The United Methodist Church’s general agencies are deep into developing their spending plans for the year ahead, and the process is more complicated than ever.
Agency staff are trying to figure out what to budget for such line items as local church training, church-planting resources, disaster response, mission work and the employees who carry out these ministries around the globe.
Your support of the World Service Fund apportionment supports program-related general agencies, which are especially important to the common vision, mission, and ministry of The United Methodist Church.
But it’s hard to know how much you can spend, when the revenue side of the ledger mainly shows a bunch of question marks.
“Our challenge is to be realistic about our resources while not allowing our anxiety about decline to pre-emptively limit what God wants us to do,” said the Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, the chief connectional ministries officer of the Connectional Table. She is the top executive of the leadership body that coordinates the denomination’s mission and ministry, including programmatic agency work.
In this time of uncertainty, the General Council on Finance and Administration — the denomination’s finance agency — has been advising fellow agencies to budget with lower giving in mind. However, actual giving has exceeded the finance agency’s expectations during the pandemic, and some agencies have been able to take advantage of that by doing more ministry than would have been possible under the lower recommendations.
Both the Connectional Table and the General Council on Finance and Administration help guide agencies’ annual budgeting process. The finance agency’s board has final approval of agency spending plans when it meets each fall.
No one doubts The United Methodist Church is facing uncertainties that would have many accountants grabbing for their antacids.
United Methodist churches, annual conferences and the general agencies that serve the whole denomination are all feeling the financial strain of the global pandemic, tumultuous stock markets and rising inflation.
That leaves all United Methodist ministries that rely on church giving for revenue — including the Connectional Table and 10 of the denomination’s 13 general agencies — doing a lot of guesswork on what to expect from offering plates in the near future.
Funding for the denomination’s budget largely comes from apportionments paid by U.S. annual conferences. The regional bodies in turn ask for apportionments — shares of giving — from local churches.
However, many annual conferences are already paying their apportionments based on the significantly lower budget the General Council on Finance and Administration had submitted to General Conference in 2020, before COVID-caused shutdowns.
The denomination’s general agencies made cutbacks, reducing their full-time staff by about 25% over the past three years either through layoffs or by leaving positions vacant.
But even with fewer employees, agencies are trying to stay true to their mission.
Here is how these agencies’ annual budgeting process works in this fraught time.
- Step 1: General Conference
- Step 2: Estimating collections each year
- Step 3: Getting needed approvals
By the time the GCFA board votes in late November, each spending plan already has undergone multiple reviews.
In every step of the budgeting process, agencies focus on carrying out their General Conference-mandated ministries while keeping in mind the financial pressures faced throughout the denomination.
excerpt from a story by Heather Hahn, assistant news editor for UM News.
The World Service Fund provides basic financial support to program-related general agencies, which are especially important to the common vision, mission, and ministry of The United Methodist Church. Through World Service funding, agencies support annual conferences and local congregations in living out God’s mission for the worldwide Church. General agencies also provide essential services and ministries beyond the scope of individual local congregations and annual conferences through services and ministries that are highly focused, flexible, and capable of rapid response.