“I’m Lost, But I’m Making Record Time” Part II

StewDev BlogIn our previous blog post, we introduced the concept that it’s hard to know where you are going if you don’t know where you are, and that a number of key statistics about your congregation can go a long way in helping leaders understand where they are, where they are going, and what they need to prioritize in communicating with the congregation.


There are statistics that I believe leaders should know if they are to understand their congregations;17 data points and 1 more to ignore. As we noted in the previous blog posting, almost every congregation has the first 10 of these data points readily accessible. Not enough leaders and members consult them sometimes, but they are easy to generate. The next 7 take a little effort to generate, but the returns can be impressive for congregations of just about every size. And one more data point often mentioned should, in fact, fall by the wayside.


Here again is that list of 18 data points. We elaborated earlier on the first nine; now let’s develop the second half of the list. It’s a bit of a long post to complete the list, but its worth the time and consideration:


  1. Membership
  2. Sunday Attendance, RE Attendance (Adult and children’s RE)
  3. Percentage of Budget Provided by Pledges
  4. “Average Cost per Household” to run your church
  5. Percentage of Members Pledging, if your bylaws do not ask a pledge of all members
  6. Mean and Median Pledge
  7. Number of Pledge/Contribution Waivers
  8. Percentage of Households/Members that are not Pledging
  9. Percentage of Pledging Friends
  10. Pledges that have not Increased or have Decreased over the past 2 years: Not everyone will or can increase a commitment every year, but looking for patterns of stagnation or reduction is prudent, and facilitates shaping more relevant and focused communications with those members. Sometimes this profile emerges because of other problems or issues – sometimes its just because no one asked them to consider an increase this year.
  11. Number of Pledging Units Self-Declared as Fair Share Donors: If the stewardship and leadership teams are not making wide use of the UUA’s Suggested Fair Share Giving Guide, a valuable tool to help members and friends think about their commitments is going unused. The pledge form should specifically ask if this commitment is Fair Share, the numbers tracked, and the Fair Share Givers recognized and celebrated. See our guide for more.
  12. The Quartile Distribution: This analysis and data set depicts how giving is distributed among the congregation, and how vulnerable the congregation may be to disruptions if a few larger donors change. There are always fewer large donors and more small donors, but how much of a spread exists between those groups is important. For a further discussion, see our blog.
  13. New Pledgers (first 2 years): Know the number of and by name households of new pledgers and ensure they receive specific appreciation and encouragement, especially in their first two years. Be aware also of the mean and median of these new pledges. Congregations that are clear about pledging up front tend to find new pledge rates very closely match more established pledger rates. Those that are less clear usually do not enjoy this result.
  14. Families Active in RE and Their Distribution Among Pledges and COR Populations: Why RE families in particular? They are often young families, with less to contribute. True, but they also represent the future of our movement and of your congregation; ensuring they understand the importance of a financial commitment, consistent with their means, is an important part of being a part of the congregation builds lifetime habits early and helps everyone understand we are not owners, but stewards – we are called upon to support what we have been given and to pass it on in good shape to those that follow us.
  15. Where is your Board in Fair Share Giving and Quartile Distribution? Elected congregational leaders should be expected, as a part of the position description to be Fair Share Donors and to make a substantial commitment as defined by their capacities. This is simply leadership by example; if the leaders are not willing to step up, why would anyone else?
  16. Percentage increase/decrease in total pledges/mean/median on last 3-5 years: Look for trends and patterns over time. Many factors may affect a given year, but trends over multiple years are indicative of where the congregation is and where it is likely to go in the near term.
  17. When was the last time you employed Visiting Stewards, with good training? The evidence is clear that in general no stewardship engagement approach matches the effectiveness one on one conversations with Visiting Stewards. It’s also true that without good preparation, such visits can be much less effective, and uncomfortable for both parties. Take the time and resources to prepare Visiting Stewards well; not only will immediate results be better, but the sense of stewardship conversation will deepen and new leaders will emerge from such engagements.
  18. Wrong! — How Much of a Pledge goes to “UUA dues?” This data point up often, and it’s often more harmful than useful. We do not pay “dues;” clubs and fraternities do that. We make contributions to resource the work the Regions and the UUA do in our name. Congregations sometimes ask that a pledge be at least at the level of their per member contribution to the UUA. This makes our contributions to the UUA into an outside burden. Being a member of this association is an integral part of being a UU – don’t treat it as something outside our community. And encouraging pledges at this low level also assures that whatever funds are contributed do not support the congregation locally in any way. Don’t make this data point a benchmark – it’s a part of our commitments to each other globally, not an accounting tool.


