UMCs strive to meet 96 percent apportionments goal
By Jessica Connor
On the heels of the past years’ stewardship upswing, conference financial leaders are projecting even better numbers for 2014.
Tony Prestipino, S.C. Conference treasurer, said he expects to see United Methodist churches in the state hit at least 90 percent in terms of paying their apportionment payments, and probably even higher. S.C. Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston and the Conference Council on Finance and Administration have set a 96 percent goal.
“I’m excited; we’re aiming for 96 percent, and as of now I don’t think we’ll have any problem being at 90 or even 92 percent, and hopefully even higher,” Prestipino told the Advocate at press time.
Last year, S.C. UMCs paid 89.72 percent of apportionments for 2013—the best numbers since 2002 and almost 3 percent higher than the 87.02 percent paid in 2012, which itself was almost 3 percent higher than 2011’s 84.2 percent. That 89.72 percent for 2013 translated to $15.76 million paid to the conference last year of the $17.6 million total budget—and $213,405 more for ministry than the conference received from churches in 2012.
This year, the budget is $17.33 million, and to date the treasurer’s office has received 49.8 percent of that amount, which even better than we were this time last year.
‘We’re up a percent and a half compared to this time last year,” Prestipino told the Advocate. “All in all, we’re having a good year, and all indications are positive.”
He noted strong performance by the Columbia District, as always, plus a sizable jump from the Walterboro District, which is currently ranked second in giving by district, at 53.7 percent (last year at this time, Walterboro was at 47.9 percent).
Healthy churches, healthier apportionments
Prestipino said part of the reason for such strong giving is that churches seem to understand now that by paying their apportionments, they are supporting the conference’s programs and agencies, such as campus ministries and Salkehatchie Summer Service.
As CF&A Chair the Rev. David Surrett noted, “We hope that local churches will view apportionments as a way to extend their reach beyond their local parish area and are true means of mission and outreach, not merely administrative costs.”
To help churches think even deeper about stewardship, CF&A has committed itself to hosting some large-scale financial workshops. The first, a Stewardship Summit held Sept. 20 Shandon UMC, Columbia, aimed to teach churches how to be better stewards of their financial and other resources. It featured wisdom from the Rev. Ken Sloane, director of stewardship and connectional ministries for the UMC’s General Board of Discipleship.
Prestipino said the summit was designed to help move churches to a healthier state of being, with the theory that if we have healthier churches, we’ll have healthier apportionments. It was geared toward helping churches who have never had a stewardship campaign to begin one; toward moving other churches’ stewardship campaigns beyond just paying the light bill to supporting missions and more; and toward fostering new ideas for those churches with strong stewardship campaigns.
“By doing this, I don’t think we’ll go from 92 to 93 percent this year, but hopefully this begins the process for two years from now,” Prestipino said.
Surrett said CF&A was “literally thrilled” with the response to their first summit, and noted the Hartsville District sent the largest attendees.
“The Council hopes that events like the Summit and the effective work of our conference treasurer's office will encourage congregations to more generous giving to the conference and total stewardship overall in all forms,” Surrett said, urging people to contact the treasurer's office or him with suggestions for future events or evaluation of their first effort. “I feel confident, buoyed by Bishop Holston's leadership, that we will exceed last year's nearly 90 percent payment rate by several additional points. The economy is slowly improving, persons are feeling more confident and, with stronger commitment inspired by the Summit and very positive spirit of CF&A and all the conference's leadership, will raise our apportionment giving rate.”
CF&A is planning another stewardship event for March or April.
Direct bill forgiveness
Another step CF&A is taking involves the new Direct Bill Forgiveness Plan, which the UMC approved at Annual Conference in June. Those churches that owe more than $25,000 in past-due medical and pension benefits for their pastors are now eligible to apply for forgiveness of 25 percent of that bill if they agree to pay 10 percent up front and enroll in monthly auto-pay through the treasurer’s office.
Prestipino said his office is dialoguing with about 10 of the 80 churches they are concerned about, which he thinks is good and will ultimately be very helpful.
For more information on stewardship events, the Direct Bill Forgiveness Plan or month-by-month apportionments performance by your district, visit www.umcsc.org/home/administrative-services or call 803-786-9486.
Apportionment Giving Through the Years
2014 Goal: 96 percent
Apportionment Payments by District
As of Aug. 30:
Rock Hill 48.1%
– S.C. Conference Treasurer’s Office