By Fred Koenig
For the past seven years, the Leadership Institute was a Central Methodist University event organized by Michael Pope, United Methodist Church liaison at Central Methodist University. Pope is no longer at CMU, but the Missouri United Methodist Foundation recognized the value of the event and wanted to insure it was carried on, so this year Foundation took the rains – planning the event, bringing in the speaker, promoting it and handling registration.
The foundation had an insider that made the transition smooth – Lauran Burgin, foundation office administrator, had worked with Pope organizing the event when she was at CMU.
Burgin and Atkins worked with Lucas Endicott, director of the Center of Faith, Service and Justice at CMU in organizing the Leadership Institute. The event had typically been held after graduation in late May, but this year it was bumped up a month.
“I wanted people from our United Methodist Churches to have an opportunity to see the campus when it is alive and packed with students,” Endicott said. “Usually church activities are held here in the summer, when the campus is vacant.”
There couldn’t have been a more appropriate match to this year’s talk than the foundation. In his presentation Weems mentions that although membership is down in mainline churches, giving has gone up, so every year fewer people are giving more money. Many churches are smaller than they were 10 years ago, but their budget is bigger. For 40 years, churches have had a higher percentage of their membership over the age of 50. Now 70 percent of the assets in the country are controlled by people age 50 and above. Many people have more assets late in life than they ever had previously. Those numbers add up to a critical need for estate planning.
“When it comes to legacy giving in the local church, you need to make it a priority and get on the issue,” Atkins said. “It’s a similar analogy to the planting and harvesting example that Lovett used. Planned giving is the same way, but harvest goes beyond a single year.”
Too often things like estate gifts are given to other institutions without consideration given to how the same type of gift could have been made to the church.
“If you don’t lift it up, people are not even thinking of you for this kind of giving,” Atkins said. “Some people think their church can’t handle this kind of gift. That’s the gap the foundation fills – your church can handle a gift like this. We will help you.”
Atkins urged people not to let an unfamiliar process stifle giving to the church.
“On a practical level you need to make it easy to give to your church,” Atkins said. The foundation will process gifts of stock to any United Methodist entity in the state of Missouri.