Like this blog post? You may find more at our website. You are welcome to sign up for stewardship updates at the blog. Comments and discussion are always welcome; share your experiences with us.


BillBill Clontz has been a stewardship consultant with the Stewardship for Us Team, supporting the UUA. for over five years. He brings over forty years in leadership development and coaching, organizational effectiveness, and strategic planning to this work. He has over 25 years of active participation in UU church leadership and stewardship and 15 years of business development and portfolio management as a corporate officer, including working with nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations. Bill has served in his own congregation in a wide range of positions and he is a regular presenter at UU Regional conferences and the UUA Annual General Assembly. His focus as a stewardship consultant over the last five years has been empowering congregations to have successful stewardship environments, leadership development, and the growth of our movement.

Supporting Older Adult Faith Journeys

Brooksby Village visit to UUA 3[1]In October, I was one of several Unitarian Universalists who took part in a Future of Adult Faith Formation Symposium organized by Lifelong Faith Associates. The topic exploration was organized around the four “seasons” of adult faith formation: Young Adult, Midlife Adult, Mature Adult, and Older Adult. While I left with many things to mull, the most important insights I gained were about faith development for older adults. At the symposium, we recognized the presence of two distinct generations who are now “older adults”: The Boomer generation and their parents, the Builder Generation. The generational experiences and preferences of the two groups are very different, as are the spiritual, emotional, and physical challenges each group faces.

Looking back, I am surprised that that was such a revelation to me. I’m living it, right now. I am a Boomer and qualify as an older adult by all definitions used by experts. I also have varying responsibilities for care of three parents in their late 80s. I feel the spiritual challenges of my own stage of life, as I wrestle with professional and personal legacy and what comes next for me, while also coming to terms with physical limitations I did not have a couple of decades ago. At the same time, I am acutely aware of the spiritual challenges that face my parents’ generation: the need for connection and community, the time required to take care of health and wellbeing, the dance of independence and safety/support, the deaths and losses that come with great regularity. And I live the truth that not just challenges and losses, but also strengths and gifts come with aging: richness in wisdom, experience, and perspective; stories of ethical, moral, and faith commitments honored over the course of a lifetime, and ability to take the long view of situations.

Both the challenges and gifts of older adults are very present in all of our congregations. Some may be struggling to organize faith development opportunities for this group, while others have a thriving ministry to older adults. The UUA has organized a set of web pages with resources for older adult ministry. These pages will not only help congregations and groups find the resources they need for ministry to and with older adults, but also offer resources and guidance for older adults themselves and for those who love them. Here you will find links to curricula, books, videos, programs, and websites with useful information. These are the topics:

Take a look! These pages are working, living documents. We’ll keep it fresh with new photos of older UU adults (that YOU will send from your congregation or group!) and with new resources as they become known to us. Please feel free to send along suggestions- and photos!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful 2016- may your spiritual journey be a rich one!



Gail Forsyth-Vail 2014Gail Forsyth-Vail is Adult Programs Director in the Faith Development Office at the UUA in Boston. She has been a religious educator for almost 30 years, through all seasons of adulthood: as a young adult parent, as a schedule-crazy mid-lifer, as a mature adult parenting teens and young adults and building a career, and now as an older adult caring for parents.




