Sunday, May 22, 2016

A New Party !

They're talking about a new party again ! Some of the disappointed Sanders voters are going to start a new party ! Feel the excitement !

There has not been a successful new party start up in the United States since the formation of the Republican Party in 1854, 162 years ago. And History is littered with the bones of many an effort. There have been Marxist parties, Socialist parties, populist parties, progressive parties, candidate-based parties, centrist parties, reform parties, revolutionary parties, even the present Green party. And that's just on the center-left side of the spectrum.

Some of those parties, like the Communist Party USA or the Socialist Workers Party are to be sustained presence, not by attracting voters in elections, but by creating a body of professional, or semi-professional, organizers united by a Leninist party structure. But no party, including them, has become an electoral power.

Yet, the dream of new electoral party remains the go-to dream of frustrated progressives whenever their candidate loses. As a threat to Democrats, it has a certain power, but as a sustainable organizational strategy, it is laughable. And its power as a threat is not that the new party might outpoll Democrats, but that it is an organized way to urge people to abstain from the election.

If you step back, it is not surprising that new party formations don't work. Instead of going to where the people are, it is going to where the people are not and waiting for them there.




Sunday, May 15, 2016

Many congregations will not able to handle it.

Another gleaning from the Followup Conference on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry ......

There are significant new regulations coming about the hiring and compensation of employees that may well be beyond the ability of smaller UU congregations to handle.

One area of new regulation is the use of overtime. In order to declare an employee exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the position must meet certain requirements. Those requirements are being tightened, both in terms of overall salary and job definition. The practice of treating some church staff as exempt or salaried employees, paid a certain amount regardless of the number of hours they worked, will be harder to do within the law.

It's all fiendishly complicated, of course, and that is the point of this story. All but the largest of our congregations do not have professional Human Resources personnel on their staff. Richard Nugent of the Office of Church Staff Finances thinks that many of our congregation are not in compliance with labor law already. And in our smallest congregations, these matters are handled by part-term administrative staffs, supervised by volunteer treasurers.

The economic sustainability of our ministries (in the broadest sense) depends on the infrastructure to collect revenue and to legally employ people in an increasingly regulated labor market. Our polity as a religious movement has distributed that infrastructure down to our smallest operating units -- the local congregation.

I don't think that that arrangement is going to work much longer.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Report from Sarah Lammert on Follow Up Conference on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry

Two of my recent posts dealt with issues that came up from at the Follow Up Conference on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry. The Rev. Sarah Lammert was one of the co-conveners on the conference and here is her preliminary report. Much to think about.



May 4-6th, 2016
Twenty-five UU leaders gathered in a follow-up session to last year’s Summit on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry. A lively keynote address was offered as the kickoff event by Casper ter Kuile and Angie Thurston, authors of "How We Gather" and "Something More”.  

Attendees then worked in smaller groups on two issues: Stewardship Education and Lay Ministry. Using design theory as a frame, the first group looked at how we can re-energize and re-frame the relationship of Unitarian Universalism with money, based on a robust theology of covenant. Participants came up with the idea of curating current resources into an “OWL 4 MONEY” that mimics the very successful all-ages UUA curriculum around human sexuality. A second group worked on a design for unleashing the power of lay ministry. There has long been a yearning in UU circles for an alternative path to doing ministry that is different in scope and less involved than seeking ordination. Recognizing that there are already many forms of lay ministry in the UU universe, participants came up with the idea of building a network of such groups to share best practices around formation and accountability, with the hope of moving toward a reciprocal recognition that could include and encourage diverse forms of recognized lay ministry.  

On the final day, Richard Nugent, Director of the Office of Church Staff Finances, presented a preliminary report (and asked for input) from the ongoing redesign of “UUA Compensation Guidelines” for UU religious professionals. His office is working with a consulting firm in a multi-year, comprehensive process to provide a balanced, just, and achievable set of standards for congregations to compensate their professional staffs for their faithful work. 15 focus groups have already been held with UU religious professionals; the coming year will focus on engaging lay leaders in similar groups, with a rollout expected in 2018.  

An “idea journal” with detail is forthcoming from the organizers of the conference. For more coverage, watch the special on-site edition of the VUU. Link here to The Lively Tradition blog posts on the conference. Come to the workshop “Economic Sustainability of Ministries: An Ongoing Discussion,” at General Assembly, Saturday June 25, 3:00 – 4:15PM Hyatt Regency Union AB.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Zero Sum Game?

Lay Ministry and Ordained Ministry.

Would training more lay ministers to perform some of the functions of ministry drive down the economic prospects of ordained ministers? 

Would small and struggling congregations choose to hire a trained lay minister rather than an ordained minister? Would a larger congregation choose to supplement their ordained parish minister with a few trained lay ministers, some of whom might even be volunteer, rather than add an ordained associate, or assistant, minister? 

You could argue that more trained lay ministers would inevitably have that effect.  

You could also argue that deploying more ministers, of whatever level of training, is essential to the growth of Unitarian Universalism. And that’s where our economic sustainability ultimately lies. 

The economic sustainability of Unitarian Universalism is a wickedly complex problem. There are a lot of moving parts: Ministerial indebtedness, the high cost of preparation, tight congregational budgers, soaring real estate prices in many areas, the income stagnation of the middle and working class people. A lot of proposed fixes just shift the problem to somewhere else in the system.

If there was an obvious answer somebody would have done it already. 

Does training lay ministers just shift the burden to the already ordained ministers as a group, if not individually?

Your thoughts, please?









Monday, May 09, 2016

Two Ideas on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry

Two ideas to advance Economic Sustainability of Ministry.

Two ideas came out of the recent Summit on Economic Sustainability of Ministry.

#1. We need “OWL FOR MONEY”. There is a soul sickness and an ignorance about money in our society. We need to an educational program for different ages and circumstances that teaches about money and leads people in a process to discern their values and relationship to the economic dimensions of life. We can’t just talk about stewardship and generosity without working with people and their whole economic lives. Imagine a program that has sequences aimed at high schoolers, young adults, middle adults, retiring adults, lay leaders in congregations, and stewardship leaders. 

#2. We need a network of organizations that are training lay ministers. And that are more than just a few. Those organizations need to learn from each other, develop best practices and begin the work on unifying around common systems of accountability. They need to develop ethical guidelines for lay ministers. Lay ministry training is already going on; no one organization, like the UUA staff, can pull all of it under one system at this point. In fact, more organizations from individual congregations to the professional organizations or identity based groups should be welcomed into the work. Let a hundred flowers bloom. 

These were the top ideas to come out of the Summit. 

For background: the Summit is convened by some units of the UUA’s national staff to advise and consult on the wicked problems in the economic dimensions of organized liberal religion. The two organizers are Sarah Lammert from the Department of Ministries and Faith Development and Richard Nugent of the Office of Church Staff Finances. 


A first Summit was held last June in St. Louis and a followup last week in Boston, MA. Various staff groups of the UUA were represented as well the Presidents of the two UU identified seminaries. Professional organizations like the UUMA and LREDA were there as well.