To Rebuild church, Stop looking for Quick Fixes by Dan Dick

“To rebuild Church, stop looking for quick fixes,” speaks to congregations that try to meet fundraising goals by selecting the ‘perfect’ technique. The best possible technique will not guarantee success unless congregants really care about the church.

Dan Dick writes, “At what point do we finally wake up to the fact that there is no such thing as a lasting, transformative ‘quick fix’? The United Methodist Church has suffered through over 50 years of ‘church-in-box’ programs that have produced poor results at best.

Disciple Bible Study came closest to delivering transformation, but ultimately “popular” did not translate into “effective.” Literally thousands of people have had wonderful, meaningful, enjoyable Disciple experiences. However, a variety of independent follow-up evaluations indicate that there is a very low retention rate, that few people adopt sustained spiritual formation practices, and few report any transformed behavior in their daily lives. I hear about the handful whose lives were completely changed, and I do not devalue any such experience—but unless Disciple has been an integrated component of a comprehensive developmental process of spiritual formation, it remains a pleasant experience for the vast majority. ”

You can read the entire article on the United Methodist Portal’s website.

Book Review: The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood

“Thank you” – a simple phrase, but one that can go a long way and can often make someone’s day a little brighter, make a person feel appreciated, and recognize that what they do is important and meaningful. Giving thanks is one of the key components of generosity. To be a gracious giver, one must also be a gracious receiver, so it’s important to know how to give and receive thanks.

But when do we learn that saying “thank you” is so important? For many, we learn as children that it is important to say thank you. The phrase is viewed as a common courtesy, it is viewed as a sign of respect, and it is just… what you do. But the true meaning of  giving thanks is an important concept for a child to learn and understand. If we can teach children that thankfulness and gratefulness are the keys to happiness,  then we will undoubtedly see very happy children with a strong sense of compassion.

When I read through the childrens book “The Secret of Saying Thanks” by Douglas Wood, I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for this text. The book is beautifully illustrated, the text is simple and easy to read, and the message is powerful. The beauty of generosity and thanks abounds through the pages and you are left with a positive and encouraging feeling when you’ve finished reading it.

This text is short and can be read with a child as a good bedtime story, but what makes it so special is the message of how important gracious giving and receiving is. If you are a Religious Educator, a parent, or simply someone who wants a refreshing short book to remind them of importance of giving thanks, “The Secret of Saying Thanks” may be a great book to pick up.

U.S. Giving Rose Overall During 2010

Individuals in the United Stated increased their philanthropic giving in 2010 by 2.1%, despite the pace of economic recovery. While this rate of increase still shows we have not rebounded to pre-recession levels, it is a “remarkable testament to the core values of Americans” says Patrick Rooney of Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy in their annual “Giving USA” report.

Giving to religious organizations dropped 0.8% in 2010, much less than the 2.3% drop for environmental and and animal welfare causes, and the 1.5% drop for human services, according to the report.
One piece of advice in the report is that persistence pays off – those who may have decreased or eliminated their giving during the recession are now slowly “regrowing their philanthropy.”
As we rebuild and reshape the economy for this next decade and beyond, our presence and our action as UU communities can ensure that giving to our UU churches remains an important piece of who we are and all that we represent.
For a more detailed summary of the report, please see the following article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which also contains a link to the entire report.

CSS at UUA GA: It’s really not alphabet soup!

 

The annual General Assembly (GA) of Unitarian Universalists (UUA) was recently held in Charlotte, North Carolina. During those five days, the Office of Congregational Stewardship Services (CSS) conducted four workshops.

Because worksho p attendance was greater than expected (over 400 attended the four workshops) we ran out of handouts. As promised, here are the links to those handouts:

FORTH Introductory Video
Appreciative Inquiry and the Annual Budget Drive PowerPoint

During these same workshops, small groups of participants were ask to answer these questions and the links to their responses are at:

FORTH Short-Term Goals
FORTH Long-Term Goals
Characteristics of a Stewardship Team

 

Creative Capital Campaign Gifts (3 of 5)

Over the last 26 years I have served as a Congregational Stewardship Consultant for the UUA.  During that time I have worked with over 135 of our congregations, some of them more than once.  I have had the opportunity to talk with many people about how they made their decisions to support a capital campaign in their congregation.  One technical note:  Financial commitments to a capital campaign are usually paid over a three year period.  Here is one of my favorite stories.

These stories are illustrative.  They contain one common element.  Persons with commitment to the vision of the church will find a way to give generously.  Each of these stories involves people who “gave until it felt good.”  And that really is the criterion for our success.  Each pledge is important.  Each person will give according to her or his commitment and will want to feel good about it.
David L. Rickard
UUA Congregational Stewardship Consultant

Charlotte purchased a new car four years ago.  The final payment was due shortly after the capital campaign began.  She decided that she would make her pledge to her congregation’s building program the same as the car payment had been.  After all, the car was in good condition and she would just make the check out to her church instead of GMAC.

