You may have read about the Minnesota Conference apportionment receipt rate for 2011. For several years, we held steady at receiving 86 percent of the amount we apportioned, but dropped to 84.2 percent in 2011.
You probably also know that the Minnesota Conference is leading the denomination with our pledges and gifts for Imagine No Malaria. You have pledged or given over $2,397,445, more than $597,000 over our goal. I am struck by the contrast between apportionment and Imagine No Malaria giving.
How did we exceed our pledge goal for Imagine No Malaria in less than a year—yet fall short every year of our goal of 100 percent payment of apportionments?
I think there are several factors. One is that Imagine No Malaria has a focused message with one goal and one activity: saving lives by eradicating deaths by malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Apportionments fund and support many, many ministries. If I tried to list them all, your eyes would soon glaze over.
We also had the benefit of a gifted field coordinator, Leia Williams, who focused solely on raising funds for Imagine No Malaria. Ms. Williams, with strong support from the bishop and district superintendents, recruited district and local leaders throughout the conference who carried the message to almost every church. Sharing stories one-on-one is a powerful motivator.
Telling the apportionment story is more difficult. We don’t have a dedicated staff person but rely on pastors and lay leaders in our churches. Apportionments are distributed broadly across many ministry and mission areas, not narrowly focused. The conference and the denomination provide resources but the breadth of the mission and ministry funded by the apportionments is harder to describe in a way that connects with people’s passions. (One place to look for resources about apportionments is www.umcgiving.org. Another great resource is InfoServ, infoserv.umc.org. You can also search the conference website, www.minnesotaumc.org, or call the conference office.)
A sprint and a marathon
Raising funds for Imagine No Malaria is like a sprint. We can see our finish line—pledges fulfilled, malaria deaths eradicated. Funding the ministries supported by apportionments is more like a marathon; the work will go on for the long term. There will always be a need for pastoral support, to resource congregational rebirths and plan new churches, for timely and clear information, and for human resources. Once we check “eradicate deaths by malaria” off our to-do lists, there will still be a lot more for United Methodists to accomplish together through shared ministry funding.
We should thank God and celebrate raising funds for Imagine No Malaria and apportionment support. In the Minnesota Conference about 75 percent of our churches pay apportionments at 100 percent. Many more pay at over 90 percent. We can accomplish most of what we propose in our budgets, in large part because of our line for uncollectible apportionments.
We need to do much more in key areas such as congregational development and strengthening churches. We hope that the Healthy Church Initiative and other initiatives will allow more churches to participate fully in our shared ministry.
It’s OK not to act so Minnesotan. We can acknowledge what we accomplish with God’s help, whether it is through our shared ministry funded through the apportioned funds or exceeding our pledge goal for Imagine No Malaria. And, in case we become smug and overconfident, remember that we have slipped a little in our apportionment giving and we still have to fulfill the pledges to Imagine No Malaria. We may see the finish line in the distance—but we are not there yet.
Barbara Carroll is director of finance and administration for the Minnesota Annual Conference.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church