A reflection on how resolutions are made in BCC.
By Nellie Owens with Anne Lea Krarup Nielsen
Pling. Pling. The numbers and names roll across the screen. More than 140 votes cast in unison for the newest updates and changes to BCC’s donation model.
This article takes us back 1.5 years to show how resolutions are made in the BCC Federation, and provide insight into the role local church representatives play in this process.
Solidarity – An organizational goal
BCC has always worked for solidarity in decision-making: This is a goal for most organizations, as internal unity builds confidence and supports and encourages growth and momentum in a nonprofit setting. But unity in decision-making, and support for a final result, is not necessarily evidence of a quick, seamless process – or unchallenged ideas.
Let’s take a look back at some of the action that led to this moment.
T – 117 Weeks (January 2021)
For a long time, there has been a need to distribute costs more fairly among members and at the same time secure fixed income for BCC. It has been decided that BCC will be established as an international federation, and this means that something must also be done about the way the religious community is financed.
The representatives’ secretariat has been given a mandate to put forward a proposal to change the entire way in which gifts are given to the association. A tithe-inspired solution called “givertjeneste” – or “donation model” in English – is outlined.
This income-based model supports the financial plans and goals of local assemblies and initiatives proposed and accepted by members of the BCC Federation, while also taking into account the vast differences in individual member incomes.
[Previously, members contributed a fixed monthly amount that was independent of personal financial circumstances. The new donation model seeks to create sustainable finances for BCC, while also making things more equitable and fair for individual members and member churches in countries with varying purchasing power].
T – 104 Weeks (July 2021)
The new donation model concept is adopted by three Norwegian pilot churches. Before approximately 80 congregations can change their finances, thorough testing is required. Three Norwegian assemblies (BCC Drammen Sande, BCC Molde, and BCC Oslo-Follo) agree to participate in the pilot process, implementing the new donation model and sending feedback to the team working with the concept. The pilot program is set to last 12 months.
In order to ensure clear information is shared with members, a separate committee is established from the representative council, which will assist in answering questions and creating information-based material.
At this same time, 11 North American assemblies become voting observers at the annual Assembly of Representatives meeting. One of the representatives from the Seattle church is Amy, who we will meet shortly.
T – 92 Weeks (October 2021)
Local boards for the pilot churches meet up (at various times) to debrief on and discuss the new donation model. Individualized budgets are drawn up, based on local circumstances.
During the summer of 2022, the entire project will be evaluated, and all members will be asked to give input.
T – 73 Weeks (February 2022)
The committee working directly with the new donation model is in close contact with the boards of the test congregations and obtains feedback on an ongoing basis. Together, group members disseminate the feedback and consider necessary changes and adjustments.
As research and work on the donation model continues, the need to inform members and the public about the developing donation system also becomes more obvious. This same committee develops a series of informational packets, videos and webinars, and spotlights “givertjeneste” on BCC’s internal monthly broadcast, the Magazine.
Simultaneously, an internal podcast is released, providing more context around the model’s purpose, and information regarding local implementation.
T – 48 Weeks: (Summer 2022)
The 11 observing North American assemblies are voted in as voting members of the BCC Federation’s international Assembly of Representatives. BCC Connecticut and BCC Seattle join as extraneous pilot churches, choosing to include regional and international conference costs in their local budgets and test the new donation model as a whole.
In Seattle, several meetings are held with focus groups, including members from various target audiences. The purpose is to explain the new concept to local members, to gain a better understanding of what local members want to prioritize in the budget, and to gauge how much members are able and willing to contribute before the donation model is introduced in a formal budget meeting.
T – 40 Weeks – (October 2022)
In Seattle and Connecticut, the budgeting process commences and is shared with the whole church, locally: Members send in pledges for 2023, church income is estimated, and funds are cut and re-worked. There is a lot of “back and forth” to ensure funding is maximized for member use, and many changes are made.
