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Task Force encourages 20/20 Vision for Special Offerings

Recommends each Offering be adjusted to maximize impact

January 31, 2012

LOUISVILLE

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.

  1. The paragraph: 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. seems to imply that no longer will Presbyterians be able to contribute over and above pledges to specific designated causes that are important to them through 'special offerings'. I agree with Belle that it is unclear who will decide where the money goes. I am afraid that the lack of clarity about what one will be contributing toward in these offerings takes away their specialness and will contribute to their further decline. I celebrate a greater emphasis on promoting the offerings because of the important work they make possible. The lack of designation of percentages to specific causes concerns me.

    by Paige McRight

    February 9, 2012

  2. I hope this is thought out very carefully, it could be a tough "sell" to congregations if there is no clear disbursement. Also, could it be that special offerings have declined because of the economy, as have church offerings as a whole? I am intentional about educating our congregations regarding the special offerings and they appreciate knowing where their dollars are being spent; without this explanation, they may be less inclined to get too excited about giving.

    by Barbara Sayles

    February 6, 2012

  3. The Task Force's proposed World Communion Offering would replace the Peacemaking Offering. It's emphasis would be world mission, not peacemaking. Peacemaking ministries would become part of One Great Hour of Sharing.

    by Margaret Boone

    February 2, 2012

  4. My earlier comment about OGHS was incorrect. None of the three current programs funded by OGHS will get a specific percentage as in the past. In addition, the Peacemaking Program will be added. In the future no program will receive a specific percentage of funds from any offering but may apply for funds. It is unclear who will decide who gets what.

    by Belle Miller McMaster

    February 1, 2012

  5. The news release is not sufficiently clear that the recommendation about the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering will now be divided four ways instead of three. That means diminished funds for the Presbyterian Hunger Program, Disaster Relief, Self Development of People and the Peacemaking Program. These four are all important missional goals for the church and should not be diminished.

    by Belle Miller McMaster

    February 1, 2012

  6. Hope the writer got it wrong. Surely we're not ADDING a World Communion offering when we already collect the Peacemaking offering, which accomplishes the same goals, on World Communion Sunday. In our Presbytery fewer than 1/3 of our churches even participate in the Peacemaking offering. We do NOT need another one with similar goals !

    by Donna Schall, Erin Presbyterian, Knoxville, TN

    January 31, 2012

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