By Jasmine Haynes
The numbers are crunched and the preliminary totals are in. The Mississippi United Methodist Conference increased mission shares by giving $12,794,637.95 in 2012. That’s 82.55 percent of the 15.5 million-dollar goal and a 1.43 percent increase from last year’s 81.12 percent mission shares giving.
Conference Treasurer, David Stotts, was pleasantly surprised with the results.
“I’m excited that we are in an economy where the last part of the year was spent talking about the financial cliff and our gracious givers still gave more money,” said Stotts.
Mission shares-formally known as apportionment-refers to a goal of benevolence giving set by the Mississippi United Methodist Conference in order to fund the numerous charities, scholarships, missions, community centers, domestic and international ministries, administrative costs and initiatives of the state and global church. That goal of benevolence giving is then divvied up and passed on to the local churches after a formula calculates each church’s fair share.
Stotts attributes the growth in mission shares to those churches that paid 100 percent of their mission shares, those who increased their giving from last year and those churches who paid other churches’ mission shares as well as their own. For example, Galloway United Methodist Church paid $3,000 towards the mission shares of Court Street United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Redwood United Methodist Church in Vicksburg, Mississippi has given 110 percent in mission shares since 2005.
Unfortunately, a number of churches are having difficulty meeting their mission share objectives or seeing any increase at all. According to Stotts, the finance and administration office normally receives between 12 and 15 percent of mission shares in the last eight days before the fiscal year end. This is due to some churches making last minute efforts to give after all their expenses are paid for the year and they are now able to donate.
“Churches that wait until the end of the year hamper ministry because the ones that would receive the money can’t do the ministry because the money’s not there,” said Stotts.
The Mississippi Children’s Home, Choctaw Mission, Mississippi Campus Ministries, Community centers like Bethlehem Center, Mississippi United Methodist Camping and Retreat Centers and the Board of Medical Benefits are just a few of the ministries and operating cost that depend heavily on mission shares for continuing ministry.
So what’s one suggestion to aid churches that may be financially unable to pay 100 percent? Stotts proposes that churches who cannot reach their target determine what ministries supported by the Mississippi United Methodist Conference mission shares best line up with that church’s vision or mission. Once the church decides what ministries to support, that church should focus on paying towards those ministries first and on a monthly basis as it relates to their total mission share target.
The last day for local churches to send in their mission shares to the Mississippi United Methodist Conference was Thursday, January 10. In the few days leading up to the close out, Stotts joked that he anticipated singing ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow’ with a special message:
“Thank you to the gracious givers sitting in the pews because if it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be doing ministry together,” said Stotts.