UMCGiving

Church sees surge in giving at years end

View of the offering basket at First United Methodist Church of Sulphur Springs, Texas, in 2020. Overall collection rates for general church ministries were higher than feared, but COVID-19 still presents a great deal of uncertainty for church financial leaders. File photo by Sam Hodges, UM News.
View of the offering basket at First United Methodist Church of Sulphur Springs, Texas, in 2020. Overall collection rates for general church ministries were higher than feared, but COVID-19 still presents a great deal of uncertainty for church financial leaders. File photo by Sam Hodges, UM News.
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An outpouring in end-of-year giving left United Methodist finances in better shape than projected in the early months of the pandemic.

However, between the ongoing COVID-19 menace and the possibility of a denominational split, The United Methodist Church still faces financial uncertainty.

Altogether, preliminary figures show that the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration collected about 79.3% of 2020 U.S. apportionments — requested shares of giving that support denomination-wide ministries.

That’s the denomination’s lowest collection rate in at least 15 years, but it’s significantly better than the 70% collection rate that GCFA staff were projecting in the fall.

“We had almost $40 million in collections in December of 2020,” said Rick King, the finance agency’s chief financial officer. “As far as I can go back, that is the most dollars we have received in any month ever.”

Apportionments to the general church come from annual conferences, which in turn apportion giving from local churches. The U.S. supports the bulk of general church ministries.

Bishop Mike McKee, General Council on Finance and Administration board president, attributed the December surge in giving, in part, to churches feeling more stable about their own finances amid the pandemic’s challenges. McKee leads the North Texas Conference.

Faced with uncertainty about the denomination’s future, most denomination-wide ministries already had budgeted for a 70% to 75% collection rate in 2020 and are budgeting for around a 50% collection rate this year.

The facts are that The United Methodist Church has seen giving to general church ministries drop for two consecutive years.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of last year’s General Conference, and the slow rollout of vaccines has put in doubt whether the denomination’s global legislative assembly can go forward as planned on Aug. 29-Sept. 7 in Minneapolis.

In the meantime, the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the denomination’s financial strain.

The preliminary figures for 2020 show that United Methodists around the globe gave about $115.5 million in general-church apportionments. That’s about an $8 million decline from 2019, a year that already saw a marked decrease from recent years.

General church apportionments support seven funds. Those funds include support for bishops, ministerial education, most general agencies, general administration, and denomination-wide efforts such as the Black College Fund, ecumenical work and Africa University in Zimbabwe.

But not all funds received the same level of support. Africa University, the second-smallest fund, saw an 88.4% collection rate while the General Administration, the fund that supports General Conference and GCFA itself, saw the lowest collection rate at 76%.

excerpt from a story Heather Hahn, multimedia news reporter, UM News

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