Who are GNJ’s Vital Mission Partners?

NEPTUNE –What are Vital Mission Partners, what do they do, and how do they relate to GNJ? This article breaks down these separate but related nonprofit organizations which help GNJ fulfill and expand its mission. These self-funded partners take the management and financial responsibility of their efforts outside GNJ’s shared ministry formula, existing to benefit and bolster the work and ministry of GNJ’s local churches. Let’s explore each of these partners and how they relate to the bigger picture mission of Greater New Jersey.

A Future With Hope
What began as a response to the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, A Future With Hope will complete its 269th home in June, 2018 with the help of 12,230 volunteers. The Board of Trustees envisioned a mission based on four pillars of relief, repair, rebuild and renew. From the beginning they have dedicated a part of the budget and strategy to community development. . The transition from rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy to spreading hope further and wider in Greater New Jersey is unfolding through the development of Hope Centers in partnership with congregations and likeminded nonprofit organizations.

A Future With Hope has already proven its funding capabilities through partnering with funders and faith-based nonprofits. . These alliances have allowed AFWH to raise $17.7million to date and include the American Red Cross, the Robin Hood Foundation, the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, UMCOR and others. It has also led to new relationships with ecumenical partners including the Episcopal Relief and Development, the Salvation Army, Lutheran Social Ministries, World Renew, Christian Public Service and others.

A Future With Hope has partnered with six nonprofit organizations to join their Hope Center movement including CAMP Y.D.P., Christian Outreach Project, CUMAC, Pathways to Prosperity (Noresescap), the Neighborhood Center and Camden Urban Ministry Initiative.

“Hope Centers are places of community transformation that offer youth development, education, food security, job development and social support within communities,” said Hope Center Developer Andrea Wren-Hardin. Going forward, A Future With Hope will now serve as GNJ’s mission arm.

Next Generation Ministries
Investing in young people and the future of GNJ was a top priority at the 2017 Annual Conference where GNJ approved a Next Generations Student Ministry plan challenging GNJ leadership to set bold goals. This God-sized vision of a Next Generation ministry seeks to integrate camping ministries, IGNITE and campus ministries. The plan was developed by GNJ leadership in partnership with the consulting firm Ministry Architects after meeting with 112 stakeholders including youth, young adults, parents, youth workers, campus ministry workers, camp staff, pastors, and staff with an additional 110 people completing surveys related to camping, collegiate and student ministries.

The approved plan commissioned church leaders to work with congregations to have 12 or more active youth engaged in faith formation and discipleship in their community. It also sought to develop ten college campus faith communities with 75 or more students, reinvigorate a 21st-century camping experience, grow IGNITE to 5,000 participants and develop 1,000 leaders to lead student ministries throughout GNJ.

“The goal is to create a vital and sustainable students ministry,” said Rev. Hector Burgos, Director of Connectional Ministries. “Strategic priorities include raising new generations of enthusiastic disciples of Christ who are connecting, engaging in and leading ministry in congregations and participating as healthy young people within a global society.”

By reframing and rebranding the current Camps and Retreats Board, an affiliated 501c3 organization, as the GNJ Next Generation Ministries Board, the plan establishes strong leadership for all GNJ initiatives related to youth, serving to coordinate and collaborate the work of the Councils on Youth and Youth Adults, the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministries, a Camps and Retreats Committee, and a staff action team for operations.

The United Methodist Stewardship Foundation of Greater New Jersey
The United Methodist Stewardship Foundation of Greater New Jersey (UMSF) serves the financial stewardship and investment needs of GNJ, its local churches and its agencies. It partners with local churches and agencies in GNJ to invest, grow, manage and utilize funds so that they can multiply their ministry to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

The Foundation works with churches to develop endowments, manage reserve funds and encourage planned giving. Their investment policy follows the socially responsible investing practices of the United Methodist Church. The investments are handled by Wespath Investment Management in accordance with United Methodist principals. Currently, The UMSF of GNJ has over $45 million in assets under management. Services include stewardship education and planned giving counsel.

“The foundation doesn’t just offer the investment management side of things, we want to work with member churches on stewardship education, managing existing resources well, and being good stewards of what we already have,” said Jana Purkis-Brash, Executive Director. She added, “We want to work with churches on financial management education as well as financial literacy education for their community members.”

The Foundation currently serves more than 75 churches with their long-term investments. Those investments offer good returns and are managed so that the money is invested in full compliance with the socially responsible requirements of GNJ.

The Foundation provides churches with the opportunity to invest with lower fees and low margins through Wespath. They seek to provide a safe place for churches to invest that’s true to Methodist principles.

The Centenary Fund and Preacher’s Aid Society
The Centenary Fund and Preachers Aid Society was established in 1857. The purpose of the fund is to provide maximum assistance in times of need for the support of retired clergy, surviving spouses and dependent children of deceased clergy who have served in GNJ. Earnings from donations have provided assistance to pastors and their families who have demonstrated need and have contributed more than $5.5 million toward the funding of retiree healthcare.

To continue support for retired clergy and their families, donations are needed from pastors and churches. The Centenary Fund hopes the people of GNJ will help to build up the fund with tax-free donations. With those donations they will be able to continue to make the substantial contributions needed in the future and fund retiree healthcare to provide aid to retired clergy and their dependents.

Nehemiah Properties
GNJ’s Property Management Team, under the direction of the Board of Trustees, is in the process of establishing Nehemiah Properties to create mission opportunities, sustainable use and regenerative income from these valuable resources owned by GNJ congregations. Nehemiah Properties, a separate 501c3 nonprofit, will exist to help GNJ congregations repurpose their most valuable financial resources to expand mission and make disciples to transform the world. As part of legislation in the 2018 Annual Conference Session, the Board of Trustees submitted a relationship statement with Nehemiah Properties. If passed, Nehemiah Properties will become a vital mission partner, similar in scope to those mentioned above.

The organization would exist to help turn GNJ’s church buildings into financial and mission assets. Through the re-purposing, redevelopment, and or sale of properties, Nehemiah creates mission opportunities, sustainable use and regenerative income from these valuable resources owned by GNJ congregations.

GNJ has more than 1,100 properties including churches, parsonages, fellowship halls and cemeteries. Some of these properties housed closed churches and currently sit vacant. Others are historic facilities that are in disrepair. Still others are underused and yet sit in the midst of communities in desperate need for the love of Christ. Nehemiah Properties would seek to help GNJ congregations repurpose their most valuable financial resources to expand mission and make disciples to transform the world.

The process involves coordination with GNJ’s vital mission partners A Future With Hope and The United Methodist Stewardship Foundation of Greater New Jersey. Once a church identifies a vision to repurpose their property, they can call on these highly skilled professionals to help guide the process to see their vision bear fruit.

Resurrection Gardens Association
While still in the development phase, the Resurrection Gardens Association will handle the future management of cemeteries owned by GNJ as a result of approved legislation from the 2017 Annual Conference session. Over the past several years, GNJ has received six cemeteries which were once part of former United Methodist congregations. Approximately 20% of GNJ churches own and manage cemeteries. Because GNJ is a connectional system, it has a responsibility to ensure churches are good stewards of the property and resources entrusted to them and to prepare for potential increases of cemeteries under GNJ’s management.

With as significant ethical and legal responsibility associated with these cemeteries, the formation of this separate cemetery association provides some additional protection for GNJ as a whole. Other religious organizations, such as the Roman Catholic Church, which owns and operates many cemeteries uses this management model of a separate incorporated cemetery association.

These separate but related, self-funded nonprofit organizations continue to help build and shape GNJ to fulfill and expand its mission into the future.