The Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church has a special task force called Keeping the Dream Alive Task Force. Members of the task force are studying the Imagine Indiana Plan and the resulting Indiana Conference to help conference leaders evaluate how well the conference is living by the plan adopted by the former North and South Conferences to create a new conference in 2009.

As a part of their work, the task force plans to do a survey of as many clergy and lay leaders as they can reach, mostly to ask how the new Indiana Conference is working for them. The results should help conference leaders evaluate and correct those places where the conference is falling short of living up to the Imagine Indiana plan.

As a part of that evaluation, Indiana Conference Treasurer Jennifer Gallagher has prepared a short summary of the changes from the former conferences to the new Indiana Conference in terms of its finances, staff costs and related issues.

Part of the goal of Imagine Indiana was to create a less expensive structure in order to leave more finances with congregations, while at the same time doing a better job of paying the conference’s share of the general church apportionments to support the world-wide structure and mission of The United Methodist Church.

The numbers

Gallagher’s calculations say the conference has truly done much of what it planned to do. Here are some of the numbers comparing the two former conferences in 2007 with the new Indiana Conference in 2011.

Metric 2011 2007

Financial support from congregationsfor Tithe, Plus District

$14.7 million $17.1 million


62 81

Salaries, benefits of employees

$4.4 million $6.4 million

Building lease/mortgages

$388,427 $438,000

Retiree insurance subsidy

$1.5 million $3.7 million

Debt service (will be $0 in 2012)

$269,000 $450,000

General Church apportionments paid

$5.2 million (90% of asking) $3.3 million (56%)


These figures show the reduced costs of the new Indiana Conference, mostly through reduced staff and reduced subsidy for our retirees, which has allowed more money to remain at the congregational level for ministry, while also paying a higher percentage of general church apportionments.

The figures do reflect what the two former conferences planned to do when they approved the Imagine Indiana Plan. More money left in congregations for their ministry of making disciples should result in more ministry in each community across Indiana. Leaders have not yet determined whether such outreach ministry is occurring.

Conference leaders do know such outreach improved in 2010 and will soon have the 2011 statistics to know if congregations are producing the intended results. Leaders already know many congregations are participating in the Church Development process called Fruitful Congregation Journey in order to learn about becoming more fruitful. And of course, all of Indiana’s congregations have been asked to set Vital Congregation Goals and to report weekly on their Vital Signs toward achieving those goals.

What the Indiana Conference doesn’t know is if it can continue to leave more resources at the congregational level, while also paying the conference’s full share of the denomination’s support and mission. It’s not easy to do both at once, but it looks like we can if we all remain faithful. – Bishop Michael J. Coyner