Tithe Initiative influences boost in payout

By Amy Forbus

Changes brought about by the Arkansas Tithe Initiative contributed to an overall increase in local churches’ payment of Conference and general church apportionments in 2016.

The 656 active congregations in Arkansas collectively paid 90.99 percent of the funds requested for Conference ministries and support of global missions—an increase of 3.25 percent over the previous year.

Last year marked the end of a transition as churches migrated to the Arkansas Tithe Initiative formula adopted by the 2015 Annual Conference. The change coincided with the completed transition to direct billing of clergy pensions, as opposed to including pensions in the Conference apportioned budget. In 2015, 25 percent of clergy pensions were still factored into the Conference budget. In preparation for the full implementation of the 2017 Tithe, all pensions were billed separately beginning in 2016.

“We received a lot of positive feedback around the 2017 tithe, which led to more churches making payments on a regular basis and contributed to us having a higher payout at the end of 2016,” said Todd Burris, director of the Center for Administrative Services and treasurer for the Arkansas Conference.

The Center for Administrative Services treated 2016 as a trial period, asking local churches to begin reporting their income monthly as a way to prepare for the Tithe Initiative taking full effect in 2017. It allowed Council on Finance and Administration to perfect the wording on the income exclusions and allow churches to prepare their internal accounting systems.

“2016 apportionments were calculated on a blend of income and expense factors,” Burris said. “This was to ease the transition to a fully income-based tithe system.”

The 10 percent calculation, based on the biblical model of a tithe, depends upon monthly revenue reports supplied by each local church.

An explanation of how the 2017 Tithe funds are used for ministry in the Arkansas Conference and around the world appeared in the most recent Benevolence Guide, which was included in the Nov. 4, 2016 issue of the Arkansas United Methodist. The Benevolence Guide is available at www.arumc.org/tithe; district offices and the Conference Center for Administrative services have a limited number of copies available for local churches, as well.