In 2013, Christ UMC in Lancaster, NH, owed $20,000 in back Mission Shares. Now they are paying 100 percent. Christ UMC pastor, Rev. Richard Boyden, shares the story of how the congregation turned things around.
July 21, 2020
In 2013, Christ UMC in Lancaster, NH, had not paid Mission Shares for some years and the church was around $20,000 in arears.
I strongly suggested that the church to consider Mission Share Relief and an evaluation. There are a considerable number of statistics that need to be gathered to apply and many deadlines associated with the application, and I found that the pastor has to be motivational and involved in this phase of the process.
The Church Council approved filing for Mission Share Relief. We knew that we would only get further behind if we continued doing the same thing with the same attitude.
I cannot overstate that, especially in the early stages, the pastor has to work with the church leaders and be an encourager and
I encouraged the church leadership, as a part of the budgeting process, to consider Mission Shares as the cost of doing business as a United Methodist Church and to look at the Mission Shares at the same level as lights, heat and other operational expenses. This took some convincing.
It is important to persuade the congregation of the value of paying their Mission Shares. I also used resources to show where Mission Shares go and how they directly benefit the local church as well as emphasizing UMCOR and other local, national and world missions.
This can be done from the pulpit as well as at meetings, and it is a good practice to include lay folk in these presentations.
Using denominational resources, which, by the way, have improved greatly since we started the process, can assist in the promotional presentations. (Here is some information on connectional giving from ResourceUMC.org). Our District Superintendents were very helpful as a resource as well as the administrative folks in the Conference office.
Special appeal to the congregation’s missional desires and to how the Mission Shares come back in benefit to the local church is a helpful approach. This can include helping them to see that while they are paying reduced Mission Shares other churches are assisting them and that when they are at 100%, they are helping other churches to fulfil their mission.
It is extremely important to celebrate small achievements as they happen. It is also important to focus on stewardship approaches that really work. For us it was Herb Miller’s New Consecration Sunday approach, however there are many effective resources out there and if one doesn’t work try another. Miller’s system worked great for us.
After we received a five-year reduction in our Mission Shares, we also applied for the Mission Share Forgiveness programoffered by the New England Conference and emphasized that this is one of the benefits provided by our Conference.
It is requirement and an absolute must that during the five years that the church pay 100% of the reduced Mission Shares, because the church cannot receive the forgiveness of previous unpaid Mission Shares unless the 100% of the reduced mission shared are paid during that time.
It is necessary to set up a plan to work toward paying in full the full amount of Mission Shares once the five-year reduction ends. The church cannot wait until that happens to establish a process to pay Mission Shares into the future.
There are many approaches to this: special offerings, fundraisers, etc. We used special offerings, appeals, and eventually set aside, off the top, a weekly amount from Sunday worship offerings.
The Sunday morning offering approach is necessary; however, it can be hard to do when you find yourself short for other financial obligations. For Christ Church this step was absolutely necessary. It is based on the financial principle that a small payment over a longer time is easier than a large payment all at once. This led to our setting aside a weekly amount that would pay our full (non-reduced) Mission Shares by Dec. 31 of the year they are due.
After all our arrearages were paid off and, by the way, the Conference forgiveness is a great encouragement. We still had an amount of past-due Mission Shares at the end of the five-year period and it took us two years to pay that amount off, but we did it! Celebrating all the way.
We then came to the point where we were able to set aside (weekly) enough to pay our Mission Shares by July of the year prior to the due date of Dec. 31. For example, in July (and after paying a little more than half in January), we paid 2020 Mission Shares in full and begin setting aside funds for 2021.
This helps if there comes a time, perhaps during COVID-19 or some other unforeseen shortfall, we have some months of flexibility.
During COVID-19 we have been using a special appeal.
I suggest you use what is effective in your setting, if it is not possible to follow the timeline we use; try setting a budgeted payoff amount in six, eight, 10 months that gives you a little wiggle room.
Let me further emphasize how important it is for the pastor to be involved in the whole process for it to be successful. For example, I put out a $100 challenge to the Council when enthusiasm began to wane. Other approaches could be tried suited to your own situation.
It has been great to announce to the congregation that Mission Shares are paid 100% and to thank them for their generosity and faithfulness.
Mission Share Relief
To apply for Mission Share Relief, churches should first speak with their District Superintendent. Churches will also need to complete the Mission Share Relief application, which can be found in the Form Finder. The applications are filed with the district office. The deadline is Nov. 20 each year.
Mission Share Jubilee
The 2012 Annual Conference approved RS-203-Mission Share Jubilee (Click the link to read the resolution in the 2012 Journal). The Jubilee ends Dec. 31, 2020. Churches that pay 100 percent of their 2020 Mission Shares (along with meeting other requirements outlined in the resolution) can have 20 percent of their Mission Share arrearages as of the end of 2012 forgiven. Again, churches should first speak with their District Superintendent.