Unitarian Universalism and Stewardship for 2017 and Beyond

Stewardship, the future is in your hands

The future is in our hands

I’m delighted to report that Unitarian Universalism is alive and well – in fact, by some measures, we are thriving.  Over the past year, we stewardship consultants have seen an uptick in capital campaigns, including some large and ambitious ones.  Stewardship for Us assisted 14 congregations with financial feasibility studies or capital campaigns (or both) in this past fiscal year.  This is roughly double the number in the prior year.  These campaigns raised over $17 Million for major investments in our congregations and our movement.  We also provided early planning support to several other congregations who are well on their way to raising another $10 Million or more.  And of course there are other UU  congregations who are conducting capital campaigns that we don’t know about.

Why is this important?  Capital campaigns are one measure of how well we are doing as a movement.  Congregations that conduct capital campaigns are thriving!  They are  energized, focused on mission, and confident about the future. In addition, capital campaigns call us as individuals to be our most hopeful, involved, and generous.    Success demands highly effective stewardship, governance, and leadership.   We have seen this in all these congregations.

This is good news indeed.  While it is true that some of our congregations struggle to raise sufficient funds to support everything they want to do, many of our congregations are feeling financially confident and investing in the future.  My wish for 2017 and beyond is that this trend will continue and grow, and that will of your congregations will live in abundance.

Why is a thriving UUism good news?  We’re facing perilous times.  The shock of the election has not worn off, and our political climate continues to be ugly and uncivil.  We face unprecedented threats to the social safety net, along with hate-filled attacks on immigrants, Muslims, Jews, people of color, GLBTQ folks, and other groups.  People are rightfully frightened.

But I am hopeful.  I am hopeful because Unitarian Universalism is a faith created for times such as these.  To quote my friend, Rev. Mike Morran, “the purpose of our movement is to resist the forces that drive people apart.”  He asks us to replace fear with hope, anger with action, hate and divisiveness with love.  Isn’t that what our principles and our faith are all about?

So I invite you to be hopeful about what we as UUs offer to our hurting and frightened world, and to take action to make it so.

I am also hopeful that the energy we need to carry on this important, life-affirming work will translate into increased commitment to the work of stewardship and to increased generosity.   I urge you to engage with one another in deep reflection and conversation about money and mission.  Consider:

  • Is there anything more important to invest in right now than Unitarian Universalism and your congregation?
  • What might we be able to do for this hurting world if we had more resources?
  • What can I do to help my fellow congregants see the linkage between their financial gifts and our ability to carry out our mission?

As always, I welcome your comments about this post and all things stewardship; post here on our blog or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/S4US1/)

May you all find the strength and courage to answer the call for UU faith and action in 2017 and beyond. Wishing you all a wonderful 2017.

Barry Finkelstein

Barry Finkelstein is a consultant with Stewardship for Us.  He can be reached at barry@stewardshipforus.com


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2 thoughts on “Unitarian Universalism and Stewardship for 2017 and Beyond

  1. I served on my church’s stewardship committee, practicing mindful fundraising among other members of the congregation, and tithing 5% of my gross annual income to the church. A group of church members sowed dissent and dislike of the minister, and used money (we have close to $1 million in savings) as a weapon against her. She is in the process of leaving. I have lost faith in my congregation, ended my tithe, and am actively shopping for a new church home. Unfortunately the other local UU options are not great, so I am looking at other denominations. Your post made me sad, since I have gone from being an enthusiastic evangelical for my Unitarian Universalist church, to being alienated and feeling that the only message that church leadership understands is money (and, I suppose, trash-talking at coffee hour.) I feel that our denomination is in crisis, at a time when we are sorely needed. Is there good news elsewhere in the country? Is there a large, healthy Unitarian Universalist church somewhere?

    • Hi Abby:
      I’m so sorry to hear of your struggles at your church, and hope you can find your way to a solution that works for you – and ideally for Unitarian Universalism too. I offer a couple of thoughts. First, we consultants see congregations going through the kinds of situations you describe; the good news is there’s often a turnaround, although it may take some time and patience. The UUA regional staff can often help congregations work through conflicts in a positive, healing way. You might suggest that your leaders look into this if they’ve not already done so. Second, it helps to take a long view perspective on this. As they say, this too shall pass. Unitarian Universalism is a covenantal faith, where we each make voluntary promises to one another and to the church. One element of this covenant is sustaining the institution through the good times and the bad – kind of like a marriage – even when the institution lets us down. My minister wife, Rev. Roberta Finkelstein, reminds me that covenant is made stronger by living through disappointment and renewal. My hope for you and the church is that you can find a way to stay and continue your passionate support for Unitarian Universalism at this most critical time. I invite others to chime in with their ideas and perhaps success stories of covenant renewed.
      In faith,

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