UCG Conference of Elders Report 19 Aug 2019

Items of Interest 

Average US attendance has dropped from 7,459 in June 2016 to  7,085 in 2019.

The number of elders has increased from 374 in June 2016; 90 outside the U.S. 284 in the U.S.; to 391 in June 2019; 107 outside the U.S. and 284 in the U.S. See the 2016 Report.

Co-workers and Donors are down; and the U.S. Beyond Today (BT) circulation is down.

Youtube views are up.

Income is on budget but expenses are well over budget; and due to the aging ministry a health care fund is needed. 

Council of Elders Meeting Report – August 19, 2019

United Church of God, an International AssociationCouncil of Elders Quarterly Meeting Report

Milford, Ohio

Monday, August 19, 2019

Chairman Don Ward called the morning session to order at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, and the meeting was opened with prayer. All 12 Council of Elders (Council) members were present.

Chairman Ward welcomed everyone. The last Council meeting minutes were approved. The agenda for the week was discussed and approved. The two new Council members were welcomed: Darris McNeely and Randy Stiver.

Dr. Ward read James:3:16, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” He emphasized that we are members one of another (Romans:12:5) and that the members should have the same care for one another (1 Corinthians:12:25). Dr. Ward mentioned in this age when the world is falling apart all around us we should be asking, “What would God have us do?” during these times.

Dan Dowd, as the ethics committee chairman, was asked to read the Council code of ethics, which is customarily done in the August meetings.

President’s Report—Victor Kubik

President Victor Kubik greeted everyone and expressed his gratitude for the fine men and women that he directly works with. They are a positive solution-oriented group of people who have a common vision about where we’re going as a church with attention to our mission. He appreciates the mutual friendship. He then discussed some of the areas of interest since the May meetings:

  • United Youth Camps: The summer camp program completed its 26th year. The preteen and teen camp program are a major way that United is “preparing a people”—it is the largest group of prospective members in the Church. This summer there were 464 campers and 317 staff. There were two new camp directors, Jay Ledbetter at the new Camp Woodland, GA and Ben Light at Hye Sierra, CA. For 2020 there will be one more new camp director and wife coming online, Mike and Laura Phelps who will direct Camp Pinecrest. Gary and Liz Smith have now retired from directing Camp Pinecrest for the past nine years. Our thanks to the Smiths for their outstanding job of serving during that time. The Kubiks were at Camp Cotubic for a few days and went to the Bible Study with Len Martin and found our teens to be quite knowledgeable and they asked good questions.
  • Boundary Waters Adventure: A new Challenger program was added this summer called Boundary Waters Adventure (BWA). Sixteen young adults and six staff spent a week canoeing, fishing and camping in northern Minnesota. The emphasis of this leadership and adventure camp was on team building and focused group Bible discussions.
  • Ambassador Bible College: ABC is about to welcome its 21st class of students. They are expecting about 20 students from 12 different states and one from South Africa.
  • Feast of Tabernacles: As of August 15, there were 7,098 registered with 1,500 more expected to register over the next few weeks. Panama City Beach and Jekyll Island are the two largest Feast sites so far. We have 50 sites listed for 2019 on the UCG Feast website (feast.ucg.org).
  • Podcasts: There are 132 podcasts so far with a wide range of topics. We speak to many knowledgeable people about different subjects of interest to our audience.
  • Good Works: The coordinator of Good Works is Lena VanAusdle and the advisory team is Rudy Rangel, Sarah Bizic, Chelsea Dawe and Stella Helterbrand. There have been 20 approved projects for 2019 with donations as of July 31, 2019 at over $150,000.
  • International Areas: News and events were mentioned from Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, the United Kingdom, Canada, Western Africa and Burma. Mr. Kubik concluded by detailing the recent trip to Angola.

