Photo: Pease CRC
Photo by Pease CRC

Nearly 125 years after 31 Dutch settlers officially organized a Christian Reformed church in Pease, Minn., current members of the church are looking ahead and planning for the upcoming century.

Topping the agenda in 1895 was the idea of building a small wooden church in which the community could worship, and a parsonage where the pastor and his family could live.

Now plans are on the books to fund and put up a new fellowship hall for Pease CRC, located about 90 miles north of Minneapolis. But over the past year, with an eye on their long-term future, a committee of the church’s leaders also established a Legacy Foundation, maintained by the Chicago-area-based Barnabas Foundation.

“As we are getting ready to celebrate 125 years in 2020, part of the conversation has involved how we will prepare and move forward for the next 25, 50, 100 years,” said Michael Ten Haken, pastor of the church.

For the most part, said Ten Haken, church members believed in the past that they “shouldn’t keep, save, or invest money,” trusting that “the Lord would provide and that people would give money to invest in the kingdom.”

Submitting to the providence of God in this way, said Ten Haken, is important. “But at some point,” he added, “there is another way to think about wealth, about the importance of planning for the future.”

While Pease does have a memorial fund to which members can donate money from wills, estates, and other sources, those funds go into the congregation’s general fund and tend to be spent on various projects or mission efforts. That fund will grow, be drawn down, and then grow again, said Ten Haken, a former banker.

“Those who came before us left a legacy of a church building,” he said. “We don’t need another church building, but we still want to sustain ministry for the long term. Planning for the future financially has changed a lot.”

When Ten Haken came to Pease about five years ago, a group of Pease CRC leaders had already been discussing options for investing funds from wills, estates, and other gifts.

Helping to inspire them, said Ten Haken, has been a foundation established by the local Christian school. Funds in that foundation have grown over time and can be used to help support the school.

As the conversation about investing for the future grew more serious, church leaders gave Ten Haken the go-ahead to contact Barnabas Foundation.

A close partner with the CRCNA, Barnabas Foundation provides a number of resources and services to CRC congregations in the U.S. to encourage a culture of generosity and to help believers give to ministry in tax-wise ways. This includes ready-made “Legacy Foundations,” which Barnabas will establish and maintain on behalf of local churches.

“Establishing a Legacy Foundation is a long-term approach that works on our behalf. The interest grows over time, depending on how much we are able to invest in it,” said Ten Haken.

Some 50 CRC congregations have established these foundations, said Rev. Phillip Leo, church communications director for Barnabas Foundation.

“A church can set up a Legacy Foundation without all kinds of legal expenses and complexities,” said Leo. “A Legacy Foundation enables confidence-giving by letting members know there is a structure in place for their gifts to be stewarded in a smart and healthy way.”

Other services Barnabas Foundation offers to CRC congregations include assistance with non-cash gifts (such as real estate, stocks, and business interests), stewardship education, charitable planning services, congregational surveys, and support and training for church leaders. In addition, Barnabas Foundation’s Stewards Fund (a donor-advised fund) provides families a simple, streamlined way to give to multiple ministries, including their local church.

Besides the CRC, Barnabas Foundation serves approximately 200 member ministries, including schools, churches, colleges, gospel missions, Scripture printing organizations, and healthcare, eldercare, and radio ministries.

“A Legacy Foundation gives a church the stability and strength to do things outside of a current year’s operating budget,” said Leo. “It also gives a church the agility — say, if a piece of land has just come on the market that it wants to buy — to make decisions quickly. It’s not about having to raise money to do it.”

Churches can set up a fund that has a few categories into which they place their funds. Pease CRC has chosen to designate funds for missions, building, and ministries.

For instance, they can use funds to help support their mission effort in Guatemala, to construct a new fellowship hall, or to expand their ministry in the church or community, said Ten Haken.

“As money from wills and estates comes in, we can pass it on to the foundation,” said Ten Haken. “This provides a way to assure people that if they want to give toward the long-term viability of the church, their money is safe.”