Faith Forward

Spiritual Practice class photoNewcomers to First Unitarian Church of Dallas arrive at our doors seeking a path. The Unitarian Universalist tendency to tell people they can believe whatever they want and get involved in whatever they want is both overwhelming and insufficient. Visitors from other religious traditions as well as the unchurched want to know how to become part of the congregation, both as members and as leaders. This led us to examine the state of our existing adult membership and ask these questions:

  • Can our adult membership explain what it means to be a church member?
  • Do they have a deep understanding of our church and its role in the community?
  • Are they involved, connected, and excited about church leadership and service?

We learned that we had work to do on how we integrate new people into our church community, and how we develop and deepen the connection of our existing members.

To address this need, we developed the Inquirers Series, 8 rotating sessions about our church and Unitarian Universalist history and practices. Designed for visitors and newcomers looking for a general introduction, these sessions are also appealing to current members who just want to learn more about our church.

Inquirers participants also build connections with each other. They learn that they are not alone in their questions, and many are moved with the realization of all that Unitarian Universalism embodies. It is the first small group a visitor encounters, and serves as a bridge to deeper small-group involvement later. Sharon Thompson, our Director of Membership & Hospitality, says: “I have seen the time between first visit and joining decrease, and our new members are more firmly grounded in the faith, in their convictions and in their support. Prior to Inquirers, we would have 30+ individuals that had indicated they wanted to join, remaining on the list of declared members for over a year without completing the process and joining. Now the membership process is generally complete in 30-60 days.”

Growth in numbers isn’t everything, however, and “signing the book” is not the end of the membership process. We’ve seen these new members connect more quickly and easily at church, becoming engaged within our walls and in the wider community. They understand what it means to be a member of a community. And many find their first service opportunity as a greeter, offering a friendly face for other newcomers.

Yet we found that once people completed the 8 sessions, they wanted more. “What’s next?” they asked. Our answer is “Faith Forward: From Visitor to Leader.” Faith Forward is a comprehensive program for member integration, faith development, and leadership development which helps congregants strengthen their Unitarian Universalist identity, deepen commitment to the church, encourages spiritual growth, and develops church leaders. It is not adult religious education, nor is it a curriculum. It is a path of modular sessions designed for faith development and connection-building and is facilitated by lay leaders with staff support.

One facilitator, church member Rev. Lyssa Jenkens, says: “Faith Forward provides a very intentional and well-developed process of faith development for any member or friend. It fills a yawning gap in UU adult religious education where we often provide a beautiful buffet of classes and activities with little or no guidance regarding what constitutes a healthy meal as opposed to one that is tasty but has rather limited spiritual-nutritional value.”

In addition to the Inquirers Series, we now offer:

  • Inquirers Series (8 weeks)
  • Roots (1 class)
  • Beyond Inquirers (5 weeks)
  • Spiritual Practice (13 weeks)
  • UU History 101 (5 weeks)
  • UU Theology 101 (5 weeks)
  • UU Elevator Speech (3 weeks)

More sessions will be developed around UU history and theology, leadership, polity, and evangelism (sharing the good news of our faith!).

Do these issues around adult faith development and connection sound familiar? At the same time that our members were looking for more, other congregations began contacting us about sharing our membership process, so we decided to pilot the program with a few of them during the 2015-2016 church year. We look forward to learning how Faith Forward works in other Unitarian Universalist congregations, and adapting it for wider use in the coming years.

If you’d like to receive updates about Faith Forward—to find out what we learn from the pilot, gather tips on faith development and hospitality, and stay updated on how to get program materials for your congregation—visit this site, where you can share your interest and contact information.


headshot cropped largeRev. Beth Dana is the Minister of Congregational Life at First Unitarian Church of Dallas, TX, where she works with a great team of ministers, staff and lay leaders on this exciting new path for adult faith development and membership. She is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist, originally from Albany, NY. After bouncing from coast to coast, she landed in the middle! She has crossed the thresholds of many UU congregations over the years, learning lots about welcome and hospitality in the process.

