Our congregation has faced more financial challenges this year than we have in several years. While finishing our apportionments (the money United Methodist churches send to the general church for ministry beyond our own locale) was fairly easy for a couple of years, it’s not been easy this year. We’ve had to pray more about our finances. Some have had to increase their giving.
What made the change this year? I see a few factors.
First, some of the members who have been the biggest givers over the years have died. Billy Paul and Annie Ruth, though never wealthy in the eyes of the world, were always generous with their resources. Billy Paul died 2 years ago, and Annie Ruth last year. We’re still waiting for someone to take their place.
Second, the economy is down, not just nationally (and globally) but locally. Our major local employer has been going through bankruptcy. Many in the community have lost their jobs. The county is small enough, and remote enough from other employment centers, that jobs are tough to find.
Third, people perceive the economy to be down, so they act like it is down. Makes sense, doesn’t it? When we don’t know about our future income we become more conservative. We save more and spend less. And sometime give less.
But only sometimes. In this time of economic decline and uncertainty, our food and clothing ministry has expanded. People generously give food and clothing – and money to buy what is needed.
As we face the payment of our apportionments (with only 3 Sundays left in the year), it seems logical to maximize the opportunities for income so we can pay them off. After all, as a UM church we’re expected to pay in full every year.
We have three Sundays left. But those aren’t the only opportunities. We also have a Christmas Eve service, which is traditionally one of the best attended of the year. Surely it makes sense to take that offering and use it for apportionments. But in addition to having a tradition of paying apportionments, we also have a tradition (albeit of more recent vintage) of dedicating the Christmas Eve offering for other ministries (like the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco).
At our Finance committee meeting the other night, we talked about what to do. Do we take that offering and use it where we desperately need it (apportionments)? Do we send it to the Methodist Home? We concluded that we are best off being generous. That when we’re generous beyond our needs (paying apportionments) and give beyond what is expected, we’re more closely following in the way of Jesus. Even when we have a need, generosity with others is still a good thing to do.