Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation Board hears upbeat reports on generosity and technology

The Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson and Dr. Lawrence Williams both touch on recent accomplishments

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Simon Maage via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — Meeting in person and online Thursday, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation Board heard from the director of the Ministry Engagement & Support team, the Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson, about how adding key members has enhanced its capabilities.

In September, the Rev. Wilson Kennedy joined as Associate Director for Special Offerings and Appeals. Last week, the Rev. Dr.  Amantha Barbee came on as a Ministry Engagement Advisor at-large to assist with special projects and giving opportunities. “We are delighted to welcome both,” Wilkinson told the board, most of whom were meeting in person at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Two new editions of the podcast Between 2 Pulpits dropped this week, Wilkinson said. He and his colleagues are preparing next for Giving Tuesday, which is set for Nov. 28. More information about that event is available here or here. “We encourage everyone to participate in some form or fashion,” Wilkinson said, adding that “no A Corp Board member is complete” without being able to sport a Little Piggy Tote Bag available to anyone who donates $40 or more to the Presbyterian Giving Catalog.

Even as Ministry Engagement & Support is pivoting toward the Christmas Joy Offering, it’s also working with the Office of the General Assembly to interpret and tell the story around per capita giving. “We’re excited to do that,” Wilkinson said.

MES has also been working with the Funding Model Development Team and is “intending to ramp up” Pillars of the Church, a recurring gift initiative. It also plans to return to “a robust schedule of direct mailing” in 2024, with 18 planned versus the seven that went out in 2023.

The Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson

Wilkinson checked in with the board from the Mid-Council Financial Conference sponsored by the Presbyterian Foundation and the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). A sobering message came from one speaker, who said, “We don’t have a giving problem. We have a religious giving problem.”

But there’s still hope, according to the speaker. “As we build engagement and tell stories of impact, people respond to it,” this speaker said, according to Wilkinson.

The Special Offering Review Task Force is “pulling together its proposal” for consideration by the 226th General Assembly next summer. While Wilkinson had few details to report for the time being, “I can say that the recommendation might ask us to rethink the menu of Special Offerings … It won’t be blowing things up and putting them back together, but it is a significant overhaul.”

“We have listened, and we have learned,” said A Corp Board Member JoAnne Sharp, who’s also a member of the task force. “We feel good about what came out of the October meeting.” Sharp said Margaret Boone, project manager in Special Offerings, “deserves a world of credit for the institutional knowledge she brought to the table.”

“There are lots of good things going on in the MES universe,” Wilkinson said.

Technology update

Dr. Lawrence Williams, the A Corporation’s technology director, laid out a technology road map that’s already well underway. Williams said the team is making significant progress because team members are “talented, driven, committed to the organization, competent, aware, experienced, caring, behind the mission and open to change. These people are top-notch,” he said.

A third-party vendor is on the job working to re-engineer the denomination’s website, That work is scheduled to be done by the start of the 226th General Assembly.

Dr. Lawrence Williams

A service desk has been launched, and it’s more than a help desk, according to Williams. “A help desk is the front desk of a hotel. A service desk is the concierge,” he said. “A concierge can talk to you about a whole slew of things.”

Among the 2024 goals: designing a services delivery model, augmenting capacity, finishing a move to the cloud, developing training programs, identifying performance and impact indicators, implementing an interim analytics strategy, and developing and implementing a long-term analytics strategy.

Thursday’s meeting also included a tour of the Presbyterian Distribution Center, annual ethics training and a closed session to discuss litigation, personnel and property matters.

Day 2 of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation Board meeting begins at 9 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday. The meeting is scheduled to conclude by noon.

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