What Is Per Capita?
Perhaps one of the most confusing aspects of how the Presbyterian Church functions is “per-capita”. Each year the Presbytery encourages churches to pay their per-capita apportionment. Why do we do this? Where does this money go?
One of the great strengths of our denomination is its connectionism. Presbyterians in Minnesota and Wisconsin are tied to the larger church in ministry. One concrete form of that connection is through our per-capita. Every Presbyterian church in the country is required to pay a certain amount for each active member on its rolls. This money goes to support the work and ministry of our church throughout the country. Each governing body above the Session has staff members and expenses that support the work of the church. Unlike pastors, these individuals have no congregation to support their ministry. Although their ministry may not be as “glamorous” as missionary work in South America, they are essential to the life of the Presbyterian Church. These are the people who prepare the curriculum that our children use, the offering materials that we receive, and countless other resources.
For the year 2012, our per-capita apportionment is $32.37, which is split for the work of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, the Synod of Lakes and Prairies and our General Assembly.
Many people view per-capita as their “membership dues” to the church. This is not true. The church is not like a fraternal or service organization that will dismiss their members for unpaid dues. Yes, the church is required to pay its per-capita to the large church. Many congregations encourage their members to help by inviting them to pay their own per-capita along with their regular giving. If members of the church are unwilling or unable to pay, then the church will use other funds to complete its per-capita commitments. Normally, the church pays their per-capita for its members early in the calendar year.
Consider per-capita not as your dues to be paid to the church, but rather as a form of mission giving to the larger work of the Presbyterian Church.