Presbyterian Church USA: Task Force encourages 20/20 Vision for Special Offerings
One of the challenges for the mission of the church is discerning what form and content the programmatic work of the church should have in coming days. But another critical aspect is discerning how best to raise funds to accomplish mission. Four years ago the PCUSA set up a task force to review the role of special offerings in the life of the church. After 3.5 years of intensive work, the task force, led by Karl Travis and Sarah Butter, is bringing their recommendations to the General Assembly Mission Council (in two weeks) and to the General Assembly (in June.) I've now seen a slide presentation of the task force's recommendations twice and I'm genuinely impressed and grateful for the changes they are proposing. Here is the news release summarizing the proposed changes:
Task Force encourages 20/20 Vision for Special Offerings
Recommends each Offering be adjusted to maximize impact
The Special Offerings Advisory Task Force, commissioned by the 218th General Assembly (2008), is recommending a new vision for Special Offerings -- $20 million in receipts by 2020. Seeking to tap the full potential of Special Offerings, the task force is also recommending one new offering and revisions in each of the other offerings.
The task force has engaged the most extensive review of Special Offerings since reunion in 1983. The Rev. Karl Travis, chair of the Task Force, and pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Forth Worth, TX, said, “This opportunity to review Special Offerings and provide recommendations comes at a crucial time, as the Offerings are no longer working as they once did for the church. For the past decade, Special Offerings have been in decline. We live in a time of great transformation for the church, as evidenced by the move away from regulatory structures to approaches that are uniquely customizable locally by those seeking to be faithful in their own context. The Task Force believes that similar changes are required for Special Offerings, in order to transform Special Offerings to a place of esteemed commitment by the denomination to Christ’s mission.”
The Rev. Sarah Sarchet Butter, vice-chair of the Task Force, and pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Wilmette, IL, added, “Our recommendations, we believe, strengthen Special Offerings, and are faithful to the input we heard from those we engaged. We have great hope that the recommendations, if approved, will result in increased funding for Christ’s mission, as scripture tells us, ‘without a vision, the people perish.’”
In 2010, the total amount of Special Offerings received was just under $14 million. Changes proposed by the task force include:
- Strengthening the link between each Offering and its liturgical season
- Strengthening the link between the ministries supported by each offering
- Hiring a director to centralize the promotion of Special Offerings within the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC)
- Funding peacemaking ministries from sources including the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering
- Creating a new World Communion Offering focused on global witness and justice
- Increasing the level of public accountability for each offering through annual reviews and monitoring reserve levels.
In addition, the Task Force recommends eliminating strict percentage allocations to GAMC programs for Special Offering receipts, choosing instead to align the Offerings topically within the strategic priorities identified by the GAMC, and approved by the General Assembly. This change allows for flexibility in using the funds based on need, but within approved priorities.
The task force undertook an extensive research process throughout their term of service. Numerous Presbyterian stakeholders in wide and diverse roles, fundraising professionals, GAMC staff, and many others were consulted and their ideas, collectively, led to the recommendations of the Task Force. Input was received from nineteen focus groups, including nearly two hundred representatives of small, mid-size, and large congregations--both from those who currently participate in Special Offerings, and those who do not.
The Task Force was commissioned to:
- Review the possible role and functions of Special Offerings
- Examine the role of Special Offerings within the larger communication and funds development contexts of the denomination,
- Encourage and expand the role of the Special Offerings as a connective tissue of the church,
- Identify what Special Offerings can do best and what steps need to be taken in order to enable them to do that well.
“Special offerings are special,” said Travis, “because they connect Presbyterians in the pew with vital Presbyterian mission in the field. Everyday Presbyterians can make, and feel, a great impact.” Butter added, “We are convinced that there is great untapped potential in these offerings.”
The members of the Special Offerings Advisory Task Force are Karl Travis, chair, Fort Worth, TX; Sarah Sarchet Butter, vice-chair, Willmette, IL; Sydney Davis, Charleston, SC; Jorge Gonzalez, Louisville, KY; Taylor Lewis Guthrie Hartman, Durham, NC; Helen Morrison, Grosse Ile, MI; and Cathy Piekarski, Marietta, OH.
The Special Offerings Advisory Task Force report will be made public on February 1, 2012. The GAMC will consider some of the recommendations at its February 2012 meeting, with the remainder to be considered by the 220th General Assembly (2012) in July.