Becoming a Multi-Everything Faith

multi ballWhen I was asked to do a presentation for my start-up at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu in 2011, I immediately thought of a growth strategy that didn’t just involve numbers and finances (the typical holy grail for most congregations), but a deeper and more sustainable spiritual growth that may eventually lead to growth in membership and financial generosity. I called it my “multi-everything” strategy. Here are my top three:


  1. Multicultural Growth. When I was pre-candidating, I heard the typical desire to attract more people of color into our predominantly white congregations. Most “technical fixes” have been tried and I told them calling a minister of color will not magically solve their problems! I talked about a shift in culture by becoming more welcoming to all cultures. Not just to those who have a different skin tone, but to younger families, to those serving in the military, to those who may be houseless. Shifting congregational culture is about learning to speak languages and crossing borders until we experience holy discomfort.  


True confession time. Yesterday, I went to a megachurch (over 9,500 worshippers) that was diverse in every sense of the word. To be honest, I was turning green with envy that their play, their singers, AND the folks sitting next to me represented every color under the rainbow. While we may differ theologically, I found myself nodding when one of the associate pastors said that “Here in this place, we practice radical acceptance because we are family and we are a community.” Their pastor had an especially profound experience he shared openly during the sermon about being in recovery and it’s OK to be who you are and belong to the church. Not once did he mention multiculturalism. It just was. This is when I realized we Unitarian Universalists need to stop chasing after multiculturalism as if it were an idol. What we ought to focus on instead like this megachurch is a common mission that we can all connect with and relationships that are genuine instead of a superficial window-dressing to make ourselves feel good as liberals. Stop talking about people of color and forget the curriculum. Just be and think about why you’re there to begin with.


  1. Multifaith Growth. What the shooting in San Bernardino taught us and what Islamophobic statements by certain political candidates have shown is our country’s fear of what we perceive as the “other.” Some still think America is a “Christian nation” and the only place we can find people of other faiths is by hopping on a plane. How about walking next door? Religious pluralism exists in our own backyard. As a community organizer (interfaith organizer to be exact for the UU Legislative Ministry of California), I’ve come to realize that if we are to build Beloved Community, we need to use the materials we can find on our own turf. Neighboring faiths is not just a curriculum our children go through as part of their religious exploration, but it’s a way of life our adults need to learn as well. In Hawaii, we won marriage equality in large part due to the efforts of Unitarian Universalists reaching out the progressive Christians, who reached out to Buddhists who reached out to the Jewish community. We are in this together, and our values bind us together to create a larger ripple in the community we live in.


  1. Multisite Growth. The concept of satellites, mergers, and covenantal communities that extend beyond the walls of brick-and-mortar congregations are at least a couple of decades old now. They’re no longer part of the “emerging church” movement, but an emerged reality we all have to contend with in the ever-shifting landscape of American religious life. Yet, when we UUs talk about establishing another site, our reason more often than not has to do with either a split from congregants we don’t get along with or we don’t want to be bothered driving 45 minutes to church on Sundays. We love being with like-minded people and the kind of community we want to build seems more insular rather than inclusive.


A more compelling reason for me is because there is a hurting world out there and someone has to save our environment and heal the lovelessness and injustices that we all face. The more we focus on simply conducting insular worship “serve-us-es,” the less we are able to live out our “services” to our community. It’s really not about our needs and what’s in it for me, but what’s in it for the common good. Becoming multisite (in the broadest sense of the word) allows the church to fulfill its call to transform lives.


I think this three-prong multi-layered approach is still a pretty darn good recipe to spread our Unitarian Universalist faith. I call it the architecture of “multidependence.” Tune in to a future blog to find out what this structure looks like.



JonipherThe Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kūpono Kwong proudly serves as a Congregational Life Staff for the Pacific Western Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Part of his key area of ministry (though by no means is he an expert) is to be a coach (or more like a cheerleader with pom-poms on) for innovative, experimental ministries. He is an entrepreneur by heart and an out-and-proud Unitarian Universalist Evangelist.

