|From the Executive Director|
July will come. That is the mantra at the UUMA this time of year as we scurry around preparing for our largest gathering of the year. The weeks before Ministry Days are full of deadlines, editing, coordinating, planning, and often praying that we will have everything ready when we welcome 600 of our members to the convention center of the year. This year we are thinking more about those of us who won’t be in Columbus hoping you’ll watch and connect with colleagues in virtual ways.
This time of the year is also when many ministers, especially those in parishes, are gasping for air as they near the end of the traditional congregational “finish line”. Some colleagues are bone-tired, some are enjoying the highs of recent ordinations, installations and successful annual meetings. And others are struggling to find more money in a congregational, organizational or personal budget to keep things rolling.
One of the many places my travels took me to in May was Boston for the second Summit on the Economic Sustainability of Ministries covenanted by the UUA. You can watch the keynote address and read more from the first summit by clicking here and see a special episode of the VUU about the conference here.
I have been working on issues of money and ministry since my first year in seminary when I created a workshop called “Financial Management for People Who Don’t Want to Bother”. I taught the class mainly to seminarians because I was concerned about the lack of financial awareness, naiveté and level of debt my colleagues were saddled with. I know that things have only gotten worse in the last 15-20 years.
Over the years I have been invited to give many stewardship sermons and workshops for colleagues and lay leaders and every congregation and institution I have served as a minister has been on stronger financial footing when I left than when I arrived. I know a bit about how to create and lead abundance. And yet I sense the wonder, curiosity and even anxiety about whether our old models for stewardship and financial sustainability can be changed in the future.
At the summit I worked in a group looking at how we can strengthen stewardship and re-energize and re-frame our relationship with money. I’m excited about what we are hoping to develop and you can look forward to new opportunities to learn about stewardship and money in the coming year. In our Beyond the Call - Entrepreneurial Ministry program we are looking at different financial/business models for profit and non-profit possibilities for faith communities. The economic challenges of ministry and the larger world will continue to be complex and show up as frustrations and opportunities time and time again.
I wish I had the answers on how we will finance our ministries and our religious communities in the future. I have some ideas, of course, but time will tell if they work. What I do have, and I hope you have as well, is hope and faith. I’m not sure religious leaders can do much without both but when it comes to looking at the challenges and opportunities we are facing, they are critical. I find hope in the power of your ministries and the clarity of your passion and calls. I find faith in my own personal transformation of being a former compulsive gambler, with a terrible relationship with money, thousands of dollars in debt, who now teaches, and hopefully lives, generosity and abundance.
July will come. So will a new fiscal year (at least at the UUMA.) May we face the joys and challenges each will bring grounded in our hope, faith and love.