior to the decision, a council of 15 professionally competent people was appointed to ensure the quality of the plan: They assessed risks, queried the administration on the plan, and made recommendations. After this, the local congregations have received reports every six months on the liquidity situation and any deviations from the plan. In the beginning the plan stayed within what was acceptable risk.
But the corona pandemic in 2020 turned the world upside down, and the risk increased.
Since then, challenges have been queuing up worldwide, including the war in Ukraine, the electricity crisis, inflation, and rising interest rates. This affects the finances on several levels.
Budget revision and cost cutting
In order to secure a sustainable financial plan for the next decade, the Assembly of Representatives were briefed on the current situation at an extraordinary meeting. It is advisable to modify the existing plan, and in this current environment the Assembly of Representatives has decided that a new long-term financial plan will be drawn up for the period 2023 to 2032. The plan must accommodate the financial framework, the risks and the challenges that are known about today, and must make further allowance for economic downturns in the world. The finance committee will continue to analyze and make recommendations to the plan before it is adopted, which will happen during the first half of 2023.
The premises for the new long-term financial plan are:
- It will be based on the donation model and not exceed 10% of the members’ gross income
- It must describe how the congregation’s income and expenses can balance year by year, preferably without using returns from the BCC Fund
- It must define how the finances at Brunstad are balanced, based on income from the church, both members and other customers.
All businesses in the BCC federation are now in the process of looking at possible cost savings, and in particular, what tasks can be done by volunteers instead of employees. The updated long-term financial plan 2023-2032 is likely to require action from all organizations in the BCC federation. An extraordinary meeting of the Assembly of Representatives will then be held in 2023 to adopt the plan, and decide what kind of documentation the Assembly of Representatives needs in order to monitor the state of the finances.
What does this mean for the members?
First and foremost it is reassurance that measures are being taken to regulate the finances in uncertain times.
The most important way that members can contribute is to support the donation model with the percentage which the members in the annual meeting decide on in the local church, and by following the savings plan in Samvirk. For most members this is obvious, but overall it is crucial that there is unity regarding the decisions that are made. It will then be possible to budget for income from the donation model in the upcoming financial plan, and reduce the risk associated with whether or not donations are actually made.
In conjunction with financial measures, a visionary initiative is being started to bring out the creativity and diversity among the members to a greater extent. As a member, you will notice that more tasks are given to volunteers. It can be in connection with conferences, media production, mission work, and in essential administration. When volunteering gets a new lease on life, it will generally be experienced as renewing and enriching.
And when willingness to sacrifice and faith in the future are held in high regard, year after year, BCC’s future generations will also have the financial muscle to continue the worldwide mission work.
This is a work we are proud to be a part of and contribute to.