Shall We Gather Together? - Stewardship Blog
Reflections on the Power and Potential of Cluster Workshops
Bill Clontz, Stewardship Consultant
I recently had the privilege of working with the North Texas Unitarian Universalist Congregations cluster (NTUUC) in an all day Stewardship Workshop, well hosted by the Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Plano, TX.
In reflecting on this experience during my trip home, I confirmed once again in my own mind the particular utility and effectiveness of workshops like this being shared by multiple congregations.
Why did we use an illustration for this article of people enjoying a meal, rather than a classroom illustration? Because that’s what a good cluster workshop feels like – it’s more of a joyful gathering and a feeding of the mind and spirit than just a classroom experience.
If your congregation has not been a part of such an activity, consider making such events happen in your area. They pay handsome dividends.
This was not my first rodeo with NTUUC and as in the past, we had a full and rewarding day together. Half a dozen congregations came together to learn, to share, and to grow community. It was a powerful day, not only because participants garnered new skills and knowledge from a stewardship consultant, but also because they built on their connections and learned from each other. The Good News and Bad News stories we shared were invaluable.
This was a similar outcome from the first cluster event I experienced years ago, when my congregation hosted a stewardship workshop for several congregations, long before I became a stewardship consultant. That experience, and every workshop I have facilitated since, have provided unique opportunities to grow and to connect, at very low cost and with minimal investments of time and effort.
Cluster workshops can be organized by anyone – individuals, congregational teams, regional staff, or others. They provide a special opportunity for people with shared functional area interests (stewardship, membership, leadership, finance, etc.) to come together in learning and sharing. Many find they have more in common with each other than they might with their own congregations, given their shared commitments to stewardship or other such areas.
Workshops do, of course, come with limits. The time available is short and the focus is broad, in terms of subjects and over the number of congregations participating. Workshops are exceptionally valuable to “jumpstart” thinking and processes in key areas, but cannot replace the level of detailed focus that working together over long periods within a single congregation provides. In other words, it’s unlikely that a workshop would resolve all your challenges, but it could provide real value worth well more than the time and costs invested.
The Stewardship for Us team offers a wide range of workshop options for clusters and others. (By the way, you need not have a formal cluster arrangement in place to have such an event; just reach out to neighboring congregations and come together – you just might help launch a new cluster out of this effort). We have checklists and guidelines to help with set up and publicity, and regional staff can often help with planning, publicity, and administration.
Workshops are tailored in time and content to what the cluster needs and desires. They may run from half a day to a long weekend, engaging over a few topics to half a dozen. The low costs of a workshop may be covered in a variety of ways, including a modest attendance fee, shared costs by participating congregations, or support from your Region. The UUA is often able to cover some costs as well.
The Bottom Line: There is power in community beyond just our own congregations and there is much we can learn, from our stewardship consulting team and from each other. Cluster workshops can help us expand our sense of connection and increase our exposure over larger distances as we connect congregations. They provide a short, low cost opportunity for those who have not worked with the Stewardship for Us team to see if their congregation might wish to utilize the team in follow on programs building a solid stewardship foundation.
Let’s gather together, shall we?
Bill Clontz is a stewardship consultant with the Stewardship for Us Team, supporting the UUA. Bill can be reached at bill [at] stewardshipforus [dot] com, via UUA Congregational Life, or through your regional staff.
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