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Revamping “norms” tops USMB convention business

Delegates to act on five recommendations

by Connie Faber

A recommendation that “norms” be replaced with a proportionate funding model tops the business agenda delegates to Conection 2012 will address. Other recommendations include nationalizing the North American MB Confession of Faith, approving bylaw changes, approve the 2012-13 USMB budget and affirming board and committee members.

Delegates attending the two morning business sessions this week at Conection 2012 will take action on five recommendations from the USMB Leadership Board, the group of nine individuals who serve as the USMB decision-making body between biennial delegate conventions.

Topping the list of recommendations to be discussed is one that revamps the current method of determining how much money each USMB congregation is expected to contribute to national USMB ministries.

“It is my prayer that our commitment to functioning as one family on a mission together will bring us to a place of seeing faithful financial partnership as a privilege,” says Ed Boschman, USMB executive director.

"Norms" no longer working

The current funding model bases congregational contributions to national ministries on church membership. If congregations followed this approach, church contributions to USMB would total at least $1,217,685, based on the suggested minimum of $35 per member; current USMB membership is 34,791. Currently, congregations contribute about $420,000 each year to the national ministry budget.

“For 30 years these ‘norms’ worked well for most of our churches,” says Boschman. “But current statistics indicate that only about one-third of our churches support our district and national ministries and less than that are doing so by utilizing the norms system.”

According to Boschman, 95 percent of USMB income comes from only 20 percent of the churches.

“Recommended church giving based on ‘membership’ no longer works well,” he says.

Proportionate funding is new model

Boschman and Jon Wiebe, president and CEO of MB Foundation, developed a proportionate funding model that is based on biblical stewardship concepts and that offers a calculation process that has integrity and a methodology that uses common terminology.

Under the new plan, each USMB congregation will be asked to forward 2.5 percent of their annual income, defined as tithes and offerings received by the congregation to support its general budget.

“We are inviting inactive churches to come on board and partner in our church renewal, church planting and leadership development,” says Boschman. “If the 2.5 percent request is too big a bite, we encourage congregations to start at a smaller percentage.”

Boschman and Wiebe outlined the new model at Conection 2010 and presented it to the 2011 Leadership Summit, a two-day meeting of senior staff members and board chairs of USMB ministry partners. They also explained the model to district leaders and convention delegates during the past year.

Proposal largely well received

While Boschman and Wiebe report that response to the proposed model has been largely positive, there has been some hesitancy.

“Change is hard and comes with a risk,” says Wiebe. “However, I believe implementing the new system, along with a renewed commitment among our churches, will lead to enhanced revenue at the national level.”

Wiebe says, “My hope is that a common terminology and rationale along with a biblical funding system will create greater understanding and participation by churches.”

The national USMB budget includes funding for

  • Mission USA, the national church planting and renewal ministry;

  • Christian Leader and other electronic and print communication efforts;

  • the national Board of Faith and Life, charged with providing theological oversight;

  • funding for a variety of national events including the quadrennial National Youth Convention and the National Pastor’s Orientation and Conection delegate conventions, both held every 2 years;

  • and executive costs that include Leadership Board meetings, staff salaries and administrative costs for eight part- and full-time individuals.

The USMB proportionate funding model does not change the suggested “norm” requested from each congregation by USMB partner ministries. These partners include MB Mission, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, Fresno Pacific University, Tabor College and each of the five district conferences.

Revising a long-standing funding model isn’t the only significant change Conection 2012 delegates will consider. They will also take action on a recommendation to nationalize the North American Confession of Faith.

Confession of Faith to be nationalized

Currently the Canadian Conference of MB Churches and USMB have agreed to jointly own, manage and protect the Confession of Faith. Both Canadian and U.S. leaders have agreed that it is time for the two national conferences to establish independent COF statements, in keeping with the pattern of other national MB conferences around the world.

U.S. BFL chair Larry Nikkel and Brian Cooper, Canadian BFL chair, are working together to finalize a memorandum of understanding on which delegates to the U.S. and Canadian conventions will take action this summer.

Bylaws, budgets and elections 

The Leadership Board is asking delegates to approve changes to the USMB bylaws. The most significant changes relate to the description of a quorum and the process by which the Leadership Board affirms nominations to boards of USMB ministry partners and inter-Mennonite agencies. The third revision would grant the Leadership Board the authority to appoint two at-large members to its board.

Delegates will be asked to affirm a USMB budget of $1,018,524, which is $170,524 more than the current budget. The growth is due to the addition of two new part-time USMB staff members and increased program costs in development, social media and other electronic communication projects. Funds are also slated for a 2013 study conference sponsored by the Board of Faith and Life and church planting and church renewal programs.

Finally, delegates will elect new members to the Leadership Board, Board of Faith and Life, National Youth Committee, MB Mission and Historical Commission and affirm appointments to the MB Foundation board and boards of other partner ministries.

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