Operation Manager Reports:

Ministerial and Member Services (MMS)—Mark Welch

Current statistics include:

  • Average U.S. Sabbath attendance for June 2019 was 7,085.
  • 391 elders in the United Church of God (UCG)
    • 107 outside the U.S.
    • 284 in the U.S.
      • 76 church pastors
      • 12 associate or assistant pastors
  • 4 ministerial trainees
  • 195 churches and Bible study groups in the U.S. (added back Bible study group in Odessa, TX)
  • 25 baptisms since the May meetings (84 baptisms so far in 2019)

Mark Welch summarized some manpower changes since the last meetings in May:

  • Three elders were ordained:
    • Joel Borton, Fort Wayne, Indiana
    • David Elliott, London, England
    • Ryan Hall, Rome, Georgia
  • One elder’s wife has died since the May meetings, Sela Ha’angana, Tonga, on May 3.
  • Tom Damour of Lubbock, TX retired from employment on July 1.
  • Mike Joseph of Lansing, MI retired from employment on June 1.
  • Devin Schulz was appointed pastor of Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing, Michigan.
  • Ken Graham is currently working on editorial duties and special assignments and will be moving.
  • Nathan Ekama was appointed pastor for Bloomington and Canton, Illinois.
  • Ryan Hall is now an assistant pastor in Gadsden, AL, Chattanooga, TN and Rome, GA.
  • Dan Taylor was hired as pastor for Lubbock and Odessa, Texas.
  • Joe Horchak resigned as pastor of Sacramento, CA and Reno, NV.
  • Mark Fike was appointed interim pastor for Reno, NV.
  • Wayne Dunlap was appointed interim pastor for Sacramento, CA.
  • Ft. Worth, TX is a congregation that meets twice a month now.
  • Upcoming events:
    • Regional ministerial conferences are continuing as planned. The north central conference will be at the end of November.
    • Labor Day leadership workshop weekend (over 30 will be attending)
    • Pastoral Development Program (PDP) will again be held in November.

Media and Communications Services—Peter Eddington

Peter Eddington went through some of the following statistics as of July 31 this year:

  • United News (UN) circulation is now the highest it has ever been at 17,756. This is an increase of 7.7% over last July, and an increase of 11% over two years ago. Approximately 46% of UN copies go to co-workers and other non-UCG readers.
  • Our coworker count is at 6,276. That’s a 1.3% decrease over the same time last year, and a 1.8% decrease over two years ago.
  • Our donor list now includes 7,415 people. Our peak number was 9,564 in June 2016.
  • Combined with our co-workers, we continue to have more of our readers and viewers contributing to the work of the Church than the total number of members in the U.S. and abroad—13,691.
  • U.S. Beyond Today (BT) magazine subscribers are at 238,911. This is 91% of subscribers compared to the same time last year, 94% compared to two years ago, and exactly the same as three years ago.
  • The total BT magazine print run stands at 292,283. This is 7% below the same time last year, and 10% below our peak of 324,738 from November 2017. Our all-time high was 567,309 in May 2008.
  • Due to increased printing, paper and postage costs over the past year (but the same budget), we have had to reduce our advertising—which has resulted in lower subscriber numbers the past year or so.
  • The number of telephone and website responses from Beyond Today TV since 2006 stands at 334,971. Responses for 2019 will easily outpace 2018 by about 40%.
  • The Church’s Beyond Today YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/BeyondTodayTV has had 11.22 million views (a 30% increase over a year ago), has 50,687 subscribers (a 42% increase over a year ago), and hosts 2,017 videos (8% more than a year ago).

Some other items Mr. Eddington talked about were:

  • Booklet Printing History: The United Church of God has printed 10,572,000 copies of its booklets since 1996. Most of those have been distributed, with an inventory of each title being kept on hand for fulfillment of about 20,000 or so of each.
  • eBook Statistics: As of August 11, we have given away 1,011,834 eBooks, which is up 4,358 from last month. So, considering printing, advertising and postage costs, this has saved more than $1 million if we would have printed and distributed the hardcopy version instead.
  • UCG.org Website: We are pleased to report that ucg.org has broken into the top 10 list of Christian denomination websites around the world. We are currently ranked at #9! This is the highest ranking we have seen to date. And ucg.org is currently ranked #28 of all Christian websites globally.

