Stewardship and Risk-Taking

Be fearless

Responsible Risk-Taking from Soul Matters


My congregation in Wilmington, Delaware has signed on to the Soul Matters program, so each month we get a theme and worship and educational materials around that theme.  We are among 200 or so UU congregations doing this.  This month’s theme is Risk and the question for us to ponder is: “What does it mean to be a Community of Risk?”

What comes to mind when you think risk?  My brainstorming thoughts ran to opportunity, bold, dreams, possibilities, investments, scary stuff, taking a chance, leap of faith.  These are also the kinds of words and phrases that come to mind when I think about money and stewardship.

My wife, Rev. Roberta Finkelstein, spoke about risk in her sermon this past Sunday, noting that two of the riskiest things to talk about in our UU congregations are money and power.   Alas, I wish it were not so.

UU Impact Beyond our SIze

I tell congregations that we UUs tend to have a self-image as a small denomination with limited resources and little impact.  How can we possibly take on the forces of injustice and promote our values – especially in these perilous times?  But I know – and I believe you know – that this self-image is not correct.  While it is true that we are small in terms of membership numbers, it is also true that we have had a profound impact in many vital areas of civic life.  Think marriage equality and LGBTQ rights, civil rights, mass incarceration, Black Lives Matter, reproductive rights, welcoming refugees, environmental justice  – the list goes on.  We are indeed powerful — more than we think.  And we are blessed with substantial financial resources — more than we think.

How much more impact could we have if we were just a little bigger, just a little better funded, just a little more out there in the world?  A great deal more.  All we have to do is deepen our stewardship covenant: take the risk of radical generosity, of committing our resources to fund our dreams, fund our values, and fulfill our mission, which is to transform ourselves and the world for the good.

I know many of you are in the midst of your annual budget drives, consumed with numerous details big and small.  By all means, keep at it.  But at the same time, ask yourselves, “What risks might we take to make ourselves more powerful, more impactful?”

Be Bold

I urge you all to take the risk of talking about money, talking about power, talking about bold dreams and possibilities.  We are called to be a voice for those who are suffering, a sanctuary for those seeking refuge from a harsh nation and world, and a place of advocacy and action.  Let’s not be afraid to ask ourselves what our congregations could do with significantly more money – to invest in pastoral care and social justice and our youth. To invest in outreach and effective coalitions.  Let’s risk talking about this openly and clearly, and see how much radical generosity we can tap into.

There is much at stake right now.  And we can do so much – if we are willing to take some risks.  Let’s do it!

Barry Finkelstein


Barry Finkelstein is a consultant with Stewardship for Us.  He welcomes your comments on this post, and can be reached at

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