From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Special Offerings Task Group Report Is Approved

Date 04 May 1996 20:59:56


95459       Special Offerings Task Group Report Is Approved 
                      by Division Committee 
                         By Julian Shipp 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--After a lengthy study, the Congregational Ministries 
Division (CMD) Committee has approved a reorganization of the Presbyterian 
Church's four special offerings.  This includes expanding the Christmas Joy 
Offering to include programs for children at risk and changing the Witness 
Offering to a "Pentecost Offering," with funds being designated for youth 
ministries at the congregational, presbytery and General Assembly levels of 
the denomination. 
     During its Dec. 7-9 meeting here, the Committee unanimously accepted 
the report of its Special Offerings Task Group, which reviewed and 
evaluated Peacemaking, One Great Hour of Sharing, Christmas Joy, and 
Witness -- the denomination's General Assembly-designated special offerings 
     Stipulated by the 203rd General Assembly (1991), the process for an 
in-depth review and evaluation of the denomination's special offerings on a 
four-year cycle officially began this March, according to Vivian L. 
Johnson, CMD's associate director of stewardship. 
     The report of the five-member group, chaired by the Rev. John H. 
McFayden of Dale City, Va., examines the current patterns of special 
offerings and the causes supported by these programs. Present patterns and 
dollar distributions remain the same through 1997. 
     The second step in the process is to recommend a pattern for 1998 
through 2001.  The report will go to the February meeting of the General 
Assembly Council for action and then to the 208th General Assembly (1996) 
in Albuquerque, N.M.  
                        A Youth Pentecost 
     The task group recommends the present Witness Offering, whose monies 
have helped maintain the mission personnel force throughout the world; 
support evangelism programs that include new church development and 
redevelopment, and develop educational material for small and racial ethnic 
churches, be transformed into a "Pentecost Offering." According to 
McFayden, this transformation will give the offering "a new face and a new 
identity ... for the whole denomination." 
     The Witness Offering receipts currently support three areas of the 
denomination's mission--all now focused on the youth of the church. Of 
undesignated receipts, worldwide youth ministry receives 50%t of the 
offering (Worldwide Ministries Division); evangelism and outreach with 
youth receives 30% (National Ministries Division); and youth ministry and 
education receives 20% (Congregational Ministries Division). 
     McFayden said giving to the Witness Offering declined 34 percent over 
the past four years  --from $957,236 in 1990 to $630, 419 in 1994. 
According to 1995 Presbyterian Panel data, fewer than 35 percent of 
congregations in the PC(U.S.A.) participate in the offering, and existing 
support for it is located primarily in the southeast where it had its 
origins in the former Presbyterian Church in the United States. 
     McFayden said after the Witness Offering was given an enhanced youth 
emphasis this year, initial data suggests there will be a modest increase 
in the amount of dollars the offering will receive in the future. Based on 
that and other information, he said, task group members believe 
congregations will respond enthusiastically to a special offering 
designated for youth, particularly one focused on equipping youth and young 
adults for ministry and mission. 
     Under the task group's recommendations, the Pentecost Offering will be 
received on Pentecost Sunday, with 20% of the offering going to 
congregations, 10% to presbyteries and 70% allocated to the General 
Assembly.  At the Assembly level,  40% of the offering will go to CMD, 30% 
will go to the National Ministries Division and 30% will go to the 
Worldwide Ministries Division.  
                    Christmas Joy for Children     
     There are also recommended changes to the Christmas Joy Offering, 
specifically the percentage distributed to the Board of Pensions (BOP) and 
the addition of a new, offering-funded program called "Children at Risk." 
     During the early stages of their examination process,  McFayden said, 
task group members became concerned over the BOP's Nursing Home Care 
Assistance Program, a Christmas Joy Offering-funded plan for eligible 
retirees initiated in 1979 by the former United Presbyterian Church that 
was not offered in the former Presbyterian Church in the United States. 
     According to figures presented to the task group in March by the BOP, 
the Christmas Joy Offering will serve an estimated 114 persons in nursing 
homes this year with a cost per recipient of $19,526 and total cost of 
$2,226,000, nearly 50 percent of the entire offering. 
     Due to the rising costs of nursing home care and the amount of funding 
the offering receives, Board officials predict the program cannot be 
sustained through a special offering in 10 years or less.  In 1994 the BOP 
reported that beginning in 2002, no new applications for the nursing home 
assistance program would be accepted if the Board continues to receive only 
50% of the offering. 
