About the Author
Wayne Clark

Future of Congregational Stewardship Services

bluechaliceThe Future of Congregational Stewardship Services

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Perspective of Wayne B. Clark, Director

January 28, 2010

As congregational lay leaders become more knowledgeable about stewardship and generosity, we continue to move toward a more collaborative model. We take our services to a higher level as we acknowledge the importance of spiritual generosity in a consumer centric world.

We provide a more flexible template of services by partnering with professional and lay leaders to promote healthy congregational growth. We emphasize the stewardship of shared ministry and fair share giving. We introduce resources (web sites, communication forums, blogs, workshops, articles, books) while not necessarily delivering these resources.

We provide guidance through conference calls, video conferencing and webinars. We continue to decrease our travel to congregations. However, we are still on site to share our wisdom and experience through assessment visits, strategic planning weekends, orientation workshops, annual budget drives, financial feasibility studies and capital campaigns.

We continue to expand the Green Sanctuary program, supporting an ever-increasing number of congregations that are intentionally pursuing stewardship efforts to protect the Earth. We provide a green sanctuary manual and offer workshops for lay leaders. For the past 20 years, we have provided financial support to qualifying congregations. We continue to offer building loans, loan guarantees, grants, and awards to facilitate the growth of our congregations.

We ask more questions, searching for congregational success stories to build upon. We take an appreciative approach, helping congregations identify their strengths, rather than looking for problems to solve. Our assessment visits continue to evolve from the medical model of diagnosis and treatment to an exploration of what’s already working well. We encourage leaders to become experts on the root causes of success while we guide them away from cycles of blame and defensiveness.

We build upon what has been learned during the three-year FORTH stewardship development project; a stewardship development program is most successfully implemented when there is at least one leader with an understanding of, and passion for generosity and spiritual stewardship development. This is especially true when that leader receives guidance from an external coach.

We launch Champions of Change, an 18-month lay leader development pilot program. The program offers a way to help build congregational stewardship. It is not offered as a “silver bullet” solution to all congregational ills. Five lay leaders have begun a coaching alliance with Wayne Clark. These leaders are being encouraged to discover meaningful actions that are compatible with their spiritual values. Wayne coaches them to find their own answers, to focus on personal growth, and to help move their congregations forward.

We add outcomes based evaluation to our well-documented outputs analyses. We begin each congregational relationship by gathering baseline data. We look for our impact upon congregations.  We measure growth and progress that occurs during and after our consultation. We measure specific outcome indicators; what is seen, heard, read, enhanced, increased, altered, begun.  From this data, we continue to tweak our services to help create healthy, vibrant and growing congregations.

Book Table – A Fundraiser for External Ministries

Are you looking for a way to fund an external ministry? Maybe raise some money to support your partner church in Transylvania? Or money for earthquake-ravaged Haiti? Rose Hanig, our UUA bookstore manager, wrote the following article. You can contact her directly at rhanig@uua.org if you have any questions.

bookseller Help…

I just volunteered to run my church book table

A number of UU congregations have books available for sale before and after Sunday services.  Some use the bookstore as a way of raising funds for church programs and others simply to make members aware of the resources that are available.  The UUA Bookstore is always happy to help churches start their own bookstores (also known as book tables and bookstalls).  It is a great way to get our books distributed to people who are not familiar with the UUA Bookstore and to people who prefer to see books before they purchase.

The following are some of the most commonly asked questions about running a UU church bookstore (A.K.A. a book table or bookstall).  We hope this information will be a handy reference for both novices and experienced church bookstore managers.

1.) What kinds of discounts are offered to church bookstores?

We offer Skinner House and Beacon Press books for re-sale at the following discounts:

  • 1-9 books (assorted titles published by Skinner House or Beacon Press) = 20% discount
  • 10 or more books (assorted titles published by Skinner House or Beacon Press) = 40% discount.

2.)    Can I get discounts on books that are not published by Skinner House or Beacon?

