By Jessica Connor
As year-end giving rallies to a close, many United Methodist churches across the S.C. Conference are relying on new and long-standing traditions to make their apportionment payments.
Every year, UMCs are asked to pay a certain amount to the conference for connectional giving. Dollars support various items the conference has committed to fund, such as missions, campus ministries, administration and more. Last year, churches paid 84 percent of the $18 million total conference budget for 2011, or $15.2 million. The year before, they paid 83 percent.
As of the Advocate s press time on Nov. 14, churches had paid nearly 63 percent ($11.2 million) of the $17.9 million total S.C. Conference budget, and the conference treasurer expected total giving would be on par with last year.
We re still positive this will be a good year, Conference Treasurer Tony Prestipino said.
Churches have until Jan. 11, 2013, to pay their 2012 apportionments. Results of all churches giving will be listed in the April 2013 Advocate.
Some churches are able to make their apportionment payments solely from money worshippers place in the collection plate each week. Other churches rely on special fundraisers to do their part.
North Charleston UMC, North Charleston, held a vacation auction Nov. 3 to help pay their apportionments. Borrowing the idea from a church in Pennsylvania, they asked members in the spring and summer to pick up an item from their travels and give it to the church. On auction night, the church wrapped the items plainly, put a hint on each and the location, and auctioned them off. They auctioned items from as near as Lancaster or Gatlinburg, Tenn., to as far away as Italy and Ecuador, said the Rev. Wendy Hudson-Jacoby.
We wanted a creative way to bring attention to our apportionment giving and create enthusiasm for our shared ministry as United Methodists, said Hudson-Jacoby, noting congregation members were extremely excited about the event.
In addition to the items auction, the event included international appetizers and desserts, as well as a silent auction of vacation homes and time-shares.
In Spartanburg, St. James UMC continues its tradition of a September fall festival to help pay its share of apportionment dollars. The festival raises $10,000 to $15,000 every year for the conference.
It s marvelous because it involves the entire church, Deborah Lemke, St. James director of intergenerational ministries, who noted each year the festival grows in scope, participation and profit; in all their promotion, they make it clear that all profits go directly to missions. Some things are quiet and behind-the-scenes, other things are more labor-intensive and in the public eye, but it s all worthwhile. From peeling apples to unpacking stored away treasures to canning and more, there is something everyone can do to be a part of this exciting event.
And at Piedmont UMC in Piedmont, south of Greenville, the church has used a different strategy to pay its apportionments “ and it is the first time in more than 20 years they have paid at 100 percent.
It might sound strange, but our strategy to pay apportionments is to focus on evangelism, said the Rev. Justin Gilreath. I constantly stress that bringing new members into the fold and teaching tithing along with membership places a permanent fix on an otherwise Band-Aided fundraising problem. We pass out fliers, knock on doors, give out gifts to visitors and make newcomers feel welcomed. We constantly focus on outreach.
Trinity UMC, Orangeburg, is asking members to do an additional assessment of $200, a new tactic.
We ve tried to maintain our staff and keep our ministries at a certain level, but for the last two years it s been increasingly demanding to pay the apportionments, said the Rev. Larry McCutcheon, noting the church even had to borrow from its endowment, though it managed to pay the endowment back. We ve been having a hard time with apportionment items.
McCutcheon said so far, one-third of Trinity s apportionments have been paid as of Nov. 13, which is decent at this point in the giving year.
The Columbia District still leads the conference s 12 districts in giving. As of Nov. 14, the Columbia District had paid 75.94 percent of its apportionments, followed by the Orangeburg District at 65.48 percent and the Greenville District at 64.5 percent. The Florence District was last at 51.07 percent.
It is absolutely critical that people put a face on apportionments. They are not a tax; they are real dollars for real people, said Dr. Tim McClendon, Columbia District superintendent, noting United Methodist retirement homes, mission interns, campus ministries, students helped by Spartanburg Methodist College and the launch of Journey UMC in Columbia, which now has 500 in worship each week “ all helped by apportionment dollars. There are faces with each apportioned item! I dare anyone who doesn t see a face to call their district superintendent and ask for a face. Call Connectional Ministries and ask for a face. Look around you in your church and see the faces and give!