Fall Interview Report: What did our Advisory Council find?

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The Central East Region has an Advisory Council of lay and ordained volunteers who work with the Director of Congregational Life, Rev. Scott Tayler, to both assess the needs of our congregations and to track the effectiveness of our regional staff in meeting those needs. The Advisory Council completes targeted, in-depth interviews each fall, and does a broad survey of congregations each spring. This is what they found in their Fall 2016 interviews.

There were three focus topics for the fall interviews:

  1. Relentlessly Useful Administration questions (10 interviews; 5 Congregations)
  2. Start-Up Workshops/New Ministry Support (10 interviews; 5 Congregations)
  3. New Annual Program Fund Plans (15 Interviews; largely directed by the Stewardship and Development Office of the UUA.

Here’s an overview of what the Advisory Council learned:

  • There is a strong connection between our congregations and their Central East Region regional staff, especially through primary contacts. Congregants and congregations clearly go to their primary contacts to gather resources. That connection does not need to be face to face. Some congregations are worried our primary contacts may not be supported enough.
  • Administrators and clergy clearly need help with the practicalities of payroll, staffing, state taxes – all aspects of managing the “business” end of church. It is hard work and the congregations don’t feel they have the skills.
  • Our congregations are very worried about money. Stewardship is changing. Churches seem to be saying that the new, younger folks don’t understand or participate in the traditional way of raising money. Congregations seemed focused on attracting younger members or people with children. They’re either proud they’ve got younger members or they’re worried that they don’t. At the same time, when congregations talked about younger members, they often mentioned that their per-unit pledge had dropped.
  • Congregations were not eager to talk to the Advisory Council about the Annual Program Fund, the way the congregations fund the UUA. (Learn more at http://www.uua.org/giving/apf/basics) There was a low level of understanding about the APF. For the most part, just a few leaders or the minister knew about it and anchored the rest of the congregation. There was a real hunger for more information about the Annual Program Fund, with congregations wishing for resources like videos or a full Sunday service package, or for the UUA to come to their churches to inform them.
  • Ministerial Start Up Workshops, traditionally offered by regional staff at the start of a new religious professional’s tenure, are appreciated by congregations. There is not much consensus on the best timing of ministerial start up workshops. Some thought they were best timed for right away in the new relationship. Others thought it was better to have them later, after the religious professional and congregation had time to get to know each other. There was a desire for a follow up check in later, if there was an early start up workshop.
  • Congregations seem to have a growing understanding of clergy and sexual misconduct and how that impacts congregational health. They also have a growing understanding of congregations’ behavioral and emotional systems and how anxiety affects a congregation.

Learn more about the Congregational Life Advisory Council (CLAC) at their webpage.