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Making the Most of Our Money – Palatine, IL

We learned about this congregation’s stewardship education work through the Green Sanctuary Program application process (we do live in an interconnected web of life) and thought that it might be interesting and inspiring for other congregations.

Guest Author, David Cohen,Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist,
Social Action Committee

Making the Most of Our Money is a 9-session money management class aimed at low-income, food pantry and general assistance residents in the Northwest Suburbs. The program is sponsored by and held at Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist (“CCUU”) in Palatine Illinois.

At the summer 2007 leadership retreat for CCUU, the congregation voted for a long-term social action project to turn our church covenant of recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of every person into action. Palatine Township caseworkers requested that we provide money management classes to the low-income recipients of the food pantry and the township’s general assistance clients.

We started with a curriculum called All My Money from the University of Illinois Extension Service. Eight persons and 3 Palatine Township caseworkers attended the training and received the teaching certification. (more…)

Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is: New Ideas in Stewardship

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Regional Leadership Development Consultant for Central East Regional Group (CERG), recently wrote to us about a successful stewardship conference in Akron, OH.

“Planning the conference was a wonderful example of trusting the creative process.  The Ohio Meadville District’s (OMD) resource development team and various district and regional staff members were inspired after reading the book Not Your Parent’s Offering Plate (the OMD District Executive, the Rev. Joan VanBecelaere, was the one who got everyone reading the book in the first place). We asked around and found several UU’s from area congregations who did fundraising in the non-profit sector, had them read the book, and invited them to sit on a panel for the conference.   We then offered a free copy of the book to everyone who registered for the conference.  We had over 82 register and 4 walk in, in spite of Ohio winter weather!

We had the panel discussion in the morning, lunch, then folks broke out into 1-1/2 hour small group discussion sessions in the afternoon.

Since we are in prime stewardship season, we quickly processed a rough cut of the video of the panel discussion and Mark Bernstein turned our afternoon discussion notes into a study guide.  Thanks to this group effort, these resources are up on our CERG website and available for congregational use. ”

Web-based Resources: On Demand Webinars

Give Until It Feels Good

This piece is from the First Unitarian Church of Portland‘s Annual Fund Drive Brochure
written by Rev. Thomas Disrud, Associate Minister

A friend describes his spiritual approach to generosity quite simply: “I give until it feels good.” I try to remember that in my life. Giving is not primarily an obligation, nor a duty and certainly not a burden. Generosity is an opportunity to make real our connection to others and to that which is larger than our-selves. Generosity is one of the important ways we participate in the Spirit of Life.

Generosity and most spirituality grow out of a sense of gratitude. We work hard and many of us struggle to overcome obstacles and oppressions. But we have also been given so much. We did not create our talents or our energy. The wonder of the natural world, the capacity to love and to be loved, to know beauty and to treasure friendship, life itself…these are all gifts we did not create.

The Spirit of Life calls us to respond with gratitude. One great theologian said that if our only prayer is “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” that would be enough. But that feeling of gratitude for all we have been given also calls us to give back, to find ways to bless the world as we have been blessed.

Generosity is making love manifest in the world; it is offering our gifts in the service of building the Be-loved Community. Generosity to this church supports a community of caring, compassion and hope with a ministry that goes deep both within and beyond our walls.

You have found a religious home here at First Unitarian Church. I hope you will express your gratitude and your dedication to this community with a pledge generous within your means. Give until it feels good.

Study Shows Americans Plan to Give More to Charity in 2011

For the first time since the recession began, Americans say that in 2011 they are more likely to increase their giving to charity than decrease their charitable support, according to the annual Dunham+Company New Year’s Philanthropy Survey conducted by Wilson Research Strategies.

Compared to 2010, there is a 29 percent surge in households that say they plan to increase their giving in 2011, a 20 percent jump in households that say their giving will stay the same and a 48 percent drop in the number of households that say they will decrease their giving.

Overall, nearly 1 in 5 respondents (18 percent) say they plan to increase their giving in 2011. (more…)

Vanco Services – how they can help your congregation

In past blog posts we’ve mentioned Vanco Services.  For this post we asked Vanco Services to share some more information about how they can help your congregation and some specific information about their work with UU congregations.

Guest Author, Stephen J. Rose, Director of Marketing, Vanco Services, LLC

As a provider of electronic giving solutions to thousands of churches, Vanco Services, LLC is pleased to share insights we’ve gained over the past 15 years that may be helpful to Unitarian Universalist congregations.

