Our Shared Ministries Connect Us to the World
by Kathy Hill
HOW IT BEGAN
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination, admonished his followers to “Do all the good you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can”. To that end he assessed each of his flock one cent per person per week to help build new ministries and to provide food and clothing for the poor. Today, this is accomplished through Shared Ministries.
John Wesley referred to the scattered Methodist societies throughout England as the “connexion.” This “connexion” now encompasses Christians throughout the world. By combining our resources we can make a difference one by one, church by church, village by village. Each of us is connected to others through our financial support as well as our time and efforts.
HOW SHARED MINISTRIES ARE DETERMINED
Shared Ministries is a method of giving that involves an assigned sum to a local church, annual conference, or other United Methodist body by a proper church authority to be raised as its share of church funds. The General Conference establishes budgets for various general funds of the denomination. These are divided on the basis of a specific formula to each annual conference.
HOW THE CONFERENCES WORK
The Williamsville United Methodist Church belongs to the Niagara Frontier District, which in turn belongs to the Upper New York Annual Conference, one of the 66 annual conferences in the United States. The districts which make up our Annual Conferences are: Niagara Frontier, Genesee Valley, Cornerstone and Mountain View.
HOW SHARED MINISTRIES ARE USED
Of the average dollar given in the United Methodist Church, 81.2 cents is kept in the local church, and 14.3 cents goes to regional ministries in the district, annual (regional) conference and multi-state jurisdictions in which the local church is located. Only 4.5 cents goes to national and international ministries, three cents of which is apportioned giving.
Each of the 66 annual conferences in the United States has a budget that is apportioned to local congregations. These conference Shared Ministries are most commonly called conference benevolences. Conference benevolences fund the mission and ministry of each annual conference. In the Western New York Annual Conference this includes camping and outdoor ministries (Camp Asbury and Camp Findley for example), meeting expenses, district community ministries, Conference Center expenses, Shalom Zones, the Niagara Frontier City Ministries, and Laity development, just to mention a few.
Today, Wesley’s "connexion" supports worldwide ministries which includes about 37,000 local congregations in the United States. Ministries supported by church wide Shared Ministries include 14 agencies that provide a wide variety of services; expenses of bishops; cooperative work with other Christian groups; education of ministers; historically black colleges and universities; a new university in Africa; and a worldwide network of persons in mission.
All of this is done with Shared Ministries and the Shared Ministries start with one person’s offering. That is the connection.