Congregational Staffing and Finances for July and Beyond: An Overview

By Jan Gartner, Richard Nugent

A graphic with key points about the importance of retaining staff, engaging staff creatively, and managing finances. Full text in page.

In March of 2020, as COVID-19 was taking hold, the Office of Church Staff Finances offered recommendations to congregations regarding staffing and finances through June. Now, in early June, we have issued a comprehensive memo with updated guidance: Staffing and Finances for July and Beyond.

This page provides key points from the full memo. Refer to the graphic in the right sidebar, Supporting Staff During the Pandemic, for highlights.

The Importance of Staff During COVID-19

Congregational work is made possible through shared ministry among committed staff and volunteers. Maintaining your staff helps ensure that you are:

  • Expanding the congregation's capacity for ministry in this difficult time
  • Allowing staff sufficient self-care and time off
  • Covering for illness
  • Living our values and theology

The LeaderLab article Valuing Your Staff During the COVID-19 Pandemic speaks further to these points.

Short-Term Staffing

Staff work has changed and is continuing to evolve. What do each of your staff need to continue doing their work safely, comfortably, and well?

Assume that staff are willing to learn and able to adapt. Support them in learning new skills and getting equipment they may need. Supervisors, check in about workload, critical responsibilities, and serving the mission. Have team conversations about workloads and creative possibilities.

Flexibility is especially important at this time. Be sure that your congregation is complying with the Families First Act. We offer the UUA's Full Flex Policy as an example that congregations may want to adapt.

See Staffing and Finances for July and Beyond for more on short-term staffing.


The financial effect of COVID-19 on our congregations and ministries is not yet clear. It’s a complicated picture including, for many congregations, the loss of rental income, postponed fundraising events, and possible reductions in plate income and pledge payments. On the other hand, some congregations are reporting increased giving by members/friends, as well as generous support by new online attendees and reduced costs of building operations.

We encourage congregations to budget flexibly, to take advantage of federal programs, and to make use of endowments and reserve funds in order to maintain staff. For more, see Staffing and Finances for July and Beyond.

Longer-term Staffing

The largest financial expenditure for most congregations is personnel. Staff personnel costs (including wages, benefit, payroll tax, professional expenses) make up roughly 70 percent of a typical congregation's budget. For some congregations, reduced staffing will need to be considered in the weeks and months ahead. We offer guidance to congregational leaders as difficult budget decisions are deliberated. Key points:

  • Be transparent. Staff are generally aware of congregational finances and understand the implications for their own job security. Transparency and candid conversations with staff are needed now more than ever.
  • Redesign Roles. Staff whose regular work is not available can take on different, meaningful work. How does the work of staff mobilize the laity?
  • Collaborate and Skill-share across congregations. The circumstances of the pandemic point to new possibilities for strengthening our congregations through collaboration across congregational lines.
  • Building Closures Will Not Be Forever. Our UUA Guidance on Gathering In Person When COVID-19 Subsides addresses all kinds of building usage issues, including those about staff and renters.

For more, see Staffing and Finances for July and Beyond.

Staff Reductions When Necessary

The longer-term impacts of the virus on congregational finances are still unclear. Does it make sense to hold off on staffing decisions until you have a better sense of your income and expenses for the coming year? Also consider the potential for disparate impacts in your decisions:

  1. Staff whose regular responsibilities have been reduced or eliminated are likely to be the ones who have the fewest safety nets;
  2. A furlough or layoff will likely be hardest on those with lower pay; and
  3. Are staff facing cutbacks or layoffs members of vulnerable or marginalized communities, who are experiencing greater systemic impacts of the pandemic?

As you grapple with the possibility of staff reductions, Staffing and Finances for July and Beyond includes a graphic to help you prioritize the work, consider the work of each staff member, and live our values.

Living Our Values

Continuing employment of your staff is a way of demonstrating Unitarian Universalist values and theology. Our faith is grounded in relationship and interdependence. We commit to justice and compassion within the world around us as well as within our own walls. Other work will be hard to come by throughout the pandemic, so retaining staff is a matter of conscience as well as practicality.

UUA Support

Each congregation’s situation is unique. UUA staff are available to consult with you and your leadership as you chart your congregation’s course for the months to come. When in doubt, start by contacting your regional staff. Below you will find staff contacts who can help with key personnel and finance issues.

Staffing and Finances for July and Beyond concludes with a list of webpages and staff contacts to help with key personnel and finance issues.

About the Authors

Jan Gartner

Jan is passionate about helping congregations live out their values within their walls!...

Richard Nugent

Richard A. Nugent has directed the UUA Office of Church Staff Finances (OCSF) since August 2008. In that capacity, he leads a team managing the UUA’s retirement plan, national health plan, and other employee benefit plans. In addition, the OCSF serves as a HR resource to UUA member congregations...

For more information contact .