 

Look for another story from David Rickard in the coming weeks!

De-bunking Fundraising Myths – Part 12 (of 12)

We’ve all heard myths about fundraising.  These often lead us to do the exact opposite of what we should be doing to raise money.  We’ll be running a twelve part series de-bunking fundraising myths to take a close look at these false assumptions about giving.

This is the twelfth and final in the series, if you’ve missed the others you can go back and ready them (or you read all of them in the book Beyond Fundraising: A Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship in Chapter 1: The Spiritual Roots of Stewardship).  We all feel the pinch during an economic downturn; however, this does not spell disaster for our faith communities.

As always, we encourage you to leave comments.


Fundraising Myth #12

Myth: A financially healthy faith community is one that receives all of its operating budget money from congregants’ annual financial commitments.

Truth: Not necessarily. Fundraising consultants suggest that annual financial commitments should represent at least 80 percent of the total operating budget, but there is one other important factor: the distribution of those financial commitments. A financially healthy church has an annual median commitment that is almost the same as its annual average commitment.

Learn more about Stewardship at General Assembly

General Assembly 2011 in Charlotte, NC has finally arrived! Director of Congregational Stewardship Services, Dr. Wayne Clark, is leading a number of workshops this year. For those of you interested in the new FORTH: A Stewardship Development program that was just launched, there is a two-part workshop that may be helpful in deciding if this program is right your congregation. Information is included below for your convenience.  We hope to see you there.

Thursday 10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Convention Center 209 AB

Stewardship: Appreciative Inquiry and the Annual Budget Drive
Lead by Dr. Wayne Clark

How do you approach your annual budget drive? Do you focus on the problem of limited money? Do you
identify the root causes? AI turns these conversations inside out, asserting that positive approaches to change can transform your congregation. Come learn how to apply AI to your next annual budget drive.
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Thursday 1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
Convention Center 209 AB

FORTH: Growth, Stewardship, and Leadership (Part 1)
Lead by Dr. Wayne Clark & Mark Ewert

Come learn about this new and comprehensive stewardship development program. By the end of the workshop, participants will know how to:
1) initiate FORTH
2) take an Appreciative approach to FORTH, and
3) gain access to FORTH products and Resources.
Handouts and time for questions will be provided.
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Thursday 2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Convention Center 209 AB

FORTH: Growth, Stewardship, and Leadership (Part 2)
Lead by Dr. Wayne Clark & Mark Ewert
This is the second of two FORTH workshops. (Participation in part 1 is not a prerequisite.)

FORTH is a stewardship development program, and this workshop focuses on improving lay and professional leadership skills. Learn how to implement FORTH in your own congregation, while activating growth and freeing-up resources.
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Additionally, this year the Congregational Life Staff group will  be hosting Table Talks at the Congregational Life booth in the exhibit hall. Dr. Wayne Clark will be hosting two Table Talks on Stewardship. During this time, congregational leaders are encouraged to come to the Congregational Life booth and asked Wayne follow up questions regarding Workshops or stand alone questions on any stewardship topic.

Table Talk Information
Location: #721, Congregational Life Booth, Exhibit Hall
Date: Friday, June 24th at 2:30 and Saturday, June 25th at 2:30
Time: 30 Minutes
Topic: Any Stewardship-related questions

FORTH: A Stewardship Development Program has officially launched

We have some exciting news . . . .

FORTH: A Stewardship Development Program has been launched after four years of input from hundreds of congregational leaders. FORTH has been created because we know that some of the healthiest faith communities focus more on stewardship than fundraising. As noted in chapter one of Beyond Fundraising: A Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship fundraising emphasizes the need of the recipient; stewardship addresses people’s spiritual need to give.

Take a look at FORTH. Start by watching the 8-minute introductory video and decide if you would like more information about how your congregation can adapt this year-round program to fit the unique needs of your congregation. You may also want to look some other new FORTH resources including The Art of Thriving and the Stewardship Self-Assessment pages.

You can join the FORTH Community by completing the Congregational Self-Assessment. Upon completion, you will have access to many free and helpful resources:

  • Several short videos of lay leaders who have had some experience with FORTH
  • Suggested Year Round Calendar
  • Recommended Stewardship Language
  • Sample Stewardship Team Job Description
  • Recommended Stewardship Team Formation and Charge
  • Stewardship Information and Ideas
  • Sample Organizational Charts
  • Annotated Bibliography (currently more than 130 items)
  • Operational Support for Effective Stewardship
  • Suggested Four-Year Activities

Once you have completed the Self-Assessment, you will receive an email from the Congregational Stewardship Services Administrator with information on accessing these resources. In this e-mail, the Administrator will include a link to the web pages with these resources and the username and password required for logging on to these pages. Please save this information.

