Narrative Budget FAQ
In the Narrative Budget Summaries and the Line Item Budget booklet, you will be able to go deeper into what each funded ministry area is doing to support local ministries though the tools explained above and what they are doing to support the Conference’s mission, vision, primary task, and outcomes. This information should provide insight to those learning about the budget and allow those individuals to provide feedback to the UNY Committee on Finance and Administration as they prepare a final draft budget for the 2017 session of the Upper New York Annual Conference. Click here to view on Issuu or click here to download a PDF.
Below is a listing of Frequently Asked Questions. Feedback and questions can be sent to Budget@unyumc.org.
What is needed to fund all Conference ministries?
The estimated minimum funding needed for Conference ministries in 2018 is the Ministry Share revenue budget of $9,995,000, minus Unpaid General Church Apportionments ($382,743) and the Ministry Shares at Full Giving ($1,425,365), for a net amount of $8,186,892.
The estimated minimum funding needed for 2017 is $8,068,463.
Why is the proposed Conference budget set at $9,995,000?
The Conference shared ministries budget represents what we believe is needed to fund the ministries we understand God is calling us to carry out in 2018. It is based on prayer, conversation, and calculation. It is in line with the shared ministry budgets of Annual Conferences of similar size across the United States.
How do the stated ministries of the Conference compare in priority to the ministries of the local church?
The Book of Discipline in ¶202 states: “The function of the local church … is to help people to accept and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to live their daily lives in light of their relationship with God; therefore, the local church is to minister to persons in the community where the church is located, to provide appropriate training and nurture to all, to cooperate in ministry with other local churches, to defend God’s creation and live as an ecologically responsible community, and to participate in the worldwide mission of the church. The Book of Discipline in ¶601 defines the purpose of the Annual Conference “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, by equipping its local churches for ministry and by providing a connection for ministry beyond the local church; all to the glory of God.”
How does our actual Conference spending match up with our stated Conference priorities?
The objective for the 2018 budget was to align Conference efforts to support and develop clergy and lay leaders throughout the Conference. Conference teams reviewed priorities and costs to better align the work and reduce the financial impact on local churches.
In fulfilling the purpose stated in the question above, the primary tasks of the Upper New York Conference are to:
- Recruit, train, equip, and deploy transformational clergy and lay leadership so that our congregations will joyfully and faithfully live out the vision of UNY.
- Resource local churches with practical tools and practices for effective disciple-making in the 21st century, and reforming the church for vitality, relevance, and fruitfulness.
- Nurture a planting culture where people are recognizing the movement of the Spirit in their neighborhoods to plant new communities of faith; and, provide the training, support, and resources needed for people to plant new, sustainable communities of faith.
- Align resources to support the purpose of the Annual Conference and the mission of the local church and implement a system of accountability for mission and ministry at all levels.
- Communicate how we share a common mission as United Methodist Christians in the 21st century.
What does the large portion of the budget called Administration provide for the local church?
The dictionary defines “administration” as “the action of dispensing, giving, or applying something.” Administration is supportive work; it adds value to the work of others. Conference administration equips, enhances, and extends the ministries of the local church.
It provides leadership resources to local church clergy and lay leaders through connectional ministries and the ministry of the Bishop’s cabinet. It helps local churches connect with each other, tell their story, and hear the story of God’s work among us through communication ministries. It helps local churches care for their financial, personnel, and property resources through the finance and benefits ministry areas. Through passionate staff and administration The Conference enhances local church ministries by developing and scaling up resources to be shared by all, such as Camp and Retreat ministries, and the Media Resource Center. The Conference extends the reach of local churches beyond their neighborhood or community through programs such as Volunteers in Mission and UMCOR aid workers.
This is only the beginning. To learn more about how staff directly support ministry see the chart on page 22. To learn more about what we are able to do together, thanks to our connection and Ministry Shares, see the Vol. 8 Issue 4 of the Advocate.
How do we measure the results of our shared ministries spending?
Measuring results for non-profit organizations like the Upper New York Conference is a challenge because, unlike a business, success can’t be measured in terms of sales revenue or widgets sold. The bottom line for ministry is a changed life.
That said, there are ways to measure the results of Conference activities. Examples include: number of children and youth attending a summer camping programs; number of youth participating in leadership activities sponsored by the Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) and number of youth attending CCYM’s Fall Gatherings and spring UPWORD! event; number of clergy completing Conference leadership development programs, such as the Leadership Academy and the Illuminate Preaching Academy; number of churches participating in the Hand to Plow process; number of laity completing Lay Servant courses and the number of laity achieving Certified Lay Servant or Certified Lay Minister status; number of individuals, congregations and teams involved in a Volunteer in Mission project or trip. Tracking the number of participants involved in such programs helps us see the immediate results of Conference activities. Gauging the impact of these results on the fulfillment of the larger vision (i.e., to increase the number of transformational leaders, vital congregations and vital/sustainable New Faith Communities) is work the Conference Leadership Team is now undertaking.
