Sunday, March 22, 2009

SHEESH, money.

I read Daniel O'Connell's blog with a mixture of relief and dismay. Change the numbers (300 members, $50k short of goal, we pledge $250 a month), and I could have written it. I hope his congregation is encouraged/persuaded/inspired, and that his church stewardship campaign is a success. I hope every UU church makes its goal! But.. something tells me that this year, we won't. Our Stewardship Campaign is held in the Fall, and this year we had the bad fortune to kick it off right as the worst of the financial meltdown was being realized. Several months later, we are still far from our goal, and have adopted a draconian budget full of reductions.

I heard that William Shatner lives here in the Bluegrass, and maybe he or Ashley Judd will join our church and pledge $50,000. He could arrange all of our travel, too! Barring some such miracle, we will learn to live with it. Members will be cutting the grass (more than seven acres), staff will get by with slashed budgets and reduced hours, and committees will do their own fundraising.

Worst of all, we took our UUA and district dues out of the budget, and although I and several others are determined to raise them by July, I fear we'll come up short there, too. It makes me ashamed and angry and sad that we can not fulfill our Fair Share obligation to our denomination, as we have done for as long as anyone can recall. Frankly, it sucks.

I feel as if there must be a better way.

I know that the members and friends of our church love it, and there are many who give very generously, give beyond what they should be expected to. That kind of bugs me, too. It especially bothers me when I see that there are people of means who give very, very little to the church although they use its programs and services. We have people in our church with very little money, too. More people like that than ever before. That makes me happy! We are becoming a more egalitarian, more economically and culturally diverse place, the kind of place we say we are and want to be.

So, here's my honest opinion. I think pledge campaigns are asinine. I would rather not do another one ever again. I hate getting up there and saying, or writing, the same old meant-to-inspire nonsense. There is just no way that this one-size-fits-all message is going to sound the same to Dr. Mitchell, who can easily give $10, 000, and to Ms. Marshall, who has five kids, and whose husband died in Iraq. Yes, we need to talk money. But it's going to have to be done differently. Starting this year, we are launching year-round, person-by-person stewardship conversations. We're going to need to talk to about 25 people each month. We'll start with those who've avoided us the longest.

I have no idea how we are going to do it.

But I have at least a few courageous people who are going to help me figure it out, and I'll let you know how it works.

Otherwise, we could sell the seven acres. Or, they could dump me. I'm really hoping neither one of those things happen.

Here's to the end of the Annual Canvass! God! That sounds good.