Apportionment Payout as a Missional Priority

In a recent Cabinet meeting we looked at extensive data on our apportionment payout over the last two years.  Apportionment Payout is a vital way we live out our collective, connectional, missional priority.   Here is some of the data: “In the past 2 years the Central Texas Conference has had 46 churches that have not paid 100% of apportionments either one of those years or both those years.             21 churches did not pay out either year             11 churches paid out in 2010 but not in 2009             14 churches paid out in 2009 but not in 2010 In performing an in depth statistical study of these 46 churches, several interesting trends/facts were revealed.  A few are obvious while others are a bit more revealing. Membership gain is a meaningless indicator when considered by itself.  Yet when it is placed alongside average worship attendance and grand total paid, we see the story.             19 churches had a membership gain but only 5 gained in worship attendance             27 churches lost membership – all lost in worship attendance             1 remained neutral in membership and lost in worship attendance             Of these 46 churches, 29 had a decline in giving from 2005 through 2010. The obvious fact is that Average Worship Attendance greatly impacts total giving.  (Emphasis added)  When we relate this to apportionments we learned that taken as a whole the apportioned amounts for these 46 churches generally ranged from 10%-12% of their grand total paid.  The conclusion then is that the apportionments themselves are not what is hindering these congregations. We then looked at the total staff salaries of these churches.  The findings revealed that total staff salaries in 24 of the churches have declined while they increased in 21.  Of the 21 churches with increased total staff salaries only 4 paid out in 2010.  It is worth noting that because of their member/customer service nature, churches, non-profits, and service organizations can have personnel costs of up to 50% or more.  Almost all these 46 churches show reasonable personnel cost percentages less than 50%. A third area considered in the study focused on the ratio of Principle and Interest Paid to the grand total paid.  We found that the majority of these churches have no debt service while many larger churches on the list do.  There were only a few of these churches that had what might be considered “a crippling” debt service of 30%-35%. We expected to see an increase in the category of Other Benevolences Paid since there was a lack of apportionment giving paid.  That correlation did not occur.  Only 5 churches showed decreased apportionment payments with increased benevolence giving. The conclusion is that with the exception of only a handful of churches on this list, these churches are on the downward cycle of church life.  (Through the transforming power and presence of the Holy Spirit this can be changed!)  It appears that up to 15 of these churches are in or near the final stage. Although salaries, principle and interest and benevolent giving as a percent of GTP can be important factors in preventing a church from paying 100% of apportionments, the most important indicator is attendance.  The factors that are causing this downward trend have to be addressed and could be different for each church.” My special thanks to Rev. Harvey Ozmer and his team for conducting this insightful research. Tuesday I will be attending the Financial Leadership Forum sponsored by the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits and the General Council on Finance and Administration along with a delegation from the Central Texas Conference.  Churches are tied to the economy and like many other elements of our economy (including both federal and state governments) we are experiencing a fiscal crisis.  I’ll try to share some insights gained in Friday’s blog.