When church members ask this of pastors, district superintendents, and conference staff, they may be hoping for an answer in a dollar amount. Then they could compare that to the church’s apportionment payments.
I sometimes wish I could give that type of answer because it is what I’m trained to do—measure and account for financial transactions. But participation in paying apportionments is not just a quid-pro-quo financial transaction. It is an element of a connectional polity that that was established by John Wesley in the very early days of Methodism.
Since Wesley’s time, giving has been both local and connectional (beyond each local church), and was understood as a corporate or community responsibility that allowed every member of whatever means to participate. This joint stewardship has always been understood as a way of undergirding organizational needs in ministry, church expansion, and, later, in pension support for clergy.
Nevertheless, the connectional system—including apportionments—provides to churches many benefits, even those that can’t be measured in dollars and cents. Since I am almost as fond of making lists as I am of working with columns of numbers, here is a list of answers to, “What does my church get from paying apportionments?”
Training, credentialing, appointing, and supervising clergy in education through the conference board of ordained ministry, the district superintendency, and Ministerial Education Funds.
Moving expenses for pastors changing appointments and retiring local pastors and elders.
Information, resources, and training for clergy and lay leadership.
Administration of a health-insurance plan plus 10 percent of active clergy health insurance premium.
Administration of pension plans plus a significant portion of pension benefits for retired clergy are covered from the earnings from long-term management of funds resulting from a capital campaign.
Grants for projects that help churches reach neighbors and increase spiritual vitality.
A conduit and system that enables churches to pool their resources toward mission projects around the world and at home—projects that no single church could do alone.
Infrastructure that ensures 100 percent of gifts to Advance Specials, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Imagine No Malaria, Love Offerings, Special Sundays and many others benefits the desired mission or ministry.
Almost every church was started with financial and other support from the annual conference and/or “mother churches.”
The Ministerial Education Fund assists seminary students during their schooling and active clergy with continuing education.
Support for the Resource Center for Churches, which makes available curricula, small-group study books and videos, stewardship training tools, Bible studies, Christian education resources, and much more.
Support for the Minnesota United Methodist Foundation, which advises churches on planned giving, stewardship, and investment management of church assets.
Partial support for the conference Christian camping ministry, which helps young and old meet Christ in creation and among supportive community.
Staff and other support for youth events.
Administration of a loan guarantee program to assist churches with securing financing for building and remodeling projects.
Print, internet, and social media that provide a contact point for Minnesota United Methodists and anyone seeking a nearby United Methodist Church or information about the United Methodist Church in our conference, the nation, and the world.
Conference entities monitor and support cultural inclusiveness in the increasingly diverse mission field that is Minnesota.
Cataloguing and maintenance of historical documents and artifacts of discontinued churches and the United Methodist movement in Minnesota and making them available for research and learning.
All of these things and more were part of the 2013 apportioned budget that clergy and lay people from every Minnesota United Methodist congregation approved during annual conference session. Voting on the budget at annual conference session is more than approving some numbers on paper or approving a goal that we expect someone else to meet. It is also a vote by every clergy and every lay member to support the budget in their own church.
Annual conference session ended June 1 but work continues in every local church through sharing information about the apportionment and planning for and encouraging full payment of apportioned funds.
Barbara Carroll is director of finance and administration for the Minnesota Annual Conference.