Want to get your leaders involved in an exciting interactive process? Become a FORTH Partner by asking five of your congregational leaders (lay and/or professional) to complete the Congregational Self-Assessment and your congregation will gain access to all the resources listed above, plus these free interactive activities:

  • Closed Facebook group
  • Regularly scheduled conference calls
  • Occasional webinars hosted by UUA congregational stewardship consultants
  • Updates distributed through Constant Contact

After five of your congregational leaders have completed the Self-Assessment, Wayne Clark will create a profile for your congregation, sending it to your FORTH Partner contact person. Information about FORTH Partner activities will soon follow.

Interested in some on-site consultation from a UUA stewardship consultant? Ask us about our fee-for-service program, with a sliding scale to match the size of your congregation.

Questions? Contact Us

Wayne Clark, wclark @ uua. org (207) 829-4550

Mark Ewert, mewert @ generositypath . com (202) 722-8888

Brent Jurgess, forth @ uua . org (617) 948-4272

Creative Capital Campaign Gifts (2 of 5)

Over the last 26 years I have served as a Congregational Stewardship Consultant for the UUA.  During that time I have worked with over 135 of our congregations, some of them more than once.  I have had the opportunity to talk with many people about how they made their decisions to support a capital campaign in their congregation.  One technical note:  Financial commitments to a capital campaign are usually paid over a three year period.  Here is one of my favorite stories.

These stories are illustrative.  They contain one common element.  Persons with commitment to the vision of the church will find a way to give generously.  Each of these stories involves people who “gave until it felt good.”  And that really is the criterion for our success.  Each pledge is important.  Each person will give according to her or his commitment and will want to feel good about it.
David L. Rickard
UUA Congregational Stewardship Consultant

Jim and Janice were active members of their church and involved at the District and national levels as well.  In fact, Janice was planning to enroll in divinity school.  She and Jim got drawn into the planning for the expansion of their church building, and Jim became the director of the capital campaign committee.  When it came time to make their pledge, they chose to defer the purchase of a new car and the remodeling of their kitchen so that they could make a substantial investment in the future of their church.

 

Look for another story from David Rickard in the coming weeks!

Creative Ways to Explore Giving with your Congregation

Recently, a UUA staff member attended a service at First Parish Brewster, Unitarian Universalist, in Brewster, MA. This congregation happened to be leading a service about happiness and its connection to giving. For congregations who are struggling with ideas on how to incorporate these types of discussions into their church service in a creative way, First Parish is a great example of a congregation who is using creativity to start conversations about stewardship.

Here is an excerpt from First Parish’s sermon, which built a connection between personal happiness and giving generously. In this excerpt, Rev. Mary McKinnon Ganz discusses a few ways to practice compassion as a means of finding your happiest self. Compassion and happiness are linked with stewardship in a story about First Parish’s own church community:

 

“…Find a community to practice with – a group of people who are mutually committed to each other’s practice of compassion. A lot of the small groups in this church partake of this happiness. In Small Group Ministry, six to 12 people come together with a mutual commitment to listen to each other, to hear one another’s stories non-judgmentally, with compassion in their hearts. If you’re not in one of these groups this year, please consider whether you might be able to join in the fall.

 

The happiest people I’ve met in this church were in a group that met only three times. This was a class gathered by Judy Jollett to consider a practice of giving one gift a day for 29 days. People report that this helps them to focus on what it is they have to give and not on what their limitations are. The third meeting of that group, not quite a month ago, virtually rocked with joy. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  People reported finding joy in the most ordinary things – large and small ways they had discovered that they could give to someone else. Like taking the time to look in the eyes of a harried checkout clerk, and smile, and say, “Don’t worry. I’m in no hurry.” When we take the time to pay attention to what we have to give, our hearts overflow with generosity. Giving becomes a way of life, a path that leads to happiness.”

There are also members of the congregation who have gotten involved in stewardship conversations in their church. Here is an excerpt from a testimonial, titled “This I believe,” which was written by lay leader Kevin Lowey.

“I know we are capable of this type of abundance. Here’s just one sign of our changing prosperity. Last year our open plate collections totaled $14,000. Guess how much has been collected this year to date?…If you guessed $28,000, you’re right!! There’s a growing momentum and a renewed vision here at First Parish. If we can put the same spirit of generosity and abundance into the commitments we make this spring to support our church, it will allow our leaders to build a budget that will make good on the potential that I think all of us are feeling. I know I’m feelin’ it!”

While each congregation may approach stewardship conversations differently, this blog was meant to illustrate how thoughtful church members and staff can be when discussing stewardship. Special thanks to Rev. Mary McKinnon Ganz, Rev. JD Benson, Allison Beavan and Kevin Lowey for their permission to highlight their work on our blog.