Treasurer and Financial Services Report—Rick Shabi

As the August Council meeting is the first of the new fiscal year, Rick Shabi began his report by commenting that it is a time to look back at the fiscal year that ended June 30 and a time to look forward to fiscal 2020 and beyond.

He reported that the annual external audit of the Church’s financial records is being conducted this week. Much work had been prepared in advance for the auditors. The final audit report will be presented to the Council in the December meetings and published in the United News in early 2020.

Mr. Shabi then led the Council on a review of the year-end income statement and balance sheet, comparing and discussing areas of significant variance from the prior year and noting trends and significant financial events of the fiscal year. Key operating statistics for the fiscal year were also presented.

On a positive note, overall income for the Church exceeded budget for the fiscal year just ended, with Mr. Shabi noting that income in the second half of the fiscal year, including spring Holy Day offerings, were very strong. He pointed out that in one of the “restricted fund” areas, we may have received more donations than needed to cover expenses in the coming fiscal year. In that case, the excess funds are set aside to be used in future years.

While income for fiscal 2019 exceeded budget, expenses were considerably over budget as well, and Mr. Shabi discussed those areas. For the fiscal year, the Church essentially “broke even,” with income virtually equaling expenses.

Mr. Shabi then briefly reviewed and commented on the July 2019 financial statements, noting that income through the first six weeks of the new fiscal year was coming in over budgeted and prior year levels.

The Treasurer concluded his presentation by discussing some of the strengths and “threats” to the Church’s financial condition as we looked forward to fiscal 2020 and beyond. He noted that the financial condition of the Church was strong and that our cash balances were sufficient to see the Church through any short-term economic downturn that might occur. He also mentioned other strengths such as the stability of the Church and the loyalty of members regarding their tithes and offerings. But the greatest strength of the Church is God. He will provide our needs as long as we continue to seek His guidance and will, and do it. 

When mentioning threats, he cited changing societal mores and the effect that could have on the Church’s financial health beyond 2020, and he mentioned the possibility of an economic downturn or recession in the coming year, as public fears and discussion of that grow. 

Despite what comes, God is our strength, and we need to continue to do what we are called to do, being wise stewards of all that He provides.

Committee Chairman Reports:

Education Committee—Aaron Dean

The Education Committee has not been assigned any special work, but Mr. Dean gave some updates on areas of education. He mentioned that graduates of ABC are being given increased opportunities for growth and commitment to UCG by adding opportunities beyond staffing camps and Good Works projects. Two recent graduates are planning to assist with the Feast in Myanmar and give messages. Better cost benefits came by combining an international education seminar for both French and English-speaking elders in western Africa with young translators serving at the French-speaking UYC camp on the Ivory Coast in addition to translating the education seminars.

Ethics Committee—Dan Dowd

The Ethics Committee (EC) serves as directed by the Council. There is nothing before the EC.

Roles and Rules Committee—Rainer Salomaa

The Roles and Rules Committee (RRC) will assist the Council in the annual assessment of the treasurer in this week’s meetings. The RRC is also working on draft 11 of Manner of Approving Official Relationships with Other Religious Organizations which will be reviewed by the Council during this week of meetings. The RRC is also working with Frank Dunkle, Council Secretary, in populating various committees with Council approval.

Strategic Planning and Finance Committee—Bob Dick

The Strategic Planning and Finance Committee (SPFC) has had some time to reset in August before beginning the annual cycle of preparing for the next fiscal year’s budget, strategic plan and operation plan. It was a good time to bring the new Council members up to date on strategic planning goals. The importance of board education was also emphasized especially when it comes to financial planning. One illustration was used regarding the policy on using cash reserves. He also said that Kerry Roe would later present an education seminar on “fiduciary responsibilities of a board.”

Doctrine Committee—Mario Seiglie

The Doctrine Committee (DC) has caught up with all the projects it had backlogged and is currently reviewing the projects which are left pending. There is a completed project that will be reported to the Council later in the week.

