Why Carlton UMC values Ministry-Share giving over half-time appointment
December 7, 2016 / By Rev. Melanie Ollett
Editor’s Note: Carlton UMC improved their Ministry Shares in 2015 by almost 80 percent. At the time of this writing (October, 2016), they have already surpassed 100 percent of their Ministry Shares for 2016.
Despite the very difficult transition from a half-time pastor to a quarter-time pastor, Carlton UMC has found a way to pay our Ministry Shares in full. I am a new pastor at Carlton and I entered an environment where the congregation was unsure of their future. I faced the challenge of calming their fears and encouraging them in their ministry. I had to re-energize them for ministry, because of course, the change from a half to quarter time pastor, was discouraging to them. I, as their pastor, had to wisely invest my time in ministries and after more than a year at Carlton, I am still figuring it out. I made it clear from Day One that we would pay our Ministry Shares. I am a product of a United Methodist campus ministry; that ministry fueled my call to ordained ministry, and I was open about sharing that story. Campus ministry, camping ministry, other youth and young peoples’ ministry... all of those are only possible if churches pay their Ministry Shares.
Carlton was passionate about getting younger people engaged and involved in worship and supporting young people, so in worship and committee meetings, I simply reminded them that our Ministry Shares goes to help these vital ministries throughout the Conference and Connection. For stewardship Sunday last year, I also asked some of my friends from college and seminary who had been involved in camping ministry or campus ministry to share their experiences with me so I could share them in worship. I received some touching stories of how these ministries truly transformed lives. I’d like to think that made a difference in helping my congregation understand why we pay Ministry Shares, and why we are a part of a connectional system.
For an aging congregation, it can be hard to feel like they are making a difference if they are not “out there” on the ground doing mission work, and through their Ministry Shares, they are connected to important mission, relief, and ministry work world-wide. Of course we still give and reach out to local missions, too! Occasionally, I prodded our admin board to write a slightly larger check as a portion of their Ministry Shares as needed, until eventually not only did we pay up for the year, but also, we paid all the Ministry Shares we had owed for past years, too.
I asked some of my lay leaders for their thoughts about Ministry Shares. I got many responses that the pastoral transition from 1/2 to 1/4 time was challenging and difficult. One of my lay leaders, Dorothy Follman, was encouraged by our youth and the revitalization of that ministry over the last year. She mentioned how important paying Ministry Shares was, recalling seeing the disaster of a hurricane and the amazing work the United Methodist Church was able to do in the relief effort due in part to generous Ministry Shares. I also told her about the great news that due to UNY’s generosity, we have been able to reinstate the chaplain position at Syracuse University, and it is due in part to the increase in giving from churches like Carlton.
Another of my lay leaders, Deb Heuer, responded that we are “absolutely better off” than we were a year ago, right when I began ministry here and we began paying up more of our Ministry Shares. She said that yes, we went to quarter time, but “we didn’t just lay down and die,” as a church. Ministry has gone on, has grown beautifully, particularly with youth, and more people are more optimistic about the church’s future. She says she hopes that someday soon we can increase to half time again, but in the meantime, we have an incredibly generous congregation that “believes paying Ministry Shares is important, that the work that happens through the District and Conference is important.” Ministry has flourished, despite the decrease in pastoral time in the church. We recently had a youth fundraiser where our youth raised over $500 for a campus ministry the church is connected with. We’ve hosted the first church dinner that the church has had in years. We are able to put up a new sign so our community can stay current on the events happening in the church. I made a church website (carltonumc.wordpress.com.) It requires creative use of my time, but it is a joy to be in ministry with this congregation. They are alive, and with Christ’s help, we are moving forward into a new future that God has for us! We are proud of all the ministry that has happened because we are now able to fully pay our Ministry Shares.