Conference approves budget above ceiling to preserve congregational grants

June 23, 2016

By: Christa Meland

Members of the 2016 Annual Conference Session voted Thursday to approve a 2017 apportioned budget totaling $6,106,460. That’s roughly $14,300 less than the 2016 apportioned budget but $109,549 above the budget “ceiling,” the maximum allowed under conference standing rules. Members approved going $109,549 above the ceiling in order to continue to provide grants to churches for new ministries and during appointment transitions.  

With an “uncollectible contingency” of $725,000, the total amount to be apportioned in 2017 is $6,831,460. 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 the internal 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 2017 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 2017 apportioned budget required a 2 percent decrease from 2016, meaning the maximum allowable apportioned budget was $5,996,911.

But the Common Table, which comprises leaders of all ministry teams, recommended the larger budget so that the conference can continue to provide Investing in Congregations grants at the same funding level as in other recent years. The apportioned budget has historically included $250,000 for such grants, and the bigger budget keeps it the same in 2017.

Of that $250,000, $50,000 is used for three-year bridge grants that accommodate health insurance or salary differences between outgoing and incoming clergy—and on average, eight churches receive such funding in any given year. The remaining $200,000 is used for Investing in Congregations grants, which range from $100 to more than $20,000 and are distributed annually to churches for new ministries, worship services, programs, and staff positions.

Rev. Amy Jo Bur, who serves St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Mendota Heights and chairs the Investing in Congregations grant team, was one of several people who spoke in favor of the Common Table-recommended budget.

“The reason that I chair this team with joy is because I am inspired by the amazing grant applications which we receive from congregations, big and small and all over our annual conference, and by the new and exciting work that they are doing,” said Bur, who pointed out that requests received over the past year totaled more than twice than the amount available.

Rev. Jo Anne Taylor, who serves First United Methodist Church in New Ulm, said her church received an Investing in Congregations grant that went to providing staff support for NUMAS House, a homeless shelter that will provide emergency housing to displaced single-mother families in Brown County. “It was a God-sized vision that is just about to become a God-sized reality,” she said while urging conference members to approve the higher budget. “And in the process, we have moved from being a congregation that operated out of a mindset of scarcity…into the mindset of a congregation that seeks abundance and offers abundance to our community.”

The 2017 approved budget is still $920,580 less than the 2007 budget—the conference’s historical high point. The Council on Finance and Administration is required to comply with the ceiling rule and recommended an apportioned budget totaling $5,996,911. 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.

Conference members also voted to change the budget ceiling rule to stipulate that the apportioned budget may be increased by no more than 3 percent over the previous year’s budget, based on a recommendation from the Common Table, the Council on Finance and Administration, and the Board of Pension and Health Benefits. The previous rule stipulated that the budget could be annually increased by no more than the three-year average of the annual increase in funds received in the local churches.

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 2017 apportioned amount budgeted for each, are:
• Developing missional leaders: $1,051,277
• Equipping missional congregations: $799,153
• Extending missional impact: $1,926,779
• Generating missional resources: $269,584
• Aligning our work: Leadership of the annual conference: $922,299
• Aligning our work: Support of the annual conference: $1,137,368
• Uncollectible contingency (under direction of the Council of Finance and Administration): $725,000

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

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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