The other day, I was on the Eastern Texas Conference’s website when I noticed their beautiful online calculator which helps churches calculate the cost of Connectional Funding as well as their pastors’ health and retirement benefits. It was so well done that it inspired me to create my own calculator using Microsoft Excel. In the video below, I demonstrate the Excel spreadsheet. The links to the spreadsheet and other information are below the video.
I love Excel. I sometimes joke that Excel is my first language. I actually have a library of my favorite spreadsheets of all time. The challenge with this particular spreadsheet was to make it precise without being overly complicated. Because of the tax implications of clergy compensation, I’m not sure how well I succeeded. Feel free to download and improve upon this spreadsheet or, if you made your own, send it to me at email@example.com.
You learn a lot when you create a spreadsheet. Not only do you have to understand the details and logic of the particular problem, but you also develop a sense for the underlying values. From creating this spreadsheet, here is what I would suggest are the underlying values behind Global Methodist finances.
#1 – Simplicity
When I taught Accounting at Dakota Wesleyan University, I would share some of my favorite spreadsheets with my students. Sometimes they would ask how a certain formula works, and I would have to admit that I must have been smarter back then because it was far too complicated for me to understand now.
This spreadsheet is not like that. The formulas are fairly simple. The formula for Connectional Funding is simple addition and multiplication. The formula for health insurance looks up the amount depending on how many people are covered. The formula for retirement is probably the most complicated because it depends on whether or not the pastor lives in a parsonage and how much the pastor is personally contributing. Although this last one is a little more complicated, it is fairly simple for a retirement plan. Overall, you can see that the Global Methodist Church values simplicity.
#2 – Trust
I’ve worked in bureaucratic institutions for most of my career. There is a tendency for bureaucrats to view the people they serve are incompetent or corrupt. Consider the IRS. Each year, the IRS asks every American this basic question: How much money did you make? Your taxes are a percentage of that amount. To help you answer this question, the IRS issues thousands of pages of instructions, which also act as a bludgeon if you make a mistake. The IRS also double checks your answers with your employer or anyone else that paid you. It is clear that the IRS doesn’t trust taxpayers, and taxpayers are very wary of the IRS.
For Connectional Funding, the church uses minimal instructions to calculate its own amount. The church doesn’t receive a monthly bill. Instead, the church reports how much it owes and pays accordingly. The Global Methodist Church does not have a way to verify that the amount is correct and must trust the local church. Many of the churches have paid a high price to leave their former denomination and become Global Methodist. This shows the trust churches are placing in the Global Methodist Church. The model for Connectional Funding seems to reciprocate that trust.
#3 – Transparency
Transparency often relies on simplicity and trust. If there isn’t trust, obviously, information will be hidden. If something is overly complicated, it is difficult to be transparent. Let me give an example. In a denomination I previously worked for, I remember giving a report on the state of the pension plan. After I was done, someone said something to the effect: “I like your excitement in giving the report, but I don’t think you were speaking in English.” Was I trying to hide information? I hope not, but the pension plan was so full of acronyms and intricate details that took me about four years to understand. How could someone listening to me for thirty minutes hope to understand it?
For the Global Methodist Church, the benefits plans are transparent. The church pays for the exact cost of their pastors’ benefits. There are no hidden costs. Rick Van Giesen, the Benefits Officer, shared with everyone what the premiums are and how they are shared between the church and the pastors. There’s not a complex formula to somehow try to subsidize churches through the billing of benefits or build up a large reserve fund.
Although I’m the treasurer for the Global Methodist Church, I wrote this post as if I were an outsider. I did this because I’m only in my third week at this position and did not want to take credit for all the contributions from so many people to establish the Global Methodist Church’s financial system. My hope is to continue with these values so that finance and administration supports, not distracts from, the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly.
- Calculator Spreadsheet: https://jctaccounting.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/gmc_calculator.xlsx
- General Church Connectional Funding Remit Form: https://globalmethodist.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Connectional-Funding-Payment-Form.pdf
- Pay Benefits Invoice Online: https://app02.us.bill.com/p/globalmethodistchurch
- Guide for what is and is not Operating Income: https://jctaccounting.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/operating_income_examples.pdf
- Global Methodist FAQ: https://globalmethodist.org/faqs/
- Article on Connectional Funding by Keith Boyette: https://globalmethodist.org/connectional-funding-keeping-the-focus-on-the-ministry-of-the-local-church/
- Easter Texas’s Calculator: https://etxgmc.org/calculator