Declines in Giving Impact Ability to Support Conference Programming
One thing I can honestly report is that it is an interesting time to serve as the Ohio Conference Treasurer. What makes this time interesting is the great change occurring in the conference. Some of the change is exciting — especially as we look to the future — but some of the change is disheartening. I have outlined some of these significant changes:
OCWM income: Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM) giving from our churches (which in the Ohio Conference is uniquely collected by associations and then a portion forwarded to the conference and national settings) to the Conference has dropped by 30% in the past five years. Local churches have less to forward to the associations and associations have increasingly retained more OCWM to sustain their ministries. In 2016, we saw a drop of well over 15% in income alone. The Conference increasingly struggles to staff for the ministries upon which churches have come to depend. This reality also becomes an increasing challenge for the national setting as the Ohio Conference drops its giving to it proportionally to the money it is forwarded from associations.
ODM Camp Management: There is great news here. With United Camps, Conference and Retreats (UCCR) managing the camp properties, they were able to create a year-end surplus of $38,000. We will be using this surplus for major maintenance and as well as paying for costs to relocate our operations at Templed Hills.
ODM Camping Program: Here is where it is most challenging. We are intent on running the best camping program that we can manage. The 15% drop in the Conference’s OCWM revenue in 2016 amounted to a loss of $70,000. It is increasingly difficult to staff the management of the program.
Pilgrim Hills Sale: Since taking board action in February to sell our Pilgrim Hills Camp property and retain Templed Hills for use, the team working on this is moving forward. A goal has been set for a sale to occur in the late fall. There is much work yet to be done to prepare for a late fall sale; therefore, no hard dates are yet set related to the sale.
Templed Hills Camp: In December 2016, the conference received an estate gift of $175,000 to be used for Templed Hills. This has been added to an amount of $200,000 that the board had earmarked to begin capital improvements at Templed Hills. An operations team is now hard at work prioritizing repairs and improvements and getting the improvements started. It is exciting to see the Conference-wide enthusiasm for the work that is being done here.
What I find most challenging and frustrating is that it will not matter how well UCCR manages the camps or how much work we put into the improvement at Templed Hills. If the OCWM funding for the Conference continues to decline at such a high rate, we will continue to have difficulties running our camping program.