Where’s the OCWM (Our Church’s Wider Mission)?
By Regional Conference Minister Michael Caine
For a number of years, Our Church's Wider Mission (OCWM) giving has been getting tighter in NYConference and across the UCC. In 2004, NYConference hit the limit on falling OCWM receipts with what would have been a substantial deficit were it not for an llth hour gift from heaven. But this year and in the upcoming years, we are facing growing shortfalls.
Conference expenses are already bare-bones for the ministry we do. In 2006 our travel budgets are being cut by $3,000 per professional staff person. And even as I have enjoyed picking up the check for meals as a humble sign of the wider church's thanksgiving for all our pastors and lay leaders do in service, until we reverse this OCWM trend, I am going to have to stop this practice of saying thank-you with generosity. Not sure how else we can reduce expenses much further without really scaling back on the ministries we offer.
Can we hope for additional OCWM income? What's happened to cause its decrease? Much of the problem comes from shrinking congregations and closing churches… as congregations (and not just UCC congregations) have emptied over the last 50 years. Ultimately, the answer to our financial difficulties lies in developing new ways of reaching out and including in a larger portion of the North American population in the life of our local churches.
But “ecclesiastical de-population” is only part of the missing OCWM equation. We have not been consistent and creative enough in making the case for all the good that is done with your OCWM dollars. We have not encouraged our congregations to teach their people to be generous every Sunday. And we have not asked in turn for those congregations to be generous with what the people of God have entrusted to their stewardship.
But we are amending our ways! NYConference staff, in cooperation with the Stewardship Commission and the Executive Council, has created a presentation we want to bring to a monthly meeting of your Governing Board. It's pointed, passionate and in 30 minutes will make a case for what you can accomplish with OCWM giving and what you will get in return.
I hope you will invite us to share this resource with your leadership; please contact me to schedule a visit. But if I don't hear from you, expect to get a call for me. Our United Church is making a difference that no other church in North America can. God's got important work for us to do. But it all takes financial resources, money. And I have enough faith in what God want of us and in you to ask for help find the dollars we need!