Understanding the connectional bonds between faithful service to their church and the global community led the members of the United Methodist Church of Spring Valley to seek a path toward meeting their shared ministry goals in 2018.
“We worked hard to educate our members and ourselves about the missionary nature of our church and how meeting our goals could not only enrich our communities, but would also pay forward bountiful blessings within our church walls by showcasing our strength as a community of believers who share a love of Jesus Christ,” said Karla Jones-Penn, Spring Valley UMC Finance Ministry Chair.
The church has met its shared ministry goals two years in a row through educating members in a special time of “Moment for Mission.”
“Each Sunday in 2016, I took five to seven minutes in service and highlighted a local, national and or global mission of The United Methodist Church,” said Spring Valley Pastor Kay Dubuisson. “In 2017, I used scripture to teach about giving, tithing and offering our best to God.”
Dubuisson taught about being good stewards of the gifts given by God. Her teaching led the congregation to apply for grants to fund the church’s breakfast and food pantry ministry as well as consider the missions they should discontinue.
“The teaching doesn’t stop,” she said. “I continue to teach and hold a stewardship campaign every October. It’s a continuous and gentle reminder to always put God first in our lives.”
In 2016, Rev. Blair Goold was blessed to be appointed to Island Heights UMC, a church where the previous pastor, together with the wisdom of the finance team and help from GNJ, combined to strategize the turnaround of the church’s financial health.
“Times had indeed been tough, and only a few years earlier the church was unable to contribute any amount to shared ministry,” stated Goold.
A five year financial recovery plan was in place with the goal that the church would participate 100% in shared ministry by 2019. The goal was reached sooner when the congregation hit 100% of their shared ministry in January 2018, a full year ahead of schedule.
“Members at Island Heights UMC are like many members across our denomination,” said Goold. “They are generous. Their generosity is inspired when they are connected to and understand the mission. To be a United Methodist is to be connectional, and our responsibility to shared ministry contributions reflects that connection.”
One of Goold’s goals was to raise the level of awareness of that responsibility by focusing on it in Finance Committee and Church Council meetings, and moving from a standard offering in worship services to moments of witness and encouragements which led to joyful and generous giving.
“This has moved us to a position of increased giving,” he said. “Specifically communicating how shared ministry contributions are used in missional terms is necessary. When givers can relate to the mission and be assured that money given is being used effectively and wisely, generosity follows.”
Effectively and consistently communicating missional giving goals at all levels of the church to congregations who are already inclined to generosity has led to Island Heights UMC remarkable financial turnaround.
Historically, St. Matthew’s UMC in Delair struggled to reach their shared ministry goal. According to Rev. Shawn Kerry Forman, the congregation lacked education and perception.
“The education portion was informing the church body about what it was and that we had not been doing our fair share as far as the connectional church is concerned,” said Forman who explained there was also a perception that the congregation had better things to do with their offerings.
Forman began to have the Finance Committee speak twice per month during worship about what shared giving does for children, students at historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Africa University in Zimbabwe.
“It’s much more than sending money to the conference,” said Forman.
Bishop Schol along with Gateway South District Superintendent Myrna Bethke spoke at the church one evening in July, shaking hands and connecting on a personal, heartfelt level.
“That evening went a long way in tearing down walls and changing perceptions,” said Forman.
The congregation voted to pay shared giving in full.
“I thank the people of St. Matthew’s for their faith in God, the Finance Committee for their leadership, and GNJ for guidance during this time of change,” stated Forman.
“The foundation of The United Methodist Church is connectionalism,” said Bishop John Schol. “The connections mean we can do more good together than we can do alone. This is what shared ministry and connectional giving is in the United Methodist Church. Our membership is a whole – a whole of many parts that, when connected, makes big impacts.”