The Council of Elders regular quarterly meeting in August was a milestone. For the very first time our four days of meetings were held by videoconferencing. We had tried this earlier as a one-off experiment, but this time it was all week, with very few hitches.
Our constitution and by-laws state: “Regular meetings of the Council may be held subject to appropriate call and notice at such time and place as the chairman shall fix. Regular meetings shall be held once every three (3) months during the calendar year.”
Our intention is to meet via videoconferencing twice a year—every February and August. Our May and December meetings will still be at the home office. This will mean considerable savings for the Church.
Meeting this way is more challenging due to time differences. We all agreed to meet at 4 p.m. Eastern Time each day, as this works for most with minimal difficulty. The home office staff involved stays after 5:00 p.m. (we finish by 8:00 p.m.). Bill Bradford in Brisbane, Australia, has to rise early as our meeting begins at 6:00 a.m. in his time zone. Meanwhile, Carmelo Anastasi in Italy has to stay up late as the meetings begin at 10:00 p.m. Central European Time. But the savings are well worth the effort.
Dealing with Economic Realities
As the Great Recession continues, the catchphrase is heard more and more often: Do more for less. That’s our slogan as we constantly look at ways to be more cost-efficient.
As the economy worsens and prophesied-end time events get closer, we aim to increase our efforts at preaching the gospel. At the same time, we have to constantly be seeking more ways to economize. Both the Council, which sets the budget, and members of the administration are working on ways to cut costs—to do more for less.
We are cutting out all unnecessary trips. Some of our staff have used their own frequent flier miles for business travel just to cut expenses. At the same time, international travel has been cut dramatically. Some areas are being served with the help of non-salaried elders who can visit at their own expense or go to places on business. Full-time ministers are paying for their wives when they go along.
Media and Communications Services Saving Money
Media and Communications Services continue to increase efficiency with the limited resources they are given to work with.
Perhaps the biggest area that allows this is Internet technology. We are able to broadcast the message of the Kingdom of God to every person on the planet who has access to an Internet connection or a smart phone. This allows us to potentially reach billions of people at a tiny, tiny fraction of the cost of print and other electronic media. The overarching challenge with the Internet though, is bringing the gospel message to the fore—having it rise above the clutter of so much information on the Internet.
In more practical areas, the media department has two envelope inserters that save hundreds of man-hours every month in fulfilling our tens of thousands of monthly literature requests. Since 1999, various fulfillment houses around the world have handled 34.5 million pieces of mail for us, but at the home office our dedicated media staff have sent out 4.9 million pieces that are unique requests that require special handling. Our insert machines bring great efficiency to this part of the job.
One great area of savings in duplication, postage and labor, is that of our sermon CDs and DVDs. Since switching from the old audiotapes and videotapes, our production costs are about one eighth of what they used to be. This is because eight sermons can be put on one MP3 CD and four sermons on one DVD. This shows how new technology can be used to the Church’s advantage. Plus, now we can make these important sermon messages available for listening and downloading off our website for almost zero distribution cost to our viewers and listeners.
Of particular interest to me when I visit the home office, is our state-of-the-art video editing software that allows one person to do what it took 20 people to do not much more than a decade ago—to produce a professional, half-hour television program with engaging content and graphics that can be broadcast around the world.
God Will Meet Our Needs
We are all working at being better stewards of the resources that God gives us. With little prospect of the economy improving in the short-term, we are going to have to keep on economizing—learning to do more with less. At a time like this, when many in our society are borrowing or using credit cards on the assumption that things are going to improve, we feel this would be grossly irresponsible on our part. There is no guarantee the economy is going to improve, and many economists and economic journals show it’s only going to get worse.
Proverbs 22:3 Proverbs 22:3A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
American King James Version×reminds us to look ahead: “The sharp man sees the evil and takes cover: the simple go straight on and get into trouble” (Basic English Translation). We cannot ignore the increasing signs of a spreading global slump, which will affect the United States, as well as every other nation. We must “take cover”—do whatever is necessary to protect the best interests of the church organization in order to continue to fulfill our two-fold mission of preaching the gospel and preparing a people.
We have every confidence that, if we do our part, God will provide our needs in preaching the gospel to the world. While we have to economize when it comes to how we spend money, we do not want to economize in preaching the gospel. It’s our intention to go through the doors that God opens for us. As the apostle Paul wrote, “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 Philippians 4:19But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×).