Isn’t it a lot, to ask churches to dedicate almost 15% of their local budget to shared ministries?
Churches are not asked to contribute Ministry Shares based on their total local budget. Ministry Share allocations are based on the income received by a church that are for the operations of the church. Funds given for missions, capital improvements and endowments are not counted in the Ministry Share calculations.
How does that percentage compare to other Conferences?
There are nearly 60 Conferences in the USA. Each Conference adopts its own funding model. Some base their calculations on revenue, some on expenses, some on various congregational statistics or combinations of factors. Conferences include different costs in their budgets. Some Conferences have a two-layered Ministry Share charge; part billed by the Conference and part billed by individual Districts. As a result, a comparison of the Ministry Share percentage does not tell the whole story.
Even though the comparison question is complex, the Conference Commission on Finance and Administration has done the work to understand and compare the UNY methodology with other Conferences. In short they have found that taking differences into consideration, UNY is in line with other Conferences.
How is the Ministry Share percentage computed?
The approved annual Conference Ministry Share revenue budget is allocated to the local churches based on operating income reported by local churches on their annual statistical reports. The total of all churches annual operating income is approximately $69 M. The total Ministry Share revenue budget divided by the operating income total gives an annual Ministry Share percentage to be applied to each local church’s reported annual operating income. The percentage was 14.4% in 2016.
Wouldn’t the churches be much more effective, if shared ministries were lowered to (say) a tithe of 10%?
Although a 10% tithe of a local church’s income might appear to be a more simple approach, and also be biblically based, the amount received bears no relationship to the Conference budget. A tithe would be on all church income not just operating income and the final amount received may be more or less than that which is required for the our shared ministry as the Upper New York Conference.
If we are sending 14.4% of our budget to Conference, how can we compete with other non-United Methodist congregations that do not have such a burden? Aren’t they able to fund youth ministries, music ministries, outreach ministries, and local missions that we cannot afford?
The genius of United Methodism is our ability to pool our resources in order to provide benefits to all of our churches – small, medium, and large membership in rural, small town, urban, and suburban settings. For example, every Conference church has access to thousands of cutting-edge youth ministry and Sunday School resources through our Media Resource Center. Every one of our churches has access to six camp and retreat ministry sites offering summer and year-round programming for children, youth, and adults. Through shared ministry giving, every church has a stake in the global outreach of the United Methodist Church, in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. And close to home, when it’s time for new pastoral leadership, every one of our churches can count on a team of Conference leaders to help fill that vacancy. For many non-UMC congregations, finding a new pastor can take a year and a half or more. In short, the connectional system provides support that even the largest churches, who are not a part of it, do not have and allows for ministry, no individual church could accomplish on its own.
What is being done to address the underpayment of shared ministries?
In early 2016, Bishop Webb, the Conference Council on Finance and Administration, the Conference Leadership Team, the Cabinet, and Conference staff developed a plan to address the underpayment of Ministry Shares. All churches in the Conference that did not pay their 2015 Ministry Share obligation in full have been asked to develop a three-year ministry plan to meet their congregation’s full connectional giving. On an ongoing basis, District Superintendents work with and support these Churches to implement their ministry plans. As a result, Ministry Share payments for 2016 reached an all-time high of just over $8.5 M. These efforts and support will continue.
Is the underpayment a result of local church financial hardship, or is there another factor?
The reasons for underpayment vary from church to church. For each church underpaying, leaders are working to understand the reasons and provide the support needed to help them fully participate in our shared ministry.
How do the salaries of Conference-level clergy compare to the salaries of local church clergy?
The Conference establishes a minimum salary for clergy based on ordination status, educational level, and years of service. This guideline sets the floor on clergy salaries. There is no established ceiling on salaries. The salaries of clergy appointed to serve in extension ministry with the Conference (i.e., District Superintendents, Directors of Connectional Ministries and Vital Congregations) are comparable to the salaries of clergy serving larger congregations.
How does our overall staffing and staff salaries compare to other Annual Conferences?
According to a 2015 salary survey conducted by Conference treasurers, the UNY Conference staff salaries are comparable to similar staff positions in other Annual Conference. For example, UNY’s Director of Connectional Ministries salary (including housing) is $104,244. The average salary across the United States for the same position was $108,066; across the Northeastern Jurisdiction it was $103,124. UNY’s Conference Treasurer’s salary is also $104,244. The average salary across the United States for the same position was $112,344; across the Northeastern Jurisdiction it was $110,745.
