$15.4 million links churches to bigger achievements
By HOLLY McCRAY
The 505 churches of the Oklahoma Conference gave a total of $15,441,608 to the connectional work of the Church in 2014.
That’s a 92.66 percent collection rate for Apportionments. These funds enabled a vast array of ministries, far exceeding what one United Methodist church can accomplish alone.
By giving 100 percent to all Apportionments, imagine how much more Oklahomans can accomplish for the glory of God in 2015:
- Equip more laypeople to become bivocational pastors and to be church youth leaders. (In 2014, the Academy for Youth/Children’s Workers educated 15 such leaders, and 19 people enrolled in the Part-Time Local-Pastors Academy.)
- Assist newly released inmates with re-entry into society through Criminal Justice & Mercy Ministries. (In 2014, CJAMM decreased the recidivism rate for its Exodus House graduates and expanded programming for New Day camps by adding mountain biking, rock climbing, etc.)
- Reach more people who don’t participate in church life through New People New Places grants to 24 churches.
- Grow more disciples in churches with fewer than 50 worshippers.
(In 2014, "Living the Lord’s Prayer" regional events helped 285 people from 69 churches develop spiritual practices. In February 2015, about 130 youngsters attended Confirmation Retreats, which add to discipling by churches with few youth members.)
- Engage more young adults in the life of the Church. Oklahoma soon will have five US2s, young adult missionaries, serving in various roles.
- Develop new church communities and strengthen existing ones through Congregational Development by:
– Awarding scholarships to church planters to attend the annual School of Congregational Development.
– Providing resources to reach people of Asian heritage, especially through Edmond Chinese International UMC, Korean-language churches, and the Chinese student ministry at the University of Oklahoma.
- Recruit and educate clergy through the efforts of the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) by:
– Preparing 11 clergy to be ordained, and 18 to be commissioned as Provisional Members. – Awarding scholarships to 32 students at six seminaries.
– Helping full- and part-time Local Pastors attend Course of Study School. (In 2014, BOM assisted 29 in this goal.)
- Transform more lives through camping experiences.
"Young campers learn new skills, make new friends, hear the voice of God, and respond to that call. That’s too important. I don’t want to turn a child away because there’s not enough money," said Ed Parker, Camps executive director. (In 2014, the Conference’s three facilities hosted 18,536 campers of all ages.)
In January, Treasurer Brian Bakeman told the Council on Finance & Administration (CFA), "Most people think about Apportionments in the same light as operating budgets. It is usually easier to raise specific dollars for mission or special projects than it is for operating budgets."
In a Contact interview, Tom Junk concurred. "These images are easier for people to get in their minds. It’s harder to paint the picture for what Conference administration does."
However, "without administration and the structure of the Church, we don’t have the platform and mechanisms to respond when there is need."
Junk chairs the CFA, and he has served about a year as a director of the General Board of Global Ministries, including the UMCOR emergency committee. This member of Tulsa-First Church sees directly how Apportionments support God’s work at all levels of the denomination.
Perhaps the examples in this story give some clarity to where Apportionment money goes in Oklahoma.
"I think as the successes of the New People New Places initiative become apparent to us, and as new disciples are made because of those projects, that our stewardship is going to be encouraged," Junk said.
Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. consistently vows "to finish strong" in all areas. At the January CFA meeting, he questioned the ongoing decline in Apportionment receipts.
"We’re affecting these wonderful ministries we have across the state," said Rev. Bakeman.
Several ministries, including Circle of Care and Cookson Hills Center, typically receive more than 100 percent of their Apportionment requests. But even those receipts fell in 2014.
Circle of Care Apportionment support slid below 93 percent, missing the agency’s $700,000 budget by about $49,200. Receipts for the Okhoma City University Apportionment were reported at 85 percent, leaving a budget hole of $145,291.
Annual Conference delegates approved a lower Conference budget for 2014, which in turn lowered the total Apportionments requested from churches ($16,663,047). And among Oklahoma’s 30 largest churches, based on their assigned Apportionments, all but four gave 100 percent that year.
Still, the overall 92.66 percent collection rate — $1.2 million less from all churches — was the lowest in 10 years.
(Statistics provided by Adam Leathers, CJAMM director; Diana Northcutt, director of Discipleship; Sarah Nichols, director of Young Adult Mission & Service/Project Transformation; and Chuck Nordean, director of Clergy & Congregational Development.)
View and download a 1-page "2015 Conference Apportionment Guide" at www.okumc.org/ApportionmentInformation
By Sally Williams
Member, D.D. Etchieson UMC
According to some surveys, United Methodists average giving 1.7 percent of our income to God. We usually tip servers in a restaurant 15 percent. Is there something wrong with this picture? Here are some simple ways of giving:
There are 5,280 feet in a mile. If we committed to at least 1 mile a year of:
(Reprinted with permission, the OIMC Advocate, March-April 2015)