Category Archives: Church Administration

So how does a church run, anyways?

Last week, some people came by when I was between appointments and wanted to see our building.  They explained that they had often driven by the church, but had heard around town that new things were happening in the church and that they wanted to learn more.  I gave them a tour, and talked to them about all of the exciting growth and new programs that are going on in the church.  One of them, who has never been part of a church before, asked “How does a church run, anyways?  Where does your money come from?”

It’s a good question.  Churches have been around for so long, one might think that they have always been here and will always be.  As those of us in the business know all too well, however, churches (and any religious institutions) do not have guaranteed financial survival.  I explained to this young woman that churches run off of charitable donations, otherwise known as pledging, from people who are part of our community.  She remained confused and asked “Is that what people put in the basket on Sunday mornings?  That’s where all the money comes from?”

I couldn’t help but smile at that point.  It would be so awesome if we collected enough on Sunday mornings to support all the work and ministry of the church.  How simple that would make life!  But the reality is that the Sunday morning offering is just a small section of our budget, and that the majority of our funding comes from our members, friends and other members of the community through pledging.  I explained to her that each year, churches hold what is called a “pledge drive,” where we ask everyone who is part of our community to commit to giving a portion of their income to the church for the next year.  From the pledge cards, we are able to know how much money to expect in donations for the year to come, and create the annual budget based on what people have volunteered to donate.

It was a timely conversation for me to have, since this Sunday is the kickoff to our pledge campaign at First Parish for the 2012-2013 church year.  I’m really excited about this year’s pledge campaign, mostly because there is such energy and capacity in the church!  I’m also excited, though, because we have been given a wonderful challenge and gift this year from an anonymous donor who has agreed to match all of the funds we raise, dollar for dollar, during this year’s pledge campaign.  This means that all of the donations made this year will literally be doubled!  It is a tremendous opportunity, and I am confident that our community will rise to the occasion.

As I explained all of this to our guests earlier this week, their eyes grew wide.  ”You mean, a church has to run things like a business?”  one of them questioned in disbelief.  ”You have to have income and expenses and salaries and everything?”  I nodded.  Surprisingly, she smiled.  ”That’s so cool.  So this church really is about being for the people and by the people – a real community.”

Somehow, the last two weeks have gotten away from me.  My “smart” cell phone blew up (in the software sense, not an actual explosion…..though it felt that way), family came to visit and I had a birthday.  We held our second gathering of the first Small Group at Norton Unitarian Church last night, our second Small Group is almost full and will likely start meeting in a week or two.  I’m now speaking to people about joining the churches third Small Group, interviewing childcare providers (because ) and putting final touches on the website mock-up.

Suddenly, there is momentum beyond me in the church!

It is so wonderful to talk to so many people interested and excited about the church I’m hoping Norton Unitarian will become.  I’ll be honest – I’m not trying to build something that looks like our “traditional” Unitarian Universalist church.  I want to be part of a religious community that speaks to a different need – a need that doesn’t seem to be being met by many of our current options.  A need that is about connection and vibrancy and faith.

By throwing the doors open to the church and presenting new ideas, new cultures are starting to emerge.  We are at the very beginning yet…..the very beginning….but the goal of the church is to be a place of meaning and joy. A place where we don’t have to always worry about what has been, but where we can look at where we are today and say “What works?  What makes sense?  What do we want in our lives?  What makes us grow spiritually and become better people in the world?”

This church is about faith today.

Because paperwork is EVERYONE’S favorite topic. You know you love it….can’t you just FEEL the love?

Ok, I’ll come clean.  I don’t love paperwork.  I don’t love filing, sorting or hold music.  And I am tremendously bad about jotting important things down on tiny post-it notes which will later end up buried on my desk or at the bottom of my purse.  I am one of those people who has literally been saved by technology – I can now jot down notes in my Palm Pilot and then do a device-wide “search” and find whatever I’m looking for!

With the new year and increased activity in the church, I’ve spent the past few days doing a lot of paperwork, and am nearing the end of the original mountain.  Quite a bit had been accomplished -  tax forms have been ordered, the church website is well underway and the kids’ immunization forms have been given to all the right people.  Not to mention the fact that I can see my desk again.

Because color coded charts make us smarter. No, seriously they MAKE US SMARTER.

It has not been the most fun I’ve ever had (shocking, I realize!) but I have to admit that a lot of things in my life are way more accessible and easier to work with than they were five days ago.  I even appear to be smiling more at my computer!  Maybe organization does have a greater spiritual purpose….