Extensive work is done with every hire to clearly identify the specific responsibilities and appropriate salary level. Staffing levels are regularly adjusted as rolls and needs change. This has resulted in a marked decrease in staff levels since the coming together of the Upper New York Conference, while drastically increasing productivity and outputs by the staff.
To learn more about the ministry of the Conference Staff see the graph on page 22 or the Day in the Life blog at http://www.unyumc.org/news/perspectives/tagged/day-in-the-life.
How much of the budget is due to the new Conference Center?
The funds that are being used to buy and renovate the new Conference Center are designated funds resulting from the sale of Conference buildings from Upper New York’s predecessor Conferences. These funds cannot be used towards the Ministry Shares budget, and over time this new Conference Center will realize a cost-savings for the Conference versus the other options explored.
Has the increase in the Ministry Share percentage paid been a true increase, or has there simply been a shift from direct billing to shared ministries?
The increase was a true increase, and not due to a shift from direct bill payments.
What did we do with the Ministry Share funds received that exceeded the $7.8 M spending plan?
The funds received in 2016 that exceeded the $7.8 M spending plan have been used as follows:
- The Conference was able to pay the General Church apportionments at 100%, for the first time in Conference history.
- $50 K will be used for infrastructure for training and equipping leaders
- $250 K will be used to fund an Operating Reserve
The Conference Leadership Team, Council on Finance & Administration, Trustees, Conference staff, and other Conference Teams work collaboratively to prioritize spending areas outlined in the annual budget. The 2017 Spending Plan was developed at the end of 2016 from an estimate of Ministry Share collections of $8,100,000 based on actual collection levels in 2016.
My church struggles to make ends meet; in what way has the Conference shared in this burden?
The Conference has reduced staff, scaled back program expenditures, and reduced the shared ministries budget.
In the local church, I can understand what gets budgetary priority; are Conference priorities more important?
The number one priority of the local church is shared by the conference: to effectively make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The local church does this directly through its ministries of nurture, outreach and witness. The Conference does this by supporting the ministries of the local church through activities which increase the number of transformational leaders, vital existing congregations, and vital and sustainable New Faith Communities.
How am I supposed to understand such a complicated budget, let alone promote support for it in the local church?
The Conference budget is just one of the ways we communicate our ministry passions and priorities. It speaks to some people, but not to others. Both Vol. 8 Issue 4 of the Advocate, which is packed with stories about how local-church giving and Conference ministries are making a difference and the Budget Booklet provide alternatives to simply presenting a spreadsheet style budget that lists columns of numbers under various headings.
What is the budget development process? How does CF&A decide what is important and what isn’t?
The preparation of the 2018 budget began in the fall of 2016 with the distribution of budget worksheets and compensation information to the various Conference ministry teams. Each team drafted and submitted a preliminary budget request and a plan for ministry for their area. Conference staff worked with the teams to compile the requests for review by Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A). Executive Staff and CF&A reviewed requests to ensure our plan for 2018 was in alignment with the Conference mission and strategies to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by equipping our local churches for ministry and by providing a connection for ministry beyond the local church.
Are we financially healthy as a Conference? What is ‘health’ for us?
A simple definition of financial health would be we have sufficient financial resources to fund the ministries we discern God is calling us to offer and we are able to do so year after year (i.e., our finances are stable and sustainable). Though we have struggled in the past, there are many signs we are improving our overall financial health as a Conference: 621 of churches paid 100% or more of their ministry shares last year. We also received more revenue through ministry shares in 2016 than in any previous year while keeping expenditures at or below the previous year’s spending. In 2016 we were also able to pay our General Church apportionment at 100% - another first for our Conference.
What is the process for developing the annual spending plan?
The Conference Leadership Team, Council of Finance & Administration, Trustees, Conference staff and other Conference Teams work collaboratively to prioritize spending areas outlined in the annual budget. The 2017 Spending Plan was developed at the end of 2016 from an estimate of Ministry Share collections of $8,100,000 based on actual collection levels in 2016.
What was the exact amount of Ministry Share dollars that did come in for 2016?
We received just over $8.5M which was 85% of our $10M Ministry Share revenue budget.
How can I help improve Ministry Share giving?
Work with your church to give 100 percent of your Ministry Shares benevolence. Some churches have even given beyond 100 percent of their Ministry Shares and if your church can afford to do that it would be worth prayerfully considering. If you cannot give 100 percent don’t just give up. Send what you can to support our shared ministry and work on a plan to improve your church’s giving level.
Are there tools to help me tell the story of why Ministry Shares matter?
Yes! The Ministry Shares Toolbox is full of helpful videos, brochures, graphics, articles, and more. Visit http://www.unyumc.org/resources/ministry-shares-toolbox for the Ministry Shares Toolbox.
Who should I contact for more information?
For more information, please contact Upper New York Conference finance office at (315) 898-2000 Ext. 2008 or e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.