Together We Can: Church puts new emphasis on connectional giving
As the national economy continues its sluggish recovery, connectional giving is receiving new emphasis in The United Methodist Church.
“When we give, great things happen,” said Mary Lynn Holly of United Methodist Communications. “We can do together what otherwise we cannot do separately.”
Church resources are focusing on the commands of Christ and our Wesleyan heritage as the basis for a worldwide network of transformational ministries.
“A network of interconnected relationships — from local church, district, conference and general church mission and ministry — are essential to fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission,” Holly added.
Rising health care costs, insurance costs, utilities and building maintenance costs are all putting additional pressure on churches.
In 2009, the Virginia Conference paid 83.24 percent of its general church apportionments, broken down this way:
- 84.94 percent of World Service Fund;
- 81.14 percent of Africa University Fund;
- 77.90 percent of Black College Fund;
- 88.47 percent of Episcopal Fund;
- 77.15 percent of General Administration Fund;
- 78.19 percent of Interdenominational Cooperation Fund;
- 77.45 percent of Ministerial Education Fund.
In addition, churches from the conference contributed these amounts for the church’s six Special Sunday offerings:
- $12,993 for Human Relations Day;
- $92,498 for One Great Hour of Sharing;
- $11,714 for Native American Ministries Sunday;
- $5,199 for Peace with Justice Sunday;
- $24,901 for World Communion Sunday;
- $14,115 for United Methodist Student Day.
Because people are more likely to open their wallets when there is an emotional component, United Methodist church members are always quick to give for special needs, such as Hurricane Katrina relief along the Gulf Coast, or following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In 2008, the 34,000 churches and 45,000 clergy in the denomination gave a total of $6.3 billion. That’s $121 million a week, or about $12,000 per minute!
These gifts to the Advance and other designated areas are considered “second mile” giving. The apportioned funds are “first mile,” or the first priority of members and churches. These funds provide the framework of the entire denomination, and enable us to help more people in more ways.
Some members grumble that apportionments are a “tax” or even a “franchise fee.” There’s also misconception that the general church receives a large portion of the apportionment. But for every $1,000 in apportionment money received, $845 is returned to the local church in various services and programs; $124 goes to the conference, district and jurisdiction, $22 goes to apportioned funds including places like Africa University and the Ministerial Education Fund, and $9 goes to the general fund.
Clergy leadership on giving is important. The church conducted research from 2006-2010 and found that many church members say they seldom receive information on giving from their pastors. The research identified a 16 percent increase in participation when conferences made a point of asking its ministers to emphasize a Special Sunday offering or other specific area.
United Methodist Communications has developed DVDs, posters and brochures on giving. Look for “Together we can,” the theme for 2009-2012. Visit www.umcgiving to learn more and to access these resources.
— Neill Caldwell is Editor of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate