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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    Together we can do more: A worship series at Homer First UMC

    December 7, 2016 / By Rev. Rachel Morse

    At Homer First, our stewardship campaign barely addresses the question, “Why should Christians give?”

    I know, I know. I know that we’re supposed to explain every year why God wants us to commit to give. We did that last year and our pledges increased by 30 percent! But there is still resistance to giving generously in the offering plate. It’s strange, because we have a generous congregation. Whenever there has been a need, whether it has been for Africa 360, refugee families, our food pantry, local children, or UMCOR kits, we responded to those needs wholeheartedly. So what is the problem with funding our General Budget? 

    For too many years, the story has been told that we have to give a lot of money to the Conference and somehow it hurts our local church. Our Finance Team kept hearing this question: “What do we get from them?” 

    In response, we decided to use our stewardship campaign to offer clear information about why we give Ministry Shares; it isn’t about what we get from them. Ministry Shares are about extending our impact beyond our community. We believe that when we pool our resources as United Methodists, we can make a greater impact on the world. Not only that, when we have centralized administration, the local churches are focused and more effective at the local level.

    I used information from in a worship series on the UMC Connection that helped explain to my congregation that most life-changing ministry happens at the local church level. Eight-five percent of the funds collected in the offering plate stay in the local church. The rest goes to funding ministry at a regional and global level, extending our impact. I spent five weeks educating my congregation on this impact. It wasn’t a part of a service; it was an entire worship series, “The Connection: Together, We Can Do More.”

    Here is what I focused on each week:

    Week 1: Ministry of the Conference

    Guest speaker and UNY Conference Multimedia/Web Coordinator, Ashley Riddell, spoke about her experience growing up in and working for a connectional church. The work of the Conference is to help to extend the reach of the local church by supporting and offering life-changing ministry through Camps and Retreats, Ministerial Support, Connectional Ministries, trainings, and more

    Week 2: Global Ministry

    On World Communion Sunday, we celebrated the work of the General Board of Global Ministries and the World Service Fund. The congregation learned more about the ways we reached out in ministry around the globe through our Ministry Shares. Over 11 percent of our Ministry Shares go to the World Service Fund, aiding people in need and supporting discipleship worldwide

    Week 3: Ministry of the local church

    The local church is the primary place where life-changing ministry takes place. The local church is in mission with the community and trains Christian leaders to live their daily lives in light of their relationship to God. The members of a local church are living changed lives while going out into the community changing lives, participating in the global mission of the United Methodist Church.

    Week 4: Ministry of the laity

    At the time of this writing, this will be next week. Some of our key lay leaders will share about their significant experiences with the church, whether it is at the local level or beyond. The congregation will celebrate the role of the laity and their varied gifts.

    Week 5: Pledge Sunday 

    This will be a day of baptism and new beginnings. We will ruminate over the fact that our baptisms and our Social Creed is a way of connecting back to our call as United Methodists. Members will bring forth their pledges for 2017, more new members will join, adults and children will be baptized, and we will celebrate the opportunity to be free to give to the Connection.

    This is crucial information for our United Methodist identity. United Methodists are special people who are part of an amazing institution whose mission is about changing the world. When we put money in the offering plate at a United Methodist church, we are contributing to that mission. 

    With more than 144,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 91 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."