A transformational new idea took root at the beginning of 2011 at Lutheran Church of Hope. The idea was called simply “50-50.” It first surfaced in the 20/20 Vision statement written by Pastor Mike, and since then has become foundational for the congregation.
What is 50-50? It basically means that Hope seeks each year to give away one half of its income. One half of its offerings are designated for current expenses, the other half to mission outside of Hope.
For the most part, this idea is a non-starter in almost all other congregations. A rule of thumb for most churches is to budget “90-10,” with 90% of the income going in-house and 10% to missions.
But 50-50 has real-world implications for a congregation; business as usual will not work. Here are some of the changes Hope made to make 50-50 possible.
- Hope rediscovered the Reformation concept of the “priesthood of all believers.” As Martin Luther said, “everyone is a minister.” Thus, staff members at Hope are not called to “do the ministry,” but rather to recruit, equip and empower the “priests.” Doing church as a team is central to this idea. Ministry teams do much of the work that formerly was done by staff.
- Debt is debilitating; paying interest costs hurts mission outreach. However, raising money to reduce or eliminate debt is the hardest money to raise for any church. What Hope discovered was that when debt retirement was explained as a way to get to 50-50, the people responded overwhelmingly.
- Hope has three major congregation-wide events each year that raise millions of dollars for missions. The first is the Souper Bowl Food Drive, where enough food is given in one weekend to fill 100 food pantries around central Iowa. A majority of families bring a bag or two of groceries; the dollars spent are beyond measure. In addition, Hope offers both the Lenten Project and the Advent Project each year, as proposed by the Mission Board. The discovery was made that if the entire congregation focuses on one mission project, one with a very visible need, people are moved to give “pressed down, shaken together, running over,” to quote Luke 6:38.
For instance, the Advent Project for 2020 was called “Hope for the Frontlines,” with every dollar allocated to four local hospitals in Des Moines and Ames to provide resources for nurses, facilities staff, and hospital workers. The total amount donated was $238,000. In addition, members contributed thousands of food items and $25,000 to provide food for those who are food insecure.
In essence, 50-50 goes all the way back to that wee little man in the Bible, Zacchaeus, who when he met Jesus said he would change all his priorities and give one half of everything he had to the poor. Hope seeks to replicate that kind of transformation and generosity.