     According to Johnson,  actuarial figures provided by the Board are 
based on spending down the $18 million reserve being held in Christmas Joy 
funds from previous years and honoring commitments to anyone already in the 
     "No matter what we did with the Christmas Offering, there was a 
limited window of viability," McFayden said. "And the task group had 
concerns that we were using a churchwide offering to provide a benefit to a 
very small group of people."  He said the group also had concerns about " 
how promotable the offering was, and whether or not that was the right 
thing to do with a special offering." 
     Under the group's recommendations, 50% of the Christmas Joy Offering 
will go to the denomination's racial ethnic schools, 30% will go to the 
Board of Pensions and 20% will go to the new "Children at Risk" emphasis. 
McFayden said this would mean the racial ethnic schools could expect to 
receive at least an additional $350,000 by the year 2000. However, the BOP 
funds would decrease initially by $700,000. 
     McFayden said it is likely that the pension board would continue to 
receive $35,000 to $50,000 in designated gifts, with those designations 
projected to decline over the next four to six years. But if the total 
offering increases as projected for the year 2000, financial impact on the 
BOP would begin to reverse itself. 
     If that occurs, McFayden said, the BOP's share of the offering would 
be adequate for expanded income assistance and shared grant programs 
However, the Nursing Home Care Assistance Program would have to be funded 
from alternative sources or discontinued. 
     According to the task group's report, the Children at Risk Program 
could potentially result in $500,000 each to the Worldwide and National 
Ministries Divisions.  The Rev. Vernon Broyles, NMD's associate for 
corporate witness and acting director for social justice ministries, said 
modifying the offering around the theme of supporting children is timely. 
There is no segment in society more at risk than children, who make up a 
steadily growing percentage of the homeless population and of those who 
live in poverty,  Broyles said.  Far too many children are not being 
protected from even the most preventable childhood disease, he added. 
     "The General Assembly has frequently expressed concern over the needs 
of children and [some of these issues] are already being addressed in some 
measure through existing programs," Broyles said.  "However, the rescources 
provided through the Christmas Joy Offering for this cause will make it 
possible to greatly enhance these efforts to witness to God's concern for 
the special needs of the children in our midst." 
     "Responses from the Presbyterian Panel indicated people respond 
enthusiastically both to critical human need and to children in need," 
McFayden said. "And it seemed to us that the Christmas season ... is the 
most appropriate time that we could ask our church to respond to children 
who are in need. With the addition of this element, we feel like we have an 
offering that responds to all the generations of God's children."  
                      "If It Ain't Broke..." 
     Johnson said the task group recommends that the two remaining 
offerings, One Great Hour of Sharing and Peacemaking, remain essentially 
unchanged, both in the times the offerings are promoted and received and 
the percentage of recipients. 
     Promoted throughout Lent and received on Easter Sunday, the One Great 
Hour of Sharing offering goes to Presbyterian World Service (36%), the 
Presbyterian Hunger Program (32%) and the Presbyterian Committee on the 
Self-Development of People (32%).  According to current figures, the 
offering brought in approximately $9 million in 1994. 
     The task group report's rationale section indicates there is a broad 
base of support across the denomination for One Great Hour of Sharing. 
This was evidenced to the group by findings of the Presbyterian Panel 
survey conducted in May, General Assembly hearings on special offerings, 
and letters from individuals, members and middle governing bodies. 
Enthusiasm for this offering is also evident in the fact that more than 90 
percent of congregations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) participate in 
the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering, contributing more than $9 million 
per year 
     The Peacemaking Offering is received on World Communion Sunday in 
October with 25% distributed to congregations, 25% to synods and 50% to the 
General Assembly's Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. The Peacemaking 
Offering brought in $1.5 million in 1994. 
     The task group report states that the Peacemaking Offering has shown a 
gradual increase both in participation and in funds received. Presbyterian 
Panel results indicate more than 50 percent of congregations now receive 
the offering and receipts have expanded from $1,380,288 in 1990 to 
$1,550,366 in 1994, an increase of approximately 12 percent. 
     The task group recommends that the Peacemaking Program give increased 
emphasis to issues of restoring creation. Since General Assembly staff from 
all three divisions have responsibility for environmental concerns, the 
task group further recommends that the Peacemaking Office continue its 
support of the NMD's Office of Environmental Justice and participation in 
the inter-division team that coordinates the church's emphasis on restoring 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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