Media and Communications Committee—Scott Ashley

The Media Committee (MC) is mandated to preview the media report by Mr. Eddington. This was done. Randy Stiver volunteered to be the MC secretary. The MC is working on no other Council mandates at this time.

Chairman Ward thanked the committees for their reports. He suggested there be time for a Chairman’s report as well. Dr. Ward emphasized the importance of education and also the importance of camps and supporting the parents who are parenting in difficult times. Our youth are very important and shouldn’t be forgotten.

The Council broke for lunch.

Planned Giving Program Update—Vic Kubik

President Kubik updated the Council on the planned giving program progress. The subscriber development of co-workers and donors and planned giving were discussed as they pertain to the Strategic Plan. The Church is primarily funded by tithes and offerings, but it isn’t the only income. The team that worked on this updated planned giving program were Howard Marchbanks, Brandon Zollner, Lisa Fenchel, Richard Kennebeck, Clint Porter, Matthew Hernandez and Tom Disher. Rick Shabi and Larry Darden were consulted as well.

One of the goals is to cultivate a closer relationship with our subscribers. More effective ways to communicate and show appreciation are being looked at for donors and co-workers. Donors, by definition, contribute once a year and a co-worker donates at least twice a year.

A new planned giving program packet is being developed to provide information to those who ask for it to help answer questions if they want to donate to UCGIA. A sample packet was given to the Council to see the progress.

Various ideas are being studied to help make it easier for donations to be made. Some of those ideas are text donations, website donate buttons and Google Pay.

Update on Young Adults Leadership Initiative—Vic Kubik

President Kubik updated the Council regarding the Young Adult Leadership Initiative (YALI) that was originally presented to the Council in May 2016 and at the following regional ministerial conferences. Since 2016 there have been 17 young adult weekends in Minnesota, Cincinnati, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, North Canton & Cambridge, OH and Germany. Recent reports from YALI organizers Tim Pebworth, Philip Aust, Scott McKeon and Andy Lee identified some initiatives for young adults, which included:

  • Leadership opportunities—being intentional about offering leadership opportunities to young adults at church.
  • Outreach efforts—Good Works and Youth Corps projects help fill this need. However, local initiatives should also be encouraged.
  • Monthly YALI meetings
  • Tone and approach—focus messages on core doctrines and practical guidelines for living God’s Word.

Proposed Reserve for Healthcare Expenses—Rick Shabi

One of the financial challenges of every employer is the continually rising cost of healthcare. The Church has been self-insured for medical care since its beginning. During the last few years our health claims have exceeded budget by a significant amount, and month-to-month healthcare expenses can vary widely. This has caused a few problems in budgeting in the past.  

In an effort to mitigate the adverse financial effects of this unpredictable expense, Mr. Shabi noted that he and the Human Resources Director had invited and reviewed proposals from certain fully insured companies, such as Anthem. Upon reviewing the proposals, though, it became evident that the most cost-effective option for the Church was to continue to be self-insured.

Rick Shabi then presented to the Council a plan to establish a health care reserve account, which will permit healthcare expenses to be stable throughout the year, using an accounting method that will allow for positive and negative variances from budget to be recorded into the healthcare reserve. He also proposed setting aside some of our excess cash reserves in a Board-restricted fund to be used for healthcare expenses that are significantly over budget. 

The Council favorably responded to the suggestions made by Mr. Shabi and remanded the development of a policy to the Strategic Planning and Finance Committee (SPFC) to be brought back to the Council at a later date.

Bob Dick, as chair of the SPFC, then brought up a “use of cash reserves” policy. After discussion and agreement that such a policy was needed, the development of the policy was remanded to the Treasurer and Strategic Planning and Finance Committee for development and presentation during these Council meetings.

The Council went into executive session at 2:35 pm for discussion of international elders in governance.

The Council came into open session at 3:05 pm.