You will notice in the UUA Bookstore catalog that there are a number of books by other publishers.  The only discounts offered on those titles are quantity discounts: 5-9 copies of the same title qualify for a 10% discount.  10 or more of the same title qualifies for a 20% discount.  There are no re-sale discounts offered on hymnals, pamphlets, or curricula. These discounts do not apply to any edition of Singing the Living Tradition, the Meditation Manual Sampler to any of the sets (Storybook Set, etc).

3.)    How do I find out who publishes a book?

Congregational Financial Comfort Level

churchbuildingIn this tight economy, it has become increasingly difficult for congregations to finance needed building improvements. Are you considering external financing from a local lender or from the UUA to help finance a building project? Because financing can be fraught with peril, I offer the following guidance.

Each congregation has its level of financial comfort. Some are comfortable with a relatively high amount of debt, while others are comfortable only if they are debt-free.

Most lenders, including the Unitarian Universalist Association, consider that some level of debt is healthy and can help a congregation to fulfill its mission. Here are three guidelines for determining an appropriate amount of debt:

  • Be sure that annual debt service does not exceed 25 percent of the congregation’s annual operating budget. 25percentThe Unitarian Universalist Association does not even consider a loan or loan guarantee request if the annual debt service exceeds this level. The concern is not whether the congregation can service its debt; the concern is that the congregation may focus too much attention on making loan payments rather than on fulfilling its mission.
  • Keep the total project cost within two to three times the annual budget total.
  • Keep the total project cost to a maximum of 50 percent of the total property appraisal (when the project has been completed).


Program Budgeting: Say “YES” to pie charts and “NO” to line items

Are you frustrated that your fixed costs and employee salary packages represent the bulk of your line item budget? Can you imagine your annual budget development process devoid of drama, line-by-line contentious arguments, and anxiety about which line items to decrease or eliminate? Because this scenario is so prevalent and fraught with negativity, I want to share this information with you.

When congregants are asked to make a financial commitment to the annual operating budget, most want to know where their money is going and how it will make a difference. At the same time, they don’t want to be overwhelmed with too much financial detail. The best approach is to develop a program budget and to communicate it through pie charts.

Program budgeting is a method designed to clarify and simplify the operating budget. A typical congregational program budget divides annual income into four or five sources and annual expenses into four or five broad categories. Pie charts show the proportion of income from each source and the proportion of expenses in each category.

A program budget does not replace a line-item budget. It serves as an introduction to the proposed budget. The program budget proposal is shared with congregants when they are asked to make their financial commitment. The pie charts make it easy to see where financial resources come from and how the congregation chooses to allocate them, including the relative significance of various programs and ministries. These priorities may be altered if the congregation chooses. After the annual budget drive, the pie charts are converted into a line-item budget and presented to the congregation for adoption.

Best Stewardship Practices for Tough Economic Times

In response to the current economic situation and several requests, with the help of my consultants and support staff, I have compiled best practices that relate to fundraising during difficult economic times.  I especially encourage congregations to remain positive in these difficult times.

Giving During Tough Economic Times

Best Practices

Compiled by UUA Stewardship Consultants

  1. Stay positive. Don’t feed the anxiety.
  2. Act and lead with confidence.
  3. Assume that all will be well . . . Don’t assume the worst.
  4. See the recession as an opportunity to revisit your congregational vision and mission.
  5. Ask “How important is the congregation to you?”
  6. Believe that caring for people always trumps brick and mortar needs.
  7. Use pie charts to depict the distribution of the previous year’s spending.
  8. Use pie charts to indicate the anticipated distribution of financial commitments when the goal is met.
  9. Develop a line-item annual operating budget after completion of stewardship conversations.
  10. Do not presume other’s financial situation. Ask everyone for an annual financial commitment.
  11. Be pastoral. Focus on “how are you doing” personal conversations.
  12. In addition to monetary goals, create a goal for the number of congregants participating in the annual budget drive. Define success more broadly.
  13. Sponsor a “turn down the heat” day each week and host a pot luck meal at church.
  14. Sponsor a job-seeking club / a referral network / a resume writing workshop.
  15. Promote open conversations about “living well in tough times.”
  16. Market a “business is booming” slogan to spread the good news of the congregation.
  17. Focus on three key words; help, hope, and home.
  18. Emphasize that the faith community is a haven during tough times.