When They Prayed
FROM THE BISHOP DAVID GRAVES   I chose the theme of our 2023 Annual Conference session, “When They Prayed,” based on Acts 4:31: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they ...
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2016 Local Church Toolkit: South Georgia Annual Conference

September 19, 2016

This week the General Council on Finance and Administration released the compiled results of the statistical data for the South Georgia Conference. The information contains an analysis based on worship attendance of trends between larger and small congregations, unique patterns based on statistical data, and the ranking of South Georgia Conference among U.S. based United Methodists congregations.

Below you will find statements from Moses Kumar, General Secretary of the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA). In addition, there are excerpts from the conclusion of the report and a link to view the full report.

These past four years have been an outstanding quadrennium, through a tough economic environment, the local congregations saw growing innovation and ministry around the globe. At The General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) we collect the annual statistical report information for historical preservation and to further our understanding of current trends. Thank you for providing GCFA with these timely reports. Because of your hard work we are able to provide conferences with key metrics concerning their local churches.

The following strategic statistical report presents key statistical findings based on worship attendance for the South Georgia Annual Conference. The models show the differences between larger and smaller church sizes, unique patterns through trend lines, and annual conference rankings. Through these models this report contains information on the statistical life of the church and, when viewed together, may show the general heading for your conference. Moses Kumar?The General Council on Finance and Administration General Secretary/ Treasurer

Here are some excerpts from the conclusion of the “2016 Local Church Toolkit” South Georgia Annual Conference:

76 percent of the conference’s 611 churches are composed of fewer than 80 weekly attendees. In fact, 62 percent of churches contain fewer than 50 weekly attendees and account for 18 percent of the conference’s total weekly attendance. Ten churches boast more than 550 weekly attendants and account for 18 percent of the conference’s total weekly attendance.

Compared to other UMC conferences, a large amount of South Georgia’s attendees are found in a variety of churches. While smaller churches spend less money and incur less debt, they are typically one of the lowest performers in outreach ministries. However, even as the conference ranks in the high thirties for attendees, membership, and spending, the conference ranks 13th in the number of persons served in the community.

As the conference lost an average 395 attendees per year, the conference ranks low for both baptisms at 42nd and 46th in professions of faith. There are 72 fewer professions of faith per year and 53 fewer baptisms per year. However, since 2010, professions have remained stable around 1,825 professions. Churches with fewer than 50 weekly attendees are, on average, unlikely to see one baptism in their church.

The conference has increased its Christian groups’ attendance by more than 2,000 from 2012. The conference ranks high for most age categories in CF groups. Furthermore, as the categories increase from children to youth and young adults, their percentages drop from around the UMC average to 2 percent below the UMC average, ranking the conference third in youth. Youth is similar to children in that churches with more than 170 weekly attendees are most likely to have youth.

The conference’s membership is 95 percent white, while the area population is 56 percent white. The average church in the conference owes 23 percent of their annual budget in secured debt.

Apportionments paid to the conference are at $10 million, or 8.5 percent of church income, the second lowest in more than 10 years. The conference spends about the UMC average on apportionments and benevolences. Apportionments paid and payout rates increase in correlation to church size but spends 1 percent less than the average on non-UMC giving…South Georgia’s total spending has fallen over the years. Its current spending rate is one of the lowest in its 10-year history. Likewise, the conference’s spending per attendee has adjusted accordingly. The average South Georgia church spends 1 percent more than the UMC average on program cost but spends 2 percent more than the UMC average on operating cost.

South Georgia is paying its staff more and its clergy less than other U.S. conferences, all while the conference has a low debt burden and spends more on non-capital expenses. The conference has increased its total staff spending by almost $1 million in one year. Conversely, from 2008 to 2014 pastor compensation declined by $523,000 per year. (excerpts taken from the GCFA Annual Report – South Georgia, July 1, 2016)

Over the next several months, this report will be examined by leadership at all levels of the church in the South Georgia Conference. The statistical information collected each year is vital to our understanding of the current reality and can provide a basis for the development of the future of our annual conference. Here are a few questions to consider as you review the full report.

How might these models be helpful to local churches in the engagement of mission and ministry?

Where do you see positive and negative trends of growth and outreach?

How might your local church increase in the areas trending upward and decrease in the areas trending downward?

Click here to view the entire report.

Rev. Denise Walton serves as the Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at denise@sgaumc.org.

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