Special challenges

Seasonal donation slump. Donations tend to track closely with the number of weekly worshippers, producing a seasonal donation slump in most congregations. A church’s operating costs and program expenses continue year round but weekly check & cash offerings are erratic and typically taper off after Easter and then drop—often precipitously—during summer months before recovering in the 4th quarter. Vanco data shows an average 43% decline in weekly giving by paper check from Easter to mid-summer.  Even the most dedicated churchgoers miss services. Vacations, illness and weather (good and bad) all enter into the equation. In the fall of 2009, the flu—and even fear of the flu—depressed attendance at services. Late-year snowstorms in 2009 also kept worshippers at home in some areas of the country—a critical development considering most churches receive up to one-third of their annual contributions during the month of December.

San Mateo’s Celebration Sunday Inspires Generosity

Guest Author: Rev. Vail Weller

“We are a religious community of open hearts and open minds working together to transform ourselves and the world.”  That’s the Mission Statement of our San Mateo congregation, who recently launched a wonderful experience in generosity.  It began as a worship service, which included handing out envelopes of cash to the adults, youth, and children, with the request that congregants use however much might be in their envelopes to “bless the world.”

Lead Minister, Vail Weller, explained, “Money can be used to bless the world, to help make life better for others.  Or it can be used to get more things for ourselves. . . I believe that money is meant to be shared to make life better for more people.”

The seed money for this was a $5,000 gift provided by a generous donor. Envelopes contained amounts ranging from $5 to $500, and the choice of how to spend it was left up to each individual. Parents were encouraged to help their children think about how they might want to make a difference in the world with their gift, perhaps making a family project of it. And everyone was encouraged to share their experiences on a blog set up for that purpose.

“Our congregation exists to help support personal and societal transformation,” said Reverend Vail.  “We’re all excited to see how far out the ripples of this generosity can reach.”

Read some of the stories of what individuals did with the money.

A Building Campaign for All the Right Reasons – A Religion for Our Time

The Unitarian Universalist Association has just released the third short video in the exciting new series, “A Religion for Our Time.”

Episode Three, “A Building Campaign for All the Right Reasons,” spotlights the building campaign of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart (UUFE). In a small Indiana town that has been battered by the recession, the members of UUFE knew they were the only liberal religious voice in the area. That knowledge made them determined to go ahead with a building campaign, and a very successful one at that!

Please consider sharing this video on your congregation’s website or blog, and through social media.

If you would like to embed “A Building Campaign for All the Right Reasons” as a YouTube video, the video (along with embed code and options for sharing it on Facebook and other sites) is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUc-iZtDpzk

If you would like to download “A Building Campaign for All the Right Reasons,” please visit the “A Religion for Our Time” video series page (http://www.uua.org/multimedia/religion/index.shtml), right-click on the link labeled “Download Episode Three” and then select “Save Link As…” or “Save Target As…”

“A Religion for Our Time” highlights inspiring work in Unitarian Universalist congregations, including innovative projects relating to worship, social justice, membership, and fellowship. Thank you for watching the third episode in this series and sharing it with others.

Guest Author, Shelby Meyerhoff
Public Witness Specialist
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
25 Beacon St.
Boston, MA 02108
smeyerhoff at uua dot org

From You I Receive – Sermon

This is a sermon delivered by Rev. Mark Ward to his congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, on March 21, 2010.  We felt that many congregations would find it helpful especially since many are currently in the midst of their annual budget drives….

Rev. Mark Ward’s Stewardship Sermon

The story is told that the Japanese Zen master Nan-in once received a visit from a professor from a famous university. The professor said he heard much about the practice of Zen and was interested to know more about it. Nan-in nodded, and so the professor launched into his questions: what were its origins, who were its teachers, were there many schools, and so on, in rapid fire.

As the professor went on, Nan-in rose, walked over to his tea pot and gestured to ask if the visitor wanted tea. Amid his questions, the professor nodded, “Yes.” And so Nan-in took two tea cups and set them down on a tray, then brought over the tea pot.

As Nan-in served the tea, he poured the professor’s cup full and kept pouring. The professor watched the tea overflowing onto the tray and then finally called out, “It’s overfull. No more will go in.”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of opinions. How can I teach you Zen until you empty your cup?”

From you I receive, to you I give.

Together we share. And from this we live.

Each Sunday as they end their gathering time downstairs before going to their classes our children sing those words together. They help reinforce an ethic of reciprocity that is central to our understanding of how we live in community, both in this congregation and in the larger world. Reciprocity is the grease that makes community work. We give, knowing that we will receive, and we receive knowing that we will give.