Gingerbread and Engaging Space

Boston Towers Gingerbread Boston Society of Architechture Imagine No traffic Boston Small

On my way to work in Boston I walk past the Boston Society of Architecture.  Its storefront is attractive, but hasn’t been overtly noticeable to me until this holiday season.  I do see people through their big windows meeting or gathering on their ground floor during mornings or evenings. They make this room available for free for use by the public. And people seem to take them up on their offer. And in the process learn a bit about the Boston Society of Architecture.


One night on my way home, I noticed a line forming down the block to get in to an event there. The event was the 4th Annual Gingerbread House Design Competition.


Every year the Boston Society of Architecture develops a theme, a competition, a reception, opportunity for positive press, and new traffic through their public space on the ground floor. Do you see where I’m going with this?… What if your congregation opened up your public space during the holiday season–


Oh, what?  You don’t have a space made available to the public to drop in?  Let’s start there. What if your congregation had a public space where people could drop in for quiet sanctuary from the bustling world?  You know, like other traditions do. Especially in these violent times, people crave a designated holy place to go and light a candle and just “be” in a space where other people of faith gather. I just ask that you consider this. If this makes you nervous, I encourage you to engage your local Catholic church and ask them how they do it.


Back to gingerbread competitions. The connection to architecture and gingerbread is playful and relevant. What could that be for your UU community? And maybe it’s not for winter holidays. Perhaps a celebration featuring Peeps sculptures in spring is your thing.

  • Playful, idea-connecting, values-promoting competition
  • Reception for the public
  • Press releases that weave in the mission of your UU community
  • Intentional community engagement

Bottom line, reimagine space you have access to and how it can be in proactive, relevant engagement with your wider community while promoting your values and mission.  Be playful, playful is so attractive! If you need a thought partner for this kind of adventure, count me in!



Tandi red shinglesRev. Tandi Rogers is the Innovative & Network Specialist for the UUA. Exploring the streets of Boston during the winter holiday season has been an unexpected joy.




Traditions: For Now, For Ever, and For Never

rainbow treeI remember the Christmases of my childhood. I remember the tree that my mom always thought was too big, and my dad thought could be a little bit taller. I remember the ginormous colored lights, the clumps of tinsel, the handmade ornaments, and the special glass ones that my mom hung at the top of the tree, far out of my reach. It was a special and magical time of year, but my memories mostly include stories of Frosty, Rudolph and Santa. It was more a celebration of Santa and gifts than anything resembling my family’s faith.


This time of year is laden with traditions we must navigate in our homes, families, and congregations. Some of these predate us; others may be newly formed. There are traditions we look forward to which bring us joy, some we practice because “this is the way we’ve always done it,” and some we have such mixed feelings about they set our teeth on edge. We have accumulated traditions over some many years. Ending or changing them can be hard and complicated, especially in community.


As a parent, I have held the tension between the over commercialized focus of the season in our culture, and the desire to honor the spiritual and religious aspects of this time. When my kids were small, I felt a strong desire to make this season more for them than the commercialized version I had been brought up with. I had to think hard about the traditions I had been a part of, and the new ones we would establish. I wondered how we could bring more Unitarian Universalism into our traditions.


We started with the tree. I told the story of how Christmas trees came to be in our country, and the story of Rev. Charles Follen . We spent time creating ornaments reflecting the 7 principles. We wanted to be able to look at our tree and be reminded of our faith. Using language from the Spirit Play curriculum, each ornament represents:

Kim ornaments

  • Red gift: Respect all
  • Orange heart: Offer love
  • Yellow flame: Yearn to learn about ourselves, each other, and the mystery
  • Green fir tree: Grow in our understanding of what is right and true
  • Blue bell: Believe in our ideas and act on them
  • Indigo dove: Insist on liberty, justice and freedom for all
  • Violet world: Value the earth, our home which we share with so many others


We’ve made and shared about 100 sets of these ornaments over the years. I like to imagine families hanging each one and reflecting on their faith as they prepare for the season. I like knowing that this tradition of my childhood has been adapted to feel like an expression of my faith.