“In CT, we had open discussions about the implementation of the new donation model with many questions being asked publicly – but a number also privately,” shares Solveig Holm Anderson, a member of the finance team in BCC Connecticut.
“For example, members wanted to know how BCC Federation uses the funds which are paid to them via the fee of 3.5% of all local donations. Members were then informed as to how these fees are used, which includes the funding of church arrangements in Norway, the funding of providing digital content worldwide via our BCC Media app, in addition to the covering of administrative expenses associated with the BCC Federation organization. I think that by showing clear information on the use of these funds, it created a sense of investment on a very personal level and a sense of ownership.
“Another member wanted to ensure, the basis of income which is used for the percentage calculation is not benefitting business owners over employees here in the US. This was a valid point and as a result the guidelines for calculating the base have been adjusted. The whole point was to make the donation process a lot more fair, and the verse in 2 Cor. 8:15 really was an inspiration for the model: The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’ (NIV)
“Overall, we tried to address all concerns that were voiced both publicly and privately about the donation model. Since this was a completely new way of donating for the entire church, it felt at times as if we were building the plane while flying it: We found a lot of sites for improvement and new discussion. And the feedback we received was really valuable to this process, helping to improve the model.”
T – 30 Weeks (December 2022)
The new donation model and budget goes to local U.S. pilot assemblies for vote. New autodeducts are discussed, and local members ratify the changes. After several conversations and feedback sessions, both local assemblies experience nearly 100% voluntary member participation. Shortly after, local boards meet together to begin implementing the new model.
Many other local churches, worldwide, also opt into the new donation model at this time, and the feedback process continues with members of piloting churches.
T – 16 Weeks (April 2023)
The Assembly of Representatives is scheduled to discuss and ratify changes to the donation model, based on pilot data and new organizational needs. In the round of questions that takes place between the case documents being sent out and the meeting itself, input based on experiences in different congregations is sent in. Several concerns are expressed, as well as questions posed over elements of proposed changes.
T – 8 Weeks (May 2023)
In May, a memo is sent out that describes the proposed framework of the donation model, based on feedback received. 26 consultation points from local churches are factored in, contributing to the improved final model that will be presented to the supervisory board on July 15th.
T – 4 Weeks (June 2023)
Case documents for the meeting are sent to local reps for review. Discussion continues locally, and financial boards deliberate over program changes and meeting points once more before the upcoming Assembly of Representatives Meeting.
Present Day (July 2023)
It’s now July 15th, 2023. The hall is filled with 163 voting members and 300 observing members. Dozens more follow along online. Representatives now have the opportunity to vote on the ratification of several updates to the donation model.
As the votes roll in, and the donation model changes are ratified, it’s clear that these votes represent more than solidarity: They also represent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of work, discussion, and collaboration between members across an international organization – a testament to the positive results that come from member dedication to a common goal.
“it gives me a lot of confidence in our direction.”
Amy, a representative from BCC Seattle, explains what she thinks about the outcome and process:
“I see it this way…,” Amy shares. “When I vote, I feel confident that we have thoroughly worked through the decision points. I’m personally responsible to make sure that I represent my local church well in these referendums, and that my vote is based on what we believe will be for the good of the whole Federation.
“Before any vote happens, we go through the points with the various groups that have decision-making responsibilities for those items at the local church level. We talk through everything. We air our concerns and give feedback to the Secretariat. I feel that we have to give it. The Federation can only make decisions with the info they have. Circumstances and laws in the US can be very different from Norway, so these are conversations that we have to have.
“When I see how much work goes on behind the scenes to create the initiatives we decide on, it gives me a lot of confidence in our direction. We see the vision: The end result is that the church has sustainable finances, finances that will allow more people all over the world to hear and experience the gospel.
“Our ultimate mission is to spread the gospel. Many of the initiatives that BCC Federation is working with note this in their core mission statements. This is a result that we all want, so even though there may be some differences of opinion along the way, when it’s time to vote, it’s easy to support this.”