When the dollars don't necessarily make cents... I would be remiss not to discuss the financial issues within the United Methodist Church and the Iowa Annual Conference.
I want to ask every UMC pastor and/or local church treasurer a few questions I think I know the answers to:
Did your church increase its reserves during the pandemic?
Does your church have a year's worth of offerings in reserves, thus having no need for another donation for the next year?
If you were able to say "Yes" to either or both of these questions, your church is doing VERY well in comparison to most churches.
What would your church think if both the Iowa Annual Conference and the General Agencies at the denominational level each increased their reserves during the years of 2018 - 2021? Not only did their reserves increase, but the length of time each organization could fiscally exist without another dime of apportionments increased significantly. Let's take a look:
The Iowa Annual Conference:
The Iowa Annual Conference's Operating Reserve increased from $2.9 Million in 2018 to nearly $5.7 Million in 2021. Their Operating Reserve nearly doubled during the pandemic:
What is even more concerning is the number of days the Conference could continue using only its Operating Reserves, without any other income from apportionments. In 2018 the Conference could get by on its reserves for 125 days. By the end of 2021 (near the end of the pandemic) the Iowa Annual Conference had 339 days of apportionments income in its operating reserves.
Imagine your congregation hearing on January 1st not one person needed to give a dollar until the first week of December?
General (Denominational) Agencies
If we were to extend the same analysis to the General Agencies at the denomination (global church) level, we would see the reserves were $118.8 Million in 2018 and grew to over $434.8 Million in 2021. Their combined reserves not only doubled but exploded to over 3 times the amount in 2018. If you thought the Iowa Annual Conference Operating reserve was excessive, the General Agencies combined reserves are - get this - 76 times the amount of Iowa's!
There is no way to explain how much money $434 Million is. If we were to lay 434 million $1.00 bills end to end they would wrap the equator of the earth over 1.6 times!
When we were looking at the number of days in reserve at the Iowa Conference level inching towards nearly a full year of apportionments. The reserves at the General Agencies started at 282 days (over 9 months), subsequently tripling to over 1,027 days or close to 2 years and 10 months of reserves on hand before they ever required any apportionment funds.
What to say. If you have kept up with my blog, I have often referred to "Aunt Harriet". Aunt Harriet is a fictional character. In reality, she is your average United Methodist worshipper. She attends faithfully. She gives of her tithes, offerings and her time and talents. She's been there for the soup suppers. She's been at most funeral luncheons helping in the kitchen.
In churches I've pastored, we often had dinner fundraisers to pay for the
apportionments of that congregation. We may have raised $800 on a good night. All of that said, this means the Iowa Annual Conference has 7,100 dinner fundraisers in reserves. That's holding a dinner fundraiser every day for 19 years!
If that seems excessive, at the General Agency / denominational level, the agencies have 1,489 years of daily dinner fundraisers on hand.
Why? for a rainy day? Did you and your congregation pay its apportionments expecting it would be saved for not just a rainy day but for 1,027 rainy days? Maybe we should start building an ark.
Added 12/6/2022: Some have asked how much of the reserves discussed are related to the pandemic PPP (Paycheck Protection Program). The chart on the left shows the PPP initial loans, amounts returned and amounts forgiven.
General Agencies Net Assets (Reserves)
General Agencies Apportionments
Iowa Annual Conference Audited Financial Statements