As Unitarian Universalists, we draw on our many sources, including Christian, Jewish, and earth-centered teachings. Many congregations will honor these teachings in some way this month by celebrating Christmas, lighting the menorah, holding a Winter Solstice service, and more. Of course, our families will have their own time-honored traditions to share as well.


Our congregations are helping families to establish traditions and bring their faith into their homes. At First Unitarian Church in Worcester, MA, families are provided with t able tent conversation starters for each day of Advent to encourage dialogue and reflection.


Click here for a PDF template of table tents you can print and use for Advent.

table tents

Ralph Roberts created a page a day Advent calendar “offered in the spirit of holding up and delighting in the ways that our Unitarian and Universalist ancestors had a foundational role in many of the winter holidays and the innumerable ways they’re celebrated by people everywhere.”


advent boxesIn my own home, our Advent calendar is filled with words from a magnetic poetry kit. On the first day, my teenagers opened the door expecting to find chocolate, but instead were greeted by the word: LOVE. Despite the initial reaction of “Our mom is so weird,” they have been excited each day to see what the word is, take a picture of something that reminds them of that word throughout their day, and then share it and reflect upon it together at the end of the day. (It’s hard being the kid of any religious professional.)


These are traditions that work for my family right now.  I invite you to think about the ways in which Unitarian Universalism could play a role in the celebration of your own traditions of celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Solstice.


It’s taken some time, but I know that I am getting better at practicing what I preach. When traditions no longer meet your needs the way they once did, it’s okay to say thank you, acknowledge that they were indeed meaningful and important, then move forward and make new ones. This is as true in our homes as it is in our programs and congregations.


As you make your way through this season, I hope you are able to find comfort in traditions new or old, and experience the love and grace of Unitarian Universalism.


ksKim Sweeney has ruined Thanksgiving by not cooking a turkey, saved Christmas with a $6 magnetic poetry set. And turned the month of March into it’s own holiday (Magical Mail Month).  When she is not busy annoying her teenage daughters, she is serving the New England Region of our UUA as their Faith Formation lead.

When Superman Goes Home: Pastoral Care in A World of Limits

superman-1016318At Lake Country Unitarian Universalist Church our pastoral care team, the Caring Circle, was and is an amazing group of people. They get a call and they spring into action. Food. Transportation. Lawn care. Love. Support. When I first met them I wondered where they hid the Superman suits.


Our challenge was never doing too little- it was that we weren’t sure of our limits.


We wanted to help. We wanted to be equitable. We wanted to be generous, and accessible, and useful and kind.


And in order to be all of these things we had to set boundaries. These are our guidelines for pastoral care. They are not set in stone, but they are at least firmly imprinted on hardening clay. We realize that exceptions can happen.


Parish based pastoral care is there for an emergency. We can’t replace paid care givers. We aren’t there to be doctors or nurses or therapists, even though some of us are licensed in daily life. We can’t repair years of neglect, fix lifelong patterns of behavior, or provide long-term solutions.


But we can be there to let someone breath. To have a day or a week or a month to figure out “What do I do now?”


We can make sure that life goes on while you try to figure out how to keep life going on.


Requests for help must come from the person; they can speak privately to any member of the Caring Circle or to me. If someone says they no longer want help, we stop helping. No triangulation. No drama.


We simply help, or not, based on request. We say yes whenever possible. We are clear about what we can’t do, and we try to do the rest.


(For legal reasons we will not assume the risk of lifting more than 20 pounds, engaging in any action which requires skin to skin contact (and could be sexualized), or transporting an unaccompanied minor.)


These are our Caring Circle Guidelines.


