Multi-faceted, Multi-Generational Project hosted by Second Unitarian Church of Omaha: Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival Project

1stUOmaha1On October 4, 2009, the Second Unitarian Church of Omaha hosted a Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival.  This projected highlighted all four focus areas of the Green Sanctuary program: worship and celebration, religious education, environmental justice, and sustainable living and brought attention to the Congregational Study Action Issue – Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice for 2009-2012.  

Members created a festival plan, designed advertising, built family friendly interactive games, implemented sales of pumpkins, collected and contributed canned donations, sat at booths to run games, prepared food for volunteer workers and interfaced with the public.  The intended scope of the project was to bring membership in alignment with agricultural reality versus the ideal.  Using the religious education curriculum started in January 2009, the children planted seeds and nurtured them into young sprouts.  The teens were introduced to long-term planning and commitments by aiding in the labor to prepare the ground for planting in March 2009 and later to supply the labor to distribute flyers and run the booths at the festival.  Beginning January 2009 church members provided pre- and post- Sunday service commitments by providing the vision, sprouting seeds, transplanting seedlings, watering the patch, consulting and problem solving things like soil balance, predator control, early ripening while reaching out to the church neighborhood and connecting the church to the local community via contact with the Omaha Food bank and surrounding farmers.  

Through the process, the members of Second Unitarian of Omaha learned about the very issues the small organic farmer faces each day, and became more enlightened and compassionate toward the future of food.  They acknowledged the fragile connection we maintain with nature and the intimate pledges we maintain as to how we care for the environment.  Materials for the patch were a collaborative effort of farmer donations, merchant donations, and purchases paid for with money from the sales of Free Trade coffee and teas.  The project yielded sixty-seven pumpkins grown to maturation.  They collected one 55 gallon blue barrel filled with canned food items, and made a $592 monetary contribution from pumpkin sales to the Omaha food bank.   Through the Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival members celebrated the completion of a multi-faceted, multi-generational educational, environmental justice, and sustainable living agricultural project.  Learn more about the project at Second Unitarian Church of Omaha’s website.

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.