Finance: local

Raising the money to pay the preachers was far from methodical in early Methodism. Preachers were sometimes supported only by personal gifts of money or in kind. Collections taken at love-feasts were often divided among the circuit preachers. From 1742 a weekly penny (plus, from 1788, one shilling a quarter) was collected from those who belonged to a class meeting. The taking of a collection at services was a later development: at first occasional and for specific causes, but gradually becoming the chief means of providing for the circuit preachers, though at first without any calculation of what was needed. The upkeep of church premises, formerly the responsibility of local Trustees, was paid for (particularly in WM) mainly by pew or seat rents, supplemented by giving at Anniversaries. Trust funds were kept separate from Society funds, which mainly paid for the circuit assessment. The 'envelope scheme' (which had come into general use by the time of Methodist Union) and, more recently, giving by bank Standing Order were introduced to take account of absence from worship from time to time.

At present each Circuit makes an assessment on all its churches, in order that the cost of the ministry and other expenditure should be shared out fairly. One among the attempts to work out a fair system, and approved by a number of Conferences since 1932, takes into account not only membership figures, but also how a minister's time is apportioned and the ability of each church to pay. The last two are sometimes difficult to measure and many circuits have taken the easy option of assessing only on membership, despite the risk of its being a disincentive to enrol new members. The 2000 Conference directed that from September 2003 circuits were not to base assessments solely on membership.

  • W.A. Sturdy, Methodist Finance Past, Present and Future (1932)
  • Edward Rogers, God's Business (1957)
  • F.H. Mills, 'Circuit Finance in Early Methodism', in WHS Proceedings 23 pp.59-64, 77-80, 108-11, 139-41
  • Clive Murray Norris, The Financing of John Wesley's Methodism, c.1740-1800 (2017)