1. What is Strengthen the Church?
Each day, visions and dreams are created in the hearts of many in the United Church of Christ. Through the Strengthen the Church special mission offering, they can become a reality. As God calls our congregations to be "church" in new ways, your gift will plant new churches, awaken new ideas in existing churches, and develop spiritual life in our youth and young adults. Because of this offering, many more will hear the good news that "God is still speaking." Strengthen the Church is directed to your church's Conference, Local Church Ministries and The Stillspeaking Ministry for these purposes. Invest in the Vision: Strengthen the Church!
2. How many dollars are given to Strengthen the Church?
In 2012, contributions topped $558,900, an increase of over 7%. Net of promotion costs, about $246,000 remained with Conferences and $249,000 was forwarded to be shared by Local Church Ministries and The Stillspeaking Ministry. We are on our way to raising $1 million with your help!
3. How are Strengthen the Church funds shared?
Conferences may use up to 50% of the offering for local and regional Strengthen the Church efforts. Conferences may provide information about their specific uses in mailings, newsletters, emails, or on their web sites. Contact your Conference office for information. The Stillspeaking Ministry and Local Church Ministries use the other 50%.
4. How are Strengthen the Church funds used by The Stillspeaking Ministry and Local Church Ministries?
• Strengthen the Church is helping to fund the God is Stillspeaking Ministry. Since 2004, Stillspeaking has worked with thousands of UCC churches and individuals across the country to make religion relevant again and to extend an extravagant welcome to all—here in the United Church of Christ. In 2013 about $25,000 of the 2012 offering will be used for this ministry.
• About $134,400 will be given in grants to provide pastoral leadership for new church starts and revitalizing congregations. Grants are awarded each spring and fall. These grants help fulfill one of the UCC's "Big Inspirational Goals": There is a welcoming UCC community of faith that is accessible to all – no matter who they are or where they are on life's journey.
• God is calling new generations to ministry in our increasingly diverse church. Will they be well prepared? Will they have a heart for the UCC? The $67,200 used to implement the General Synod Pronouncement, "Ministry Issues: Forming and Preparing Pastoral Leaders for God's Church," is helping us meet future leadership needs for all our congregations.
• About $22,400 will support Youth at General Synod and Women's Ministries. In non-Synod years, these contributions support regional and national youth events. Over 3,000 youth and their sponsors participated in NYE 2012. An exciting new format for the Women's magazine, Common Lot, is reaching more UCC women than ever… and it's available by subscription or free online.
These are the amounts available after covering promotion costs of about $32,000.
5. How is Strengthen the Church different from the New Church Challenge Fund?
The need for funds to help pay salary and benefits for new church start pastors far exceeds gifts to the Strengthen the Church offering. Because starting new churches is a priority, Local Church Ministries allocates $500,000 from its budget each year. Even so, that meets less than 20% of the need, leaving some requests deferred or denied. The New Church Challenge Fund and New Church Challenge Endowment Fund were established to receive special gifts, major gifts, or bequests from individuals and congregations with a strong desire to plant more new churches. Strengthen the Church provides an annual opportunity for all members to help plant churches, renew existing churches, foster new leaders and grow the UCC as a community of extravagant welcome.
6. How and when can people contribute to Strengthen the Church?
The Strengthen the Church offering is received through local UCC congregations and sent through their Conference office. The suggested date is Pentecost Sunday, May 19th – alternatively, it may be received on the Sunday we celebrate Mother's Day (May 12th), Thanksgiving (Nov. 17th), the Sunday (June 23rd) before the UCC's anniversary (June 25th) or the congregation's anniversary. Promotional materials arrive in churches at least six weeks prior to Pentecost Sunday.
To order additional materials call toll-free 1-800-537-3394. For more information visit www.ucc.org/stc or contact the Rev. Doris Powell, Local Church Ministries: firstname.lastname@example.org or (toll free) 1-866-822-8224 ext 3853.