Thursday, May 09, 2013

The steering wheel doesn't turn the wheels; the throttle isn't connected to the gas line.


The problem with strategy at the national UU level is in the title.  Whereas we have defined growth for decades as growth of membership in our congregations and whereas congregations do whatever they like, there are very few ways that the national administration can affect rates of growth.  Congregations can implement effective strategies for growth and some do.  Most do not and they are successful in not growing.  

Since congregations are autonomous and jealous of their prerogatives, why the does the UUA board and administration even try? 

So, the other day I proposed that we declare the era of growth over.  Today, I propose that the UUA stop serving congregations in all the ways that congregations think they know best and redirect their efforts to serving congregations in the areas that they know they are in trouble.

Every service that the UUA provides congregations should be sold, bought and paid for, and will strengthen the congregations's financial situation, reduce their risk, or improve their functioning.  And in most cases, it should turn a profit for the UUA.

The UUA should provide accounting and publishing services to congregations, and establish all of our congregations on sound, and legal, accounting basis.  A relatively small staff somewhere could produce well-laid out email newsletters for most of our congregations.  We could explore common purchasing for paper and other supplies through national office supply chain.  In any other sphere, it would cost money to get access to a employment market of certified and licensed candidates for professional positions.  Would a national bank offer discounted services in return for many of congregations banking business? 

A lot of services that the UU Staff provides is available in the open market from many sources.  A congregation serious about improving its visitor process may have to attend some workshops on such put on by evangelicals.  If you think you need advice on organizational development, there are lots of those too.  

We should set up a market place where our underemployed ministers can offer services in church stewardship, mediation, facilitation, conflict resolution, as well as educational subjects.  They can charge what they want, but they are subject to Yelp style public evaluations..

 Aside from offering essential services to support congregational functioning, the UUA staff should not be deployed to serve congregations that are already self-sustaining and functioning.  Sell them services that they actually want and need, make a profit and lower their "dues."  A business model can be devised that works. 

After all, this model has worked very successfully with the Health Plan, which serves congregational needs and is gaining financial strength.

The UUA administration and staff should be working on other ways to advance liberal religion and Unitarian Universalism: church planting, research, ministerial formation and deployment, developing our ability to speak to the culture and all the sub-cultures where a liberal religious voice is needed.  

Working through congregations is among the least effective ways to allocate our assets.  

3 comments:

Alan Coffey said...

A good start Tom. We call this the NPR model, and it is part of a vision that a group of UU's has been working on for months.

Tie this in with de-linking governance from GA.

Tie it in with elimination of governance between clusters of churches and the National level.

Tie it in with a single ask.

Tie it in with the UUA cutting the apron strings from congregations and living on the 70% or so of it's budget that comes from sources other than APF. Set them free to promote UU'ism!

Let the congregations use the money they currently provide to the UUA for services WHEN NEEDED (transitions) and for cluster funding.

Regionalization, combined with the chaos in national leadership is providing us with an opportunity to remake our "movement". Making it more a movement towards health than a healthy movement.

Robyn M-K said...

Alan, does this group publish a blog or have some other way to keep abreast or participate in this discussion? It sounds fascinating.

Alan Coffey said...

We are not a secret group or anything. But the ideas we have been knocking about are not quite ready for prime time.

I would expect to have more after mid-May and perhaps we can engage the wider community at that time. In any case, I will.