Greater NJ Annual Conference for the UMC {2017}

©2017 Shari DeAngelo
The 2017 Annual Conference cross. Photo by Shari DeAngelo

Shared Ministries Formula Passes, Enhances Church Mission

WILDWOOD – Church leaders rejoiced with the passage of the 2018 budget at the 2017 Annual Conference in Wildwood last month, approving a flat 16.3%, a significant decrease from 2016’s average rate of 17.2%.  This change results in a $900,000 reduction in the Greater New Jersey budget.

The new formula is expected to free up resources that will remain at the local church level, providing room to build upon and or start ministries and missions and invest in the next generation.

“These resources are needed to develop the next generation,” said Director of Connectional Ministries, Rev. Hector A. Burgos.

The new flat Shared Ministries formula of 16.3% for all local churches provides an immediate financial benefit for 83% of congregations, recognizing that local churches are the doorway through which people become a part of the church.

“This is where the resources must be strengthened,” said Bishop John Schol. “It’s on the mission fields in our communities where we need to invest so that lives can be changed for the transformation of the world.”

Rev. Earl Kim of First UMC of Montclair and Verona UMC, along with his church lay leader and lay member, discussed the new reduced Shared Ministry formula with his congregation.

“All of us appreciated the effort that the Conference made to lessen the burden of the local church,” said Kim. “One additional thing remarked by our lay leader is that as we grow our church and expand our ministry more and more, which means increasing our expenses more, we might still have our Shared Ministry increased a little bit, even though the new formula will reduce our basic share. So, let us grow more and share more!”

Regenerative Ministries

Regenerative ministry and mission are focal to the budget that seeks to raise funds through grants and other funding sources. A Future With Hope, created by GNJ in response to Superstorm Sandy, is living into its name by becoming the mission arm of the Conference. Key to a five year projection of the budget is A Future With Hope continuing its proven track record of funding itself through donations and grants. Expenses associated with A Future With Hope and funded independently, offer a window to reduce the Conference budget and lower local church’s Shared Ministry.

In a similar way, creating shared services with the United Methodist Stewardship Foundation of Greater New Jersey, opens an opportunity for resources that are shared rather than fully funded with the Conference budget.   Sue Goodman, Interim Director of the Foundation, took the stage at Annual Conference to speak on behalf of the Foundation’s work with its investment partner, Wespath, the largest faith-based reporting investor.

“Through Wespath’s Godly, socially responsible investments, GNJ is becoming strengthened,” said Goodman.  With more than $22 billion invested including over $20 million in New Jersey affordable housing initiatives and a charter school in Newark, Wespath is using women and minority-owned firms that achieve above market benchmarks.

Congregations are encouraged to learn more about investing through the Stewardship Foundation with Wespath in a mutually beneficial relationship. As more GNJ churches invest with Wespath through the Foundation, more resources will be returned to local churches through the work of GNJ.

The budget’s five-year plan to reduce Shared Ministries calls for more churches to fulfill 100% of their commitment. Over the last several years, fulfillments to Shared Ministry have increased in local churches, last year hitting 88%.

With a giving rate anticipated to reach 90% by 2018, leaders had more reason to rejoice at the potential of uncharted and untapped opportunities to grow disciples and vital congregations in GNJ.