Texas Annual Conference delegate and economist Dr. Don House offered insight into the financial dynamics within local churches and their impact on the church community as a whole during his April 30 report to the General Conference on behalf of The Financial Administration legislative committee.

Dr. House described the local church as an engine responsible for fostering discipleship and facilitating connections within the community while emphasizing that financial resources, represented by the collection plate and God’s guidance, act as fuel enabling investments in staff, programs, and facilities. “The overall goal is to promote the health of the churches so they are empowered to fund and promote discipleship efforts.”

One data point in assessing the health of local churches is their response to general church apportionments. Dr. House suggests that a high collection rate on these apportionments, signifies a healthy church capable of adequately funding both its own activities and contributing to broader church agencies.

His report highlights a concerning trend of declining collection rates over time. While the collection rate stood at a healthy 91.8% in 2016, it dropped to 73.7% by 2022 and is estimated to further decrease to 68.5% in 2024. This decline indicates a significant strain on the financial health of local churches and raises questions about their ability to sustain vital ministries and support broader church initiatives.

Another factor House notes as complicating financial projections is the impact of disaffiliation. While the full effects remain unknown, they are expected to have a large impact, necessitating careful planning and adjustment of funding strategies.

In response to these challenges, there have been proposed adjustments to the apportionment percentage, aiming to alleviate financial burdens on local churches. The recommended percentage has been gradually reduced over time, with the expectation that lower apportionments would lead to healthier churches and improved collection rates.

Based on the analysis provided in the report, Dr. House cites the recommendation of adopting the proposed apportionment percentage of 2.595% as outlined in the minority report. This adjustment aims to maintain a balance between financial sustainability for local churches, while still offering support for church agencies. Dr. House emphasizes GCFA’s desire to consider the financial health of local churches to ensure their continued ability to support vital ministries and contribute to the overall well-being of the church community.

Ultimately an amendment from the floor proposed raising the base percentage from 2.6% to 2.9% only if the apportionment collection rate is 90% or higher in 2025 and 2026. The amended-amended motion passed 461-272. The final vote on the full petition as amended passed 640-94.

Additional details are available via UMCOM’s article titled: General Conference reduces requested giving.