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Pastoral Leadership in Stewardship

A Core Practice: Transparency with self and others regarding their relationship with money.

The following article summarizes a study of a Methodist Conference regarding the relationship between pastoral leadership and apportionment giving in a congregation.

This study illustrates that pastoral leadership is the key factor.

Pastoral Leadership in Stewardship

Bishop Al Gwinn, who is doing some great things in the North Carolina Conference, shared with me a study that was done in the West Ohio Conference related to the impact of pastoral leadership on the fair-share giving (apportionment) of a congregation. I found it interesting:
In the late 90's Dr. Don House of the University of Texas . . . had his graduate students run correlations on all the statistics of all the churches in the denominations to determine what were the critical factors in the payment of apportionment.

The single biggest predictor of a church's level of payment was its previous performance. This related directly to the pastor, i.e., the strongest correlation was to the pastor of the church. As the pastor moved, so did the apportionment payments.  

The second strongest correlation was with the district superintendent; the third was with the bishop.

In West Ohio, I've run studies of pastors and churches to see if patterns existed. This was done by looking at the payment history three years prior to a pastoral change, all during the pastor's tenure at a church, and then three years following the pastor's leaving for every appointment in the pastor's career. Different conditions gave different results.

A. If a pastor with a history of paying apportionments in full was appointed to a church that had a history of paying in full the church always continued to pay 100%.

B. If a pastor with a history of paying less than 100% was appointed to a church that had a history of paying in full, the church stopped paying at the 100% level within the first year of appointment. If the pastor was appointed somewhere else within three years, the church returned to 100% payments within a year following the pastor's departure. If the pastor stayed more than five years with the church paying less than 100%, it seldom returned to 100%.

C. If a pastor with a history of paying 100% was appointed to a church that had a history of paying less than 100%, the church usually moved to payment in full within two years and sometimes within the first year of the appointment.

D. The combination of a church and pastor with both having a history of less than 100% usually decreased payment from the highest point that either had ever attained. It often went to zero."  

Stan's conclusions were that if appointments were based solely on placement in order to gain payout percentages, you would put:

(1) 100% pastors in 100% churches and less than 100% churches who have high apportionment balances and

(2) less than 100% pastors only in less than 100% churches with the smallest payout pastors going to churches with the smallest apportionment levels.

Our Annual Conference continues to have a low level of apportionment participation (when compared with other SEJ Conferences). I am sure that the findings of this study would apply directly to our Annual Conference. We have some pastors who have not led a church to full mission giving participation in their entire ministry; we have many more pastors who have never served a church, in any location or situation, that has not fully participated in our giving.

What this says to me is that the Cabinet (our DS's receive salaries that are based, in part, on their proven ability to lead churches to participate in apportioned giving) need to take greater note of a pastor's record of stewardship leadership in appointing pastors.

It also reminds us that apportionment participation is a testimony to a pastor's leadership gifts in this area. Pastors who are truly committed to mission giving produce churches that pay 100% of apportionment regardless of that church's financial situation. Pastors who aren't committed to mission giving produce churches that are unfaithful in this area. Period.


Bishop Will Willamon of the North Alabama Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa ( via Flickr. Used by permission.

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