Conference approves bigger 2016 budget to boost leadership development


May 29, 2015

By: Christa Meland

Members of the 2015 Annual Conference Session voted Friday to approve a 2016 apportioned budget totaling $6,120,770. That’s roughly $121,000 more than the 2015 apportioned budget and $90,000 above the budget “ceiling,” the maximum allowed under conference standing rules. Members approved going $90,000 above ceiling in order to continue two critical leadership development initiatives.

With an “uncollectible contingency” of $605,000, the total amount to be apportioned in 2016 is $6,725,770. The uncollectible contingency accommodates anticipated shortfalls in some churches’ apportionment payments.

Apportionments are the share each annual conference or local church pays to support international, national, and local missions. Some of the funds remitted by Minnesota congregations stay within the state and help fund various Minnesota Conference programs and mission efforts, and about a quarter of the funds remitted by local churches go to the global United Methodist Church. Apportionments also pay for theinternal support system that allows for 100 percent of “second-mile” giving (to Imagine No Malaria and other Advance Specials) to go to the intended mission or ministry.

Before approving the 2016 budget, members agreed (by a vote of more than two-thirds) to suspend the conference “ceiling” rule, which uses a formula to limit the growth of the budget from one year to the next. Under that rule, the 2016 apportioned budget was limited to an increase of 0.5 percent, or $31,000, above the 2015 budget.

But the Common Table, which comprises leaders of all ministry teams, and the conference’s Budget Process Team recommended the larger budget so that the conference can continue two programs that prepare and develop leaders. The budget is still the lowest one since 2002 (with the exception of 2015).

The Council on Finance and Administration is required to comply with the ceiling rule and recommended a budget totaling $6,031,234. But after that recommendation was presented, conference co-Lay Leader Bob Kutter made a motion on behalf of the Common Table to suspend the ceiling in order to approve the larger budget, and members vote to approve that motion.

The two items that the $90,000 above ceiling will fund are:

· The Exploring Leadership Internship (ELI) Project:This is a summer internship for college students who are discerning a call to vocational ministry. After a week-long orientation, each intern is placed into a vital congregation with a gifted pastoral leader and spends eight weeks in a hands-on learning experience to discover his or her gifts for ministry and experience joys of pastoral ministry. An inaugural group of eight students will begin their orientation on Sunday. The first year of the program was made possible thanks to a $60,000 grant from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Young Clergy Initiative. But future years would need to be funded by the Minnesota Conference. Sixty-five percent of Minnesota clergy will be eligible to retire in the next five years.

· Soul Leaders: This umbrella title refers to clergy peer groups. Right now, Soul Leaders is a retreat series that offers small groups of clergy the opportunity to reconnect with their passion and purpose and explore issues related to heart, courage, and call. But it will soon be expanded to encompass other types of clergy peer groups that are under development. Leadership in the church is often lonely in that clergy are working in solo appointments in locations that are far from their peers. Peer group learning has proven to be one of the most effective ways for clergy to grow and be sustained in their ministry even after their formational years. Soul Leaders launched in 2013 thanks to accrued Ministerial Education Fund dollars, but those resources have been exhausted. The 2016 budget includes approximately $50,000 for the continuation and expansion of this program during that calendar year, $30,000 of which was contingent on increasing the ceiling.

Revs. Dianne Ciesluk of Grace UMC in Pequot Lakes and Elizabeth Macaulay of Christ UMC in Rochester, who have participated in Soul Leaders, were among those who spoke in favor of the bigger budget. Ciesluk called her Soul Leaders experience “life-changing,” and Macaulay said the program facilitates connection between clergy from across the state and builds circles of trust that “will ripple across the conference.”

Rev. Victoria Rebeck, a deacon appointed to the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, said the two programs are “strategic items that are designed to train leaders and will help our churches be more missional.” Rev. Rob Kopp of UMC of Thief River Falls echoed that sentiment, saying: “We need people who have passion and energy for the church and churches that are passionate about building those relationships.”

The 2016 budget was developed through a collaborative process that includes the ministry teams and boards of the annual conference.

The apportioned budget is organized around four key areas outlined in our Journey Toward Vitality: developing missional leaders, equipping missional congregations, extending missional impact, and generating missional resources. The Journey Toward Vitality is a roadmap that outlines the conference’s vision and the strategic pathways that will get us there. This roadmap is guiding us in our efforts to increase congregational vitality.

The areas of the budget, and the 2016 apportioned amount budgeted for each, are:

• Developing missional leaders: $1,114,680
• Equipping missional congregations: $706,242
• Extending missional impact: $1,862,240
• Generating missional resources: $233,508
• Aligning our work: Leadership of the annual conference: $930,238
• Aligning our work: Support of the annual conference: $1,273,862
• Uncollectible contingency (under direction of the Council of Finance and Administration): $605,000

*For more detailed information about the 2016 apportioned budget, click here.

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.




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