By Nate Berneking
To all the congregations that paid apportionments in 2014, thank you! We especially want to thank those that paid 100% or more. We received over $12,150,000 in payments this year, marking the highest amount since 2007. Even more significantly, the percentage of the total apportioned budget that was paid reached 87%, the highest in the history of the Missouri Annual Conference (post-merger of Missouri East and West). We know well just how hard our congregations work to meet their financial obligations and to generously contribute to the budget of the greater Annual Conference and general United Methodist Church. That work is deeply appreciated by all Conference leadership.
The increase in both the amount received and percentage paid is significant for two reasons. First, with more revenue, more of the ministries conducted by Conference leadership teams are funded. At the end of the day, this will mean more resources available to offer local churches. The increase in 2014 will mean more will be available for congregational development and new church start grants, college age grants, youth programs like WOW!, Annual Conference sessions, Pastoral Excellence programs and Board of Ordained ministry processes. Even slight increases in the amount received can be helpful to these ministries. Second, and just as importantly, the increase in the percentage of the budget paid will help us to keep the 2016 budget more in check. As of today, we can’t promise another decrease in the budget, but with an increase in 2014’s percentage paid, we will have a lower “stabilization,” than ever before. Stabilization is the amount by which we increase the “fixed costs” of the budget (i.e. salaries, utilities, mortgage debt, etc.) to ensure that we receive enough apportionments to cover our obligations. We “stabilize” those items by adding the percentage by which we did not receive 100% the previous year. For example, in 2015’s budget, our stabilization factor was 14.15% because our percentage paid was 85.85%. In 2016, the stabilization factor will be only 13%. Such a factor, if possible last year, would have reduced the total budget presented at Annual Conference by another $40,000. Again, while we can’t promise a decreased budget for 2016, we will at least be able to reduce the amount by which we increase to ensure that we meet fixed obligations.
While many of the reasons for this year’s increased generosity are likely beyond the control of the Conference, Districts or local churches (i.e. an improving economy and good market returns), we do want to acknowledge the hard work put forth by everyone at all levels. More, because of the apportionments, multiple resources are available to the local churches and clergy. Never hesitate to call us in the accounting office if you need assistance in the areas of generosity, finance or administration. We are here to serve the local churches as they work to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We are always better when working together, and apportionments are just one of the ways that happens. Thank you again and may God bless everyone in the coming year.