By: Christa Meland
Last year, even as ministry looked different while congregations continued to navigate COVID-19, Minnesota United Methodists gave generously and demonstrated a strong commitment to connectional giving.
The total amount remitted to the Minnesota Conference in 2021 totaled $5.3 million—approximately 83 percent of the $6.4 million apportioned budget and up 2.1 percent from 2020. This is an incredible receipt rate considering the challenges and uncertainty that all churches have experienced amid the pandemic.
Apportionments are the share each local church pays to support international, national, and local missions. The amount of money each congregation is asked to pay is determined by a formula that is based 15 percent on each congregation’s number of members and 85 percent on each congregation’s expenditures.
“I want to convey a heartfelt thank you to our churches for their incredible generosity during this difficult season of ministry,” said Barb Brower, the Minnesota Conference’s director of finance and administration, and treasurer. “Their faithfulness amid all the uncertainty brought by the pandemic is inspiring and truly makes a difference. This dedication to our connectional system has put us in a strong financial position as we prepare for changes in our denomination and continue to fulfill our mission of making disciples of Jesus to transform the world.”
The impact of apportioned giving
The majority of the funds remitted by Minnesota congregations stay within Minnesota and help fund various Minnesota Conference programs and mission efforts. Some of the things that apportionments fund within the conference are:
• New church starts across the state
• Revitalization processes for churches—which include the Missional Church Consultation Initiative (MCCI), the Healthy Church Initiative (HCI), and Choosing the Faithful Path
• Training and equipping of church leaders through opportunities like REACH webinars and Lay Servant Ministries
• Programs for clergy excellence and renewal, including the Clergy Leadership Academy and Shmita
• The ELI Project, an internship program for college students exploring a call to vocational ministry
• Resources for congregations, like the conference-wide Lenten study, and full worship services and other worship elements for use during this pandemic season
• Credentialing, appointments, and supervision for clergy
• Administration of pension and health insurance plans for clergy
• Congregational development grants to support new ministries and outreach efforts
• The conference’s camping ministry and thousands of dollars in camp scholarships given to those who couldn’t otherwise attend camp
• Sending teams on mission trips to places like Puerto Rico and the Henderson Settlement in Kentucky
• Providing grants to United Methodist campus ministries across Minnesota
• Free access to consultation, curriculum, and a variety of other resources, ministry ideas, and pooled wisdom through The Ministry Lab
• Digital, print, and social media that provide a contact point for Minnesota United Methodists and seekers, and that share stories of the conference’s work and witness in the world
In 2021, the general church collected 76.4 percent of the amount it requested from U.S. annual conferences through apportionments, representing the lowest collection rate in more than 15 years. Minnesota paid $977,000 to the denomination—representing 74.2 percent of its apportioned amount and reflecting the wishes of some churches that have opted to withhold all or some of their general church apportionments following the 2019 General Conference.
A commitment to connectional giving
Approximately 70 percent of Minnesota churches gave 100 percent of requested apportionments in 2021. Among them is Epworth UMC in Minneapolis, which paid in full for the first time in a number of years.
“We decided to lean into an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity,” said Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay, who leads that congregation. “Given that the annual conference has resourced us powerfully through a consultation process and the placement of an intern from Luther Seminary, we wanted to commit to ongoing shared ministry.”
She pointed out that Epworth sits in the middle of a strategic ministry field—just blocks from the Mississippi River and in the midst of a neighborhood impacted by the uprisings following the murder of George Floyd.
“In the midst of so much that has fractured community…it is good to be in connection as repairers of the breach,” she said, referencing Isaiah 58:12. “As a United Methodist community resource center, we are committed to engaging in the transforming and justice-seeking movement of Jesus. We believe we can best do that work through the connection we share.”
Breckenridge UMC also paid 100 percent of its apportionments in 2021 for the first time in some years.
“It is important in the sense that we are working together for a common cause—to make disciples of Christ—and this is lived out in the life of the church by knowing that we have support, training, and direction from the district and conference levels,” said Rev. Mark Gronseth. “Because of this connection, we also support the ongoing work of the church as we give of not only our time, but our talents and our gifts.”
He noted that Breckenridge has started to change its mindset from that of barely getting by to one of prosperity through faith—and the increase in apportioned giving is one result of this shift. “As we each provide our share, the whole benefits and grows in new opportunities and outreach,” he said.
Other giving and looking ahead
Each year, Minnesota United Methodists give above and beyond apportionments to various ministries and causes. One of those is the 2021 Love Offering, to which they gave $66,859.
At the 2021 Annual Conference last August, members approved a 2022 apportioned budget totaling $5,525,000—representing a 7 percent reduction from the 2021 budget. Conference staff and the Council on Finance and Administration are now working on a proposed 2023 budget, which will be voted on at the 2022 Annual Conference taking place May 24-26 in St. Cloud.
Minnesota United Methodists, thank you for your partnership and continued generosity!
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church