Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Thoughts about Doug’s memo on Budget Strategy and thoughts for [4/28/2011] Board of Trustees meeting
May 6, 2011, 2:08 pm
Filed under: Church Finances and Stewardship, Stewardship & Finances

Greetings, Trustees!

I look forward to seeing you Thursday (tomorrow!) night.  I hope you have had a chance to reflect on the one-sheet paper that Doug sent last week.  I have my own thoughts.

First, I hope you will think about one accomplishment of UUSS of the past 12 months that you feel proud of.
It does not have to be something that was in your volunteer portfolio, or something you were involved in, but some achievement of our church that makes you proud.  (Not the only one, to be sure, but just one, for the sake of brevity.)  I want to ask each of you to say what that one thing is, but briefly  (or send me an email now).

Second, I concur with Doug that any adjustments to the budget at this time should be considered with regard not only to their short-term budget-balancing potential, but to their longer term impacts on our financial strength.  That is, some cuts now could lead to higher costs later, or to lost members.   A “stretch budget” now could yield benefits and greater momentum down the road.  Doug has proposed a number of compelling ideas, including a one-month furlough for his position.   I think he means it seriously and with good will.  Should you choose that option, it would need to be explained to people.   It would mean, for example, that we would have no claim on him for a month, and that it’s not our business how he spends that time (versus a sabbatical, when his time is spent for the enrichment of his ministry with us).  I agree that it should take place in a month when members will notice it, but not in such a busy month that it would kill some of you (and me) for him to be gone.

I want to note that, no matter our budgetary challenges, this church is very strong and momentum is good.  Consider that we have been in years of deep recession, in a state in financial trouble, in a city where the primary employer has been laying people off and cutting take home pay for many of our members and friends.  Yet the congregation is not depressed or pessimistic about what we do here at UUSS.

There are new people, new programs, new momentum.   There has been steady– and even growing– overall generosity, despite the local economy. Many of our newer people are younger, and many of them are on hard times, financially or spiritually.  They  come here seeking exactly what we aspire to provide:  a resting place, a source of support, and a launching pad for a new vision and improved sense of purpose.
And they have been engaged and inspired by what can be done here.  In spite of the fact that their financial hardships limit their current pledging potential, they come here with grateful and generous spirits.  I’d call this a success.

If you measure our effectiveness by how well we are living our Mission and pursuing our Vision Statement, I think we are doing great work.  If you measure our effectiveness by how well we are pursuing the three Long Range Goals contained in “Building the Future,” I think we are moving right along.  If you agree, and wish to follow Doug’s recent request to plan discussions about a vote to call me as a settled minister here, I will be happy to do that.

Yet I know the role of volunteer trustee and steward of the whole can be an anxious one, and opinions come at you from all directions.  I trust the deliberative process and the good will that you all show.  I trust the ability to listen openly to all stakeholders and to speak with courage and a single voice when you agree on a Board decision.  I wish you the best.

I also know that the compensation for me as an associate minister is over 10% of the budget.  If you decide, earlier or later, that you wish to recommend to the members that my contract not be continued, I will accept that with no hard feelings.   I would suggest, however, that you consider ending the contract December 31 rather than in summer.  This would give Doug and me a chance to get the new church year started, especially in RE and OWL programs.  (I likely would use up remaining accrued vacation time in December.)

It would give me a chance to find a new ministry, since the typical UU church search cycle is ending right now.  (Doug sneakily took a sabbatical in the fall, so I had no available time to do any looking around in the prime UU ministry search season.  But I had no interest in doing so, either.  It’s a good place to be serving in ministry.)

Waiting until December 31 would also give you as Trustees more time to figure out how you are going to cover some of the activities that have been in my portfolio. (I think RE morale might decline and you’d have to shoulder some of the work.)

It would give you time to explain your decision to the congregation, and to explain how you see it as congruent with Long Range Plan and the strategic direction in which UUSS has been moving.   At the same time, such an announcement in May could perhaps generate a creative reaction among members and friends.  It could help to share the pain and the gain if more people realize the nature of the financial needs for our programs—not to realize this by being brow-beaten—but simply to have things laid out as our shared options.

If you decide now to end my position in the coming budget year, I recommend NOT also doing a furlough of the Lead Minister’s time.  Also, I recommend that some of you agree sit with Cathy Whitney as she explains the budget proposal to members in small groups in May.

Whether we are to be sharing ministry for just a while longer or for a long time to come, please know that I think it is a privilege and an inspiration to be here at UUSS.

Yours in service,


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