Another excellent resource for Creating and Sustaining Lay Pastoral Care Teams comes out of our New England region.



amyRev. Amy Shaw is the senior minister at Lake Country Unitarian Universalist Church in Hartland, WI. Amy is also a mixed media artist, runs with scissors, and spends her spare time lurking about with her co-conspirator Brian and her feline minions Nike the Great and the Dippy Cat. Amy tried to be sophisticated once, but a raccoon ate her opera glasses.






I’m Lost, But I’m Making Record Time

I heard the quote in the title of this blog as a young pilot many years ago. A World War II pilot radioed that report in –he had no idea StewDev Blogwhere he was, but he was making great progress somewhere. As a stewardship consultant working with our congregations, I sometimes feel as though that quote is with us. Numbers can seem dry, but they can tell important stories about our our communities. It’s hard to know where you are going if you don’t know where you are.


There are statistics that I believe leaders should know if they are to understand their congregations. 18 data points and 1 more to ignore. I know what you are thinking “18! Is he nuts? Who has all that data and what would we do with it, anyway?” Bear with me – this is a conversation worth having.


The first 10 of these data points almost every congregation has readily accessible. Not enough leaders and members consult them sometimes, but they are easy to generate. The next 7 take a little effort to generate, but the returns can be impressive for congregations of just about every size.


In the interest of brevity, this blog will only list the 19 – you can read the expanded version on the Stewardship for Us blog that provides key aspects on each data point, for those interested in knowing more and seeing how these work to make a whole picture. The only data point discussed here is one to be ignored.


  1. Membership
  2. Sunday attendance, RE Attendance (Adult and children’s RE).
  3. Percentage of budget provided by pledges.
  4. “Average cost per household” to run your church.
  5. Percentage of members pledging, if your bylaws do not ask that of all members.
  6. Mean (average) and Median (1/2 of pledges are larger, ½ are less) pledge.
  7. Number of households that have a pledge/contribution waiver.
  8. Percentage of households/members that are not pledging, only making a Contribution of Record (COR); mean and median COR.
  9. Percentage of pledging friends; mean and median of these commitments
  10. Pledges that have not increased or have decreased over the past 2 years
  11. Number of pledging units self-declared as Fair Share donors
  12. What is the Quartile distribution (see last month’s Stewardship for Us blog)
  13. How many are new pledgers (first 2 years)? Mean and median of new pledges?
  14. Families active in RE and their distribution among pledges and COR population?
  15. Where is your Board in Fair Share Giving and quartile distribution?
  16. Percentage increase/decrease in total pledges/mean/median on last 3-5 years?
  17. When was the last time you employed Visiting Stewards, with good training?
  18. NO-How much of a pledge goes to “UUA dues?” This pops up often, and its harmful. We do not pay “dues;” clubs and fraternities do that. We make contributions to resource the work the Regions and the UUA do in our name. Congregations sometimes ask that a pledge be at least at the level of their per member contribution to the UUA. This makes our contributions to the UUA into an outside burden. Being a member of this association is an integral part of being a UU – don’t treat it as something outside our community. Encouraging pledges at this low level also assures that whatever funds are contributed do not support the congregation locally in any way.



BillBill Clontz, Stewardship Consultant with the Stewardship for Us Team. has been a stewardship consultant supporting the UUA for over five years. He brings over forty years in leadership development and coaching, organizational effectiveness, and strategic planning to this work. He has over 25 years of active participation in UU church leadership and stewardship and 15 years of business development and portfolio management as a corporate officer, including working with nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations. Bill has served in his own congregation in a wide range of positions and he is a regular presenter at UU Regional conferences and the UUA Annual General Assembly. His focus as a stewardship consultant over the last five years has been empowering congregations to have successful stewardship environments, leadership development, and the growth of our movement.

By The Numbers: Religious Education Growth Trends

Last week we looked at the numbers reported in February 2015, a snap shot of this past year. “Who are we now?”

