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While most members of the Christian Reformed Church have heard the term “ministry shares,” it turns out that many are unfamiliar with their exact purpose.

In an effort to increase awareness about how money sent by local churches is used for shared denominational ministries, the CRC has launched a campaign titled “You Add. God Multiplies.

Synod 2009 (the CRC’s annual leadership meeting) approved spending of up to 1 percent of ministry share revenue for ministry share promotion. Given that the denomination received $25.7 million from ministry shares for fiscal year 2011, $257,000 was allocated for promotion. Previously, virtually no money had been spent for this purpose.

Synod asked the denomination to “put some effort into really telling the story of ministry that takes places as a result of these gifts and for the first time put some budget into that recommendation,” said Peter Harkema, director of denominational advancement.

Harkema and his team have been working on the campaign for the past year and a half. In 2010 the team learned from an online denominational survey that 70 percent of 2,500 respondents said they did not really understand ministry shares and felt the church needed to make a more concerted effort to help them do so.

In October 2011, Christian Reformed church leaders were sent a packet of materials that included information on each CRC ministry and what each is able to accomplish because of ministry shares. The packet includes a bulletin insert, posters, and a video to share with congregations.

The complete cost of the campaign, which also includes a website of resources and tools, came to right around $250,000, said John Bolt, the denomination’s director of finance and administration.

“I would expect the spending to come more in surges as you renew a campaign, freshen the ideas, and maybe have some new materials come out,” Bolt said. “It’s likely that some years we’ll spend close to the 1 percent, and some years we’ll spend very little of it.”

The current ministry-share recommendation is $316.76 per year for each confessing member age 18 and older. If each church paid their full ministry shares, revenue would likely total just over $41 million, Bolt said.

For the calendar year 2010, the percentage of ministry share collected was 63.2. Over the decade of 2000 to 2010, the average percentage collected often ran in the lower 70s.

“What we really want people to be thinking is that ministry share is our way of contributing to ministry we covenanted to do together,” Bolt said. “Churches should consider this part of their gift to the ministry of the denomination. While we give them a suggested amount, we really want them to be excited about contributing in support of ministry. There are a lot of different alternatives pulling at church finances in addition to the poor economy, so we, for some time now, have understood we’re not going to get 100 percent. But we are hopeful that current levels rebound a bit.

“The one thing I think people really need to consider with ministry share is that it enables everybody to participate,” Bolt said. “No matter what you’re able to contribute, you are supporting this broad range of ministry, so it gives everybody, regardless of their economic ability, the chance to participate. I think that makes it a tremendous program.”

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