By: Christa Meland
Last year, even as COVID-19 drastically shifted our ways of doing ministry and being church, Minnesota United Methodists were steadfast in their commitment to connectional giving and gave generously through apportioned dollars.
The total amount remitted to the Minnesota Conference in 2020 totaled $5.7 million—approximately 80.1 percent of the $6.3 million apportioned budget and down just 2.6 percent from 2019. This is an incredible receipt rate considering the challenges experienced by each and every congregation.
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 my deepest gratitude to our churches for their commitment to our shared mission and ministry during a year of unprecedented change and constant pivoting,” said Barb Brower, the Minnesota Conference’s director of finance and administration, and treasurer. “This incredible generosity puts our conference in a strong financial position as we look ahead, prepare for changes in our denomination, and continue to be a vital expression of the kingdom of God.”
The conference instituted a freeze on non-essential spending for much of last year and received a (later forgiven) Paycheck Protection Program loan that enabled it to maintain cash flow toward the beginning of the pandemic when apportioned giving was down.
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 2020, the general church collected 79.3 percent of the amount it requested from U.S. annual conferences through apportionments, representing the lowest collection rate in at least 15 years. Minnesota paid $1.2 million to the denomination—representing 72.6 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 two-thirds of Minnesota churches gave 100 percent of requested apportionments in 2020. Among them is Faith Church in Farmington.
“Faith Church of Farmington is committed to paying its apportionments each year as part of the connection we have to other United Methodist churches in Minnesota,” said Rev. Karen Evenson. “We have had conversations about the impact we can have collectively on: missions locally, nationally, and internationally; supporting clergy and churches by being able to provide quality insurance, investment, and retirement options; and giving access to educational, camp, and other opportunities throughout the conference.”
In 2020, in part because of the funds Minnesota churches contributed to apportionments, Faith Church received an Investing in Congregations Grant that will enable it to hire a part-time youth coordinator and minister to young people in new ways.
“Sometimes paying apportionments can feel like a stretch, but we have learned that by paying them, resources like this grant and much more are possible,” said Evenson.
In 2020, Willmar UMC also paid 100 percent of apportionments after a difficult 2019 in which paying in full wasn’t possible.
“My appointment as intentional interim pastor began in the middle of pandemic shut down, which proved to be a blessing,” said Rev. Jo Anne Taylor. “Changes that would have taken months to accomplish during any other interim season became urgent. We started to talk in terms of abundance rather than scarcity, and a church that had worried about paying its bills the year before started looking for new ways to do ministry. Reminding the congregation of all the ways the conference supports our congregation during this strange and wonderful season makes it easy to keep our apportioned commitment a priority. It may seem odd, but keeping our apportionments paid on time is another reminder of God’s abundance.”
‘Second-mile’ giving and looking ahead
Each year, Minnesota United Methodists give above and beyond apportionments to various ministries and causes. They collectively contributed $481,516 in “second-mile” giving in 2020. This includes $51,016 for the 2020 Love Offering and $45,646 for the “Just Love” special appeal, which enables partnerships with our congregations to support ministries of mercy and ministries of racial justice following the death of George Floyd. A special asking for the camp ministry, which had to suspend its 2020 youth programming because of COVID-19, also resulted in $35,489—and our conference contributed $135,612 to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), which provides emergency supplies and shelter in the aftermath of disasters.
At the 2020 Annual Conference last August, members approved a 2021 apportioned budget totaling $5,629,157—representing an 11 percent reduction from the 2020 budget. Conference staff and the Council on Finance and Administration are now working on a proposed 2022 budget, which will be voted on at the 2021 Annual Conference in June.
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