Presentation of the Fiduciary Responsibility of the Council of Elders—Kerry Roe

Chairman Ward introduced Kerry Roe, who is the President of the accounting firm of Clark Schaefer Hackett and the partner who supervises the Church’s annual audit. Mr. Roe presented an educational seminar to help the Council better understand their fiduciary responsibility as a non-profit board. Bob Dick, as the chair of the Strategic Planning and Finance Committee, organized this presentation as continuing education for the Council.

Following the seminar, Chairman Ward, mentioned handing out a notebook for new Council members with resource material to help them know what to expect. It was done in the past, but hasn’t been done for some time. It was remanded to the Ethics Committee to organize and determine the documents to be included.

The Council went into executive session at 4:17 pm to discuss ordinations.

The Council came into open session to set upcoming Council meeting dates:

December 9-12, 2019

February 24-27, 2020

May 5-7, 2020

August 17-20, 2020

The Council adjourned at 5:07 p.m.


Council Reporter

Shawn Cortelyou

[These are not the official minutes from the Council meeting. Elders can find those at the Home Office with the Council Secretary. Video recordings are posted for the elders on the UCG ministerial SharePoint site.]

© 2019 United Church of God, an International Association

News item printed under the Fair Use Provision of the copyright act


Add a Comment
  1. Have they published what their salaries are not a figure with salaries and sundries. How much does Viktor Kubik get for his ucg job and does he draw an additional salary from lifenets. Does his wife draw a salary. How much do they get. What kind of houses do the important names live in. I’d like to see photos. This church and every church need to be open and transparent in what they are taking from the money they collect. Also if the aged and the poor can live on social security and not receive money from the tithes collected why can’t ministers who have reached retirement age live on old age pensions and not continue to draw salaries from the church. People are tired of hearing they have to give to these people so they can in luxury and travel.

    Victor’s wife heads LifeNets while he is UCG president, of course a good wife is subject to her husband so nothing has really changed. Neither Victor nor his wife take any salary from LifeNets however LifeNets pays all of their LifeNets expenses like travel.

    Victor mentions LifeNets in every talk in his travels so that he can bill all of his UCG travel expenses to LifeNets. That little item saves UCG thousands and is one reason that Victor was voted president.

    If people continue to work they have a right to continue drawing reasonable wages for the work that they do. James

  2. The attendance drop where have approx 400 members gone ? Thats quite a number to lose in three years.
    Death? Infirmity? You’d think with baptisims and births the number would be more stable.

    Like the other Armstrong based COG groups UCG is rapidly aging and as people grow older, health and the inevitable takes them out of the attendees. Baptisms are mainly the few children of members who choose to remain and a very few new folks who may be impressed with the organization but most have very little understanding do to the doctrinal watering down of teachings. Today most “members” have little understanding and simply do as told out of loyalty to the organization or to family and friends.

    Trying to stave off collapse, UCG has been watering down the practical application of doctrine and baptizing almost anyone at all who is willing to support them; and they are still losing numbers in attendees. To survive UCG is watering down doctrine at least the practical application of its list of beliefs, in an effort to follow the SDA success pattern.

    COGWA is trying to deal with the issue by restricting spending on its outreach so as to finance their ministry; while LCG is continuing as in the past in the hope that things will improve.

    For some years we have been watching the slow decline of these organizations. This decline is now on a precipice and unless something dramatic happens, over the next ten years attendance will drop by at least 25 to 40 percent in these groups simply due to aging.

    God is not calling people to him through these organizations today, because they reject any growth in spiritual knowledge and godliness. They will shortly be cast into great tribulation if they refuse to repent.

    Right now they are trying every way but the right way and failing. God is allowing this so that we can learn to follow him wholeheartedly forever more.

    Do not despair, there will be a great revival of godliness during the tribulation as existing people sincerely repent and 144,000 new people [in the first two years] are called from Israel and many more from other nations and people. That is what TheShiningLight is laying the groundwork for. We are building a solid foundation of studies through every Word of God as a help for God’s two servants.

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