Frequently Asked Questions
- Why can’t I change line 1?
Line 1 is the same as line 9 (2016 numbering) from last year’s report and is inserted automatically. If you need to make an adjustment to last year’s membership count, perhaps because you’ve carried out a membership audit, please use line 2d if you need to increase last year’s figure, or line 3c if you need to decrease it.
- Can I just copy the membership numbers from the church conference papers?
Probably not. Most churches report membership numbers since the last church conference in these papers. For this report, we are concerned with calendar year reporting. There shouldn’t be much difference, however, and you should be able to reconcile the final numbers easily by looking at activity since the date of your church conference.
- We are a multi-ethnic church. How should we report the ethnicity of our congregants?
The number of people with multiple ethnicities is growing each year, making it harder to complete line 5. If you can easily determine the ethnicity of individuals, please use the individual lines, but line 5g (multi-racial) may be used as required.
- How should I count average worship attendance?
First, the worship attendance at every weekly worship service should be counted – it doesn’t have to be a Sunday. Saturday, or even Wednesday, worship counts equally if those are the primary worship opportunities for those who attend. Anybody who was in any part of your worship service should be counted. For ease of integration with Vital Signs, you’ll probably find it helpful to use the same definition in both systems.
- Who count as constituents?
It may be easier to consider who is not a constituent! Any professing members on the active church roll should be counted in line 4. Any baptized persons, children or adults, who have not yet become professing members should be counted on line 9. All others associated with your congregation are your constituents and should be counted on line 10. You may also find this document from GCFA to be helpful in understanding membership numbers.
Christian formation and other small groups
- How do I count people?
Lines 11a-11d (11 is a total line) ask for the total number of people involved in any Christian formation groups (whether Sunday or otherwise) - in various age groups. Please count each person once only!
Line 13 asks for the average weekly attendance in Sunday groups. Line 14 asks for the number of individuals who attended Vacation Bible School in 2015
- What about groups?
Line 15 and 16 ask for the number of ongoing groups (not participants) for Sunday and other groups. Line 17 asks for the number of groups which do not meet for the whole year - or were one-off groups.
- Does this carry over from Vital Signs?
No. Vital Signs asks for a somewhat broader number - people and groups for each week. This may be useful to determine if your entries in Ezra are roughly accurate, but please don't rely on these numbers for the annual return.
- How do I count UMVIM participation?
On line 20a, report the number of UMVIM teams on which people from your church participated - whether those were organized by your church or not.
On line 20b, report the number of individuals who participated on these teams - counting each person once!
Please count only teams affiliated with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission on these lines. Other mission participation should be reported on line 28.
- What about community ministries?
One line 21, report the number of different community ministries for outreach, justice and mercy sponsored by the local church. For the purposes of evaluating the UMC's Four Areas of Focus, please indicate on lines 21a and 21b the number of such ministries addressing global or regional health, and ministry with the poor or socially marginalized. Ministries may be counted in both categories.
- What about participation in other mission activities?
On line 22, report the number of individuals (counted only once each) who participated in mission activities, including UMVIM, whether organized by the local church or not. However, please only count those associated with the local church - i.e. members or constituents - not others who may choose to participate.
- How do I count those served?
To the best of your ability, please count each person served once only. For example, if you have a food pantry ministry, please count each person served once only - whether they showed up each week or just once. Although aggregate numbers are easier to obtain, counting each person once only offers a better, more comparable, view of mission outreach.
- How do I determine the market value of church-owned land etc.?
There is no necessity to obtain a professional appraisal of value every year - although it is recommended on a regular basis. A best-effort estimate of value is all that is required. Note that parsonages which are being rented out should now be included on line 24, not line 25. This is a change for 2017.
- Where are the amounts our church paid to the conference treasurer for the conference tithe and other causes entered?
These will be supplied by the Conference Treasurer after the close of the year. We will post a notice on the web when these are available to view.
- Should all church income and expenditure be entered?
Yes, with few exceptions. If your church acts as a "pass-through" for some other organization - perhaps a conference mission team or a local non-profit - amounts for these activities should not be reported. Similar activities which are wholly part of a local church should, however, be included.
- Can I verify that all expenditure has been included?
Yes. The total of all entries on lines 37 through 49, together with the amounts sent directly to the Conference Treasurer for the conference tithe and other causes, should approximate your total church expenditure.
- Can I verify that all income has been included?
Yes. The total of all entries on lines 52 through 54 should approximate your total church income from all sources. For convenience, this amount is automatically entered on line 55.
- We share premises with a Fellowship or other new United Methodist congregation. Do we include their data too?
Assuming that they are completing their own statistical returns, no! If in doubt, please contact Adrian.
- Where did lines 28 to 36 go?
These are the lines that record amounts sent to the Conference Treasurer for the conference tithe, Special Sundays and other UM causes. These will be supplied after the conference accounts for the previous year have been closed and reconciled.
- What is a capital campaign?
A capital campaign is a fundraising effort for a project that exceeds 10% of the church property value. Monthly payments on the church mortgage are not (normally) considered to be funded from capital campaign income.
- How do I record amounts withdrawn from endowments or memorial funds?
Amounts withdrawn from endowment or other non-budget funds need not be recorded (the income was already recorded when received). However, the expenditure incurred using these funds should be recorded on Table 2 on the appropriate line - often line 59 for capital or building works.
If amounts are withdrawn from reserve funds to meet the regular church budget, these should be entered on line 52d along with interest and dividend income.
- New! Was there a change to reporting of assets?
Yes. Lines 24 and 25 (previously lines 31 and 32) report the assets of the local church. However, in 2016 and earlier, parsonages not being used as such (for example, being rented out while the pastor lives elsewhere) were to be reported on line 32 with active parsonages being reported on line 31. Now, all buildings (churches and parsonages) should be reported on line 24, with line 25 being used for liquid assets - bank accounts, securities, etc. - whether for active or reserve or endowment use.
Ecumenical shared ministries
- What information should we record?
For the membership and participation report (table 1), record only the membership that is considered to be United Methodist. This may be a separate roll (for federated churches), or the total roll (for union or merged churches) as determined by your local situation.
For the financial reports (tables 2 and 3), record the proportion of church finances that are considered to be United Methodist. This may be an agreed proportion of total income and expense or something else as determined by your local situation.
- How does this affect the conference tithe?
Reporting of the conference tithe is based on the amount entered in line 52 of table 3 (possibly reduced by line 52f2 in the case of rented parsonages). As a result, this amount should be that on which you are basing your regular tithe contributions. For federated churches, this would normally be the agreed percentage of income as mentioned earlier.
- But ... that's not what we've done before?
That may be the case. In past years, some federated churches have reported their total finances in Ezra. For the future, please record the finances as described above. This will, of course, result in a number of warnings - please use the explanation to identity the change.
- What if I need more help?
Check out this document on church types. If you still have questions, please contact Adrian.
- Is there a list of instructions for each line in the tables?
Yes, there is! Click here to download.
- Can I get the forms in a language other than English?
Forms are available in both Spanish and Korean from the GCFA web site. Please note, however, that these differ slightly from the conference forms and should only be considered to be a guide.
- Why are we being asked for explanations for some lines?
Warnings have always been shown for some lines in Ezra. These are not errors, but cases where the number entered is significantly different from the previous year. The difference this year is that, rather than just showing you the warnings, we are asking for some explanation - simply to ensure that it isn't a typographical error. To enter your explanation, click the "Enter" link on the end of the warning line, enter your text in the box which opens up ... and then click the "Update" link to save your explanation. Clicking the "Save" button won't save your explanation - and, in fact, will throw it away if you continue!
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