Clif Christopher shaking hands at 2015 Annual Conference

Church stewardship ‘doctor’ diagnoses giving decline

The first presentation to draw a crowd of United Methodists to the 2015 Eastern PA Annual Conference at the Expo Center in Oaks, Pa., came on May 13, the night before the formal session began. “An Evening with Clif Christopher” presented the popular church finance expert in an informal talk and Q&A session open to anyone, not just conference members.

The next evening he delivered the Annual Conference’s keynote address. His appearances were sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic UM Foundation and coincided with the conference’s holistic focus on stewardship.

In both addresses the Rev. Dr. Christopher diagnosed why UMC membership and giving are declining in most U.S. conferences, and he prescribed some possible remedies. His remarks came in the wake of a discouraging survey report released May 12 by the Pew Research Center, titled “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” It cited decreasing religious affiliation and support among the nation’s increasing population of young “Millenials.”

Christopher urged churches to focus more on understanding, promoting and fulfilling their core mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ. He emphasized the need for improvement in church worship experiences, outreach and welcoming efforts, and financial leadership acumen. As usual, he also stressed the need for more clergy to preach about tithing and to be involved in managing church finances, including knowing how much members give.