Our UU congregations are created by 180,617 adult members and 56,429 enrolled children and youth across the United States for a total of 237,046 UU people. 23.8% of our communities are children and youth.

This week we look at growth trends in Religious Education Enrollment.  I’ve also included Public School trends from the National Center for Education Statistics.  They currently have statistics publicly published through 2012.

Tip: If you have trouble seeing the numbers, try clicking on the graph/picture and enlarge it on your screen.

RE uua 2005-2015



public school 05-12


And now a look at our regions (note that UUA and US Public School regions are different)…

RE by region 2005-2015



public school 05-12 by region


Next week we’ll go deeper into the growth by region and size of congregation.



Tandi Feb 2012Rev. Tandi Rogers loves numbers because they help us see ourselves more clearly and break down assumptions.



Partnership across the River

Augusta Bridge Reflections by Gene Bowker
Augusta Bridge Reflections by Gene Bowker

The sister Unitarian Universalist congregations of Augusta, Georgia and Aiken, South Carolina straddle either side of the Savannah River. But the fact that they are in different states hasn’t stopped the spirit of collaboration that has existed since they were formed within months of each other in the early 1950s. The Aiken Unitarian Fellowship was formed first in 1953, and after Unitarians in Augusta decided to start their own fellowship in July of 1954 they carpooled their children to Aiken (18 miles away) for Sunday School until 1956; in 1958 Aiken children began to travel to Augusta for Sunday School.

All the while there was joint participation in cluster and district events, and Liberal Religious Youth retreats; but in 1974 the Aiken Fellowship disbanded and the deed to its property was given to Augusta. The funds were used as collateral to obtain a building loan for the Augusta campus to expand.

In the early 2000s the Rev. Dan King, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta, supported UUs in Aiken in reestablishing their own congregation. The Augusta board facilitated financial arrangements until the Aiken congregation could handle them.

Several years later, the Aiken Unitarian Universalist Church decided to pursue the goal of becoming a minister-led congregation. As a lay leader of the Augusta congregation, I occasionally spoke at Sunday services in Aiken. I then had the honor of serving as a half-time minister of the Aiken church during my internship years. I was ordained by both congregations before being contracted by the Augusta congregation as its full-time Developmental Minister in 2013. My Minister’s Study is in the office block built with the funds donated by the Aiken Fellowship. The 60-plus years of collaboration between Aiken and Augusta has made me the minister I am today.

The Aiken congregation is in its second year without a minister; its leadership felt it needed to do something to further its mission and maintain its energy and credibility in the community. So last year the Aiken board proposed to the Augusta board that the two congregations (Augusta has 150 members, Aiken 60) explore ways to work together in partnership to our mutual benefit and to the benefit of the larger Augusta-Aiken area. Going forward, we have agreed to assist each other internally within our congregations, and to promote our shared values in our communities. Our liaison team met for the first time in July, and our boards had a joint potluck and consultation with our Southern Region Congregational Life Staff member, the Rev. Carlton Elliott-Smith, in September. He challenged us to ask what we can do together that we can’t do separately…and that has opened up lots of possibilities!

In addition to training Worship Associates for both churches, swapping occasional speakers (and me) for Sunday services, and both social justice committees staffing a joint stall at the Augusta Pride festival, we are stepping up collaboration in the coming year to include a joint women’s croning ceremony in December and a new Coffeehouse series, which will be organized by a joint committee and held at the Augusta campus. We also will be off to The Mountain Learning and Retreat Center for a joint congregational retreat in April 2016.

The attitude of respect and the potential for partnership we now share were summed up by a statement both boards composed at the end of their September gathering:

Increasing our level of cooperation, we commit to:

Communicate openly and often through our liaison team;

Identify what we can do together;

Charge the boards to turn those opportunities into action.



gayeRev. Gaye Ortiz, a native of Augusta, Georgia, serves as Developmental Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta. She adores her five grandchildren and great-grandson Oliver, and she believes that the Atlanta Braves will one day again win the World Series.