About the Author
Mary Gleason

Nurturing Young Stewards

UU Society of Sacramento, kids planting a garden

When visiting with different congregations I encourage the leadership to think about how to help the children become good stewards of their faith community. Even the littlest ones can plant a bulb on the grounds and watch it grow over time. By the time they are teens, however, they are able to articulate in joyful and powerful ways what their faith community means in their daily lives. They freely share what they like, what they wish were different and are almost always so willing to help bring about their desired future. Adding teenage youth to your discussions about the future, in your committee meetings, and sitting at the table with the adults is a wonderful way to grow their understanding of stewardship in the fullest possible meaning. Teens also serve as a powerful reminder to adults that their decisions today will impact the next generation.

How is your congregation including youth in their most important discussions? Are they prepared to be givers of time, talent and treasure as they become adults and members?

In faith and occasional discomfort

As a stewardship consultant, I work with lay leaders, ministers, DREs, DMEs and others in how best to create a culture of generosity within congregations.  The discussions almost always lead to identifying where there is a consumer mentality rather than a transformational one.  Those with the consumer mentality are seeking Sunday school for the kids and a good sermon for themselves while those with a transformational mentality are seeking a congregational community that informs and shapes how one lives daily life.

Sadly, this article (“Congregations Gone Wild”) in the NY Times points out how for many ministers of many denominations, the culture of consumerism all too often is reflected in what people will accept from their experiences in a church community.  It seems that what we church goers want is confirmation that we are already living life correctly, some entertainment and not too big a bite out of our weekend schedule.  If we don’t get it, we leave.

I like to say that ministers are here to comfort the afflicted while consultants come to afflict the comfortable.  However, ministers do have an obligation to afflict some discomfort by challenging each of us to really live within our shared principals every minute of every day. After all, a traditional strength of faith communities is referencing the emotive story of “what ought to be.”

How well do you reward your minister for calling you to action and service?

Read this article and decide if you are part of the solution or the problem.  Your feedback would be most welcome.

In faith and occasional discomfort,
Mary Gleason

Household Giving is on an Upward Trend

Mary Gleason, Congregational Stewardship Consultant at the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA), recently came upon an article that was posted on the Association of Fundraising Professionals for Washington website and shared it with the other Congregational Stewardship Consultants. We thought that it was such interesting and positive news that we wanted to share it with you.

Mary writes:

“There is good news on the horizon for the success of annual budget drives.

In 2009 non-profit organizations experienced a downward trend in household giving, the kind of giving our congregations rely on.  Blackbaud, makers of fundraising software, monitors giving on many levels and has noted some positive trends in the quarter April – June 2010.

Their study shows that small non-profits with annual revenues under $1 million experienced a 12.3 percent increase over the same time period last year.  That’s good news for congregations with late spring annual budget drives.  Mid sized non-profits with annual revenues between $1 million and $10 million still had a decline of 2.5% but is considered recovering because it is less of a decline than for the same time last year.

The study also reports that online giving is up by 13.1 percent for small organizations. If you are not using online giving as an option for your annual budget drive and other gifts you may want to consider adding this opportunity.”

You can read the article at the Association of Fundraising Professionals or the full report at Blackbaud.

If you’re looking into on-line giving, the UUA Office of Congregational Stewardship Services encourages congregations to explore Vanco Services.  Currently over 8,500 congregations nationwide are served by Vanco’s electronic giving solutions.