A financial gift to an Advance project – every penny of it – dropped into the offering plate at a United Methodist Church in the United States will support the giver's designated missionary or mission program.
As the denomination's official program for voluntary, designated, second-mile giving, The Advance channels funds to more than 850 projects and 300 missionaries. All have documented needs for monetary support.
"The Advance links The United Methodist Church. It connects all churches in mission," says Ellen Knudsen, director of Advance projects for the General Board of Global Ministries. "We have a diverse group of projects, from building churches to digging wells to feeding and educating children, equipping hospitals and responding to disasters."
Because administrative costs for The Advance are paid with money from the World Service Fund, 100 percent of each gift goes directly to the designated recipient. Everyone who gives through The Advance can be certain both that the church approves the project, and the money will be used for the stated purpose.
"When a person gives through The Advance, they are giving to projects that have been stated as priorities by the episcopal leader in the area where the work is being done," Knudsen said.
Churches and individuals can, and do, give money and support directly to support worldwide mission work, Knudsen acknowledged.
"When funds go through The Advance to a project, we are supporting the work that the project put in its application," Knudsen said.
Vincent United Methodist Church in Nutley, N.J., and First United Methodist Church in Lancaster, Pa., are two of many churches who regularly use The Advance to support projects and missionaries in Tanzania.
The Rev. David LeDuc, Vincent's pastor, said one of the projects his church supports is the construction of a guesthouse and reception center near Dar es Salaam (#12635N), which the church in Tanzania needs as it transitions from provisional to full annual conference status.
Giving through The Advance allows Vincent members to feel confident that the projects will receive every dollar they give. LeDuc added, "In many other programs that people support outside of the church, there's so much administrative overhead that a smaller portion actually gets to the project you're wanting to support."
"Another advantage is that you can develop relationships with these ministries and relationships with the people who are working in the field" through the Advances, he said.
Civil engineer John Spears, a member of First Church in Lancaster, said he is personally involved in helping local church officials in Tanzania with the guesthouse and reception center project.
Having The Advance be responsible for auditing the funds "is a nice relief for the rest of us who don't like to worry about things like that, but maybe in the back of our mind are wondering where the money is going," Spears said. "… That is quite comforting to those of us who just want to get it done."
Tom Gillem, freelance writer and photographer based in Brentwood, Tenn.
The Advance is the accountable, designated-giving arm of The United Methodist Church. The Advance invites contributors to designate support for projects related to the General Board of Global Ministries. Individuals, local churches, organizations, districts and annual conferences may donate to The Advance. One hundred percent of every gift to The Advance goes to the project selected by the giver.