Friday, June 9, 2017

Annual Meeting Board Update

The following is the speech I presented at the UUCAVA Annual Congregational Meeting June 4, 2017

My name is Warren Wright and I am Board of Trustees Chairman. Today, I am going to provide you with an overview board report. Some of you may wonder…what does the board do? Essentially, we uphold the mission of the church, and are accountable in three area:

-       Policy – Creating policy based on the needs of the church community
-       Communication – both hearing from congregants as well as communicating the policy that is created
-       Monitoring – Monitoring the Senior Minister through an executive limitations process under policy governance.

But we also have another responsibility that is not part of the job description—is to be the leadership body that think in long-term time horizons, and always have our eye on the future. Setting a course and steering a ship, and measuring our progress as we travel on this journey. We are Unitarians, so maybe the analogy is piling in our 1969 VW bus, and making our journey with a map, a lot of coffee, and good fellowship. 

Thankfully, we have the ability to periodically pause, take a breath, and see how far we've come, and discover what else we can do to get us toward our goal. The annual meeting is one of those times, and I want to use this opportunity to share with you-- from a birds-eye view-- how far we've come.  

To do this, I am going to use the 3M's-- 3 things that are most important to a vibrant church: Mission, Membership, and Money. In each of these M’s, we have the ability to measure how we’re doing. Many of you know I am a numbers guy, and I believe that measurement matters, especially measuring the things that will help us grow into a vibrant and healthy church. The three M’s matter.


The First "M" is "Mission". Fortunately, we have a valid and reliable tool to measure how we are doing on our mission. It is Congregational Survey.  We have done this comprehensive survey twice recently—once in 2013, and once in 2016. You may have seen these results, but we did not talk about them in the last annual meeting because the 2016 results were not completed at the time of the meeting, so many of you will be hearing these results for the first time.

CONNECT “People feel they belong and are cared for” Are we achieving this? YES
      79% say they feel welcomed, encourages, and able to be part of the church community.  (An increase from 2013 measurement) 
      For the statement, “I’ve developed close relationships with others at church” 67% agrees, an 18% increase from 2013

GROW “People of all agers experience a spiritually vital faith community and have the opportunity for personal and spiritual growth.” Are we achieving this? YES 

      66% say they've found ways to grow spiritually, and 
      72% say the church has challenged them to be their best selves. (This is big increase from previous measurement)

SERVE “The church is a force for service, social justice, and environmental justice” Are we achieving this? We are doing pretty good, but we are not there yet.

      53% say they are serving the larger community. This is actually down 2% from last measurement, BUT a vision has been put forward by our senior minister to deepen our ties with a core group of existing partners, etc. The idea moving forward is to be more meaningful to fewer organizations. Instead of spreading ourselves too thin, we need to enhance on our existing partnerships like VOICE and our work related to Guatemala-- NISGUA/PAG/ADVIMA


By “Members” I am referring to a larger group that includes Friends, Inquiring Friends, Newcomers, etc. Are we gaining new members/friends, newcomers? (YES. 83 new members and 200 new inquiring friends, and RE attendance is up almost 20%). We have never seen such a surge of newcomers in such a short amount of time in this church’s recent history. We are doing something right.
Not just quantity but a diverse quality of members. We are gaining more younger members, and membership is slowly becoming more diverse.
2016: 92% white
2013: 98% white

Are we financially sustainable? YES. Pledges have been flat for several years, but just this past year, we are starting to see new patterns of giving. We are seeing new growth where we’ve never seen before. 

·      A large percentage of members doubled their pledge, 
·      We’ve received a high percentage of pledges that are not even members yet. 
·      A large percentage of first time pledgers
·      More people are giving more than giving less
·      We raised over $50,000 in our 100% online “Giving Tuesday” campaign in April. 
·      Actively interviewing consultants in preparation for a “Reduce the Debt” Capital campaign, retiring out $3.3M debt, and putting our church debt free for the first time ever!
·      Tamara has implemented significant cost controls on expenditures
·      We have a plan and a direction


Most UU churches are in decline, and are averaging a 2% membership loss per year. If you do the math, that is a 20% decline over a 10-year period. There are a few large churches that are bucking that trend, specifically, Unity Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul, All Souls in NYC, and All Souls in Tulsa. There are four primary factors that those top performing churches share:

1.    They have a solid governance structure, and in the case of the best-performing UU churches, and almost all large UU churches, they use a policy governance system. Like the constitution of the Unites States, it provides a framework to operate in (it does not guarantee perfect interpretation and execution!) That comes from best practice churches second point…

2.    They Have a culture of leadership and leadership development. The best churches grow their own leaders. They model good leadership, recognize and recruit leaders within the congregation, and spend a lot of time on leadership development. The combination of good leadership in a policy governance framework assures decisions are made for the benefit of the mission. 

3.    They have a culture of embracing change. Congregations that see change as a friend, not an enemy are healthier churches. Growth and change are interrelated; you can’t have growth without making changes. Please refer to my Blog-- “Growth, Change, and Being Bumpy” – declines are almost imperceptible. They are like piutting a from in a pot of water and slowly turning up the heat to a boil. Before you know it, you are dead. A 2% membership loss a year is little enough to be unremarkable, but over time, we are that dead frog. Growth can be a wild ride, particularly with new initiatives happening all the time. New growth is bumpy and sometimes uncomfortable. 

“If you want to do something new, you have to stop doing something old” – Peter Drucker

4.    They have a visionary senior minister—The best performing churches have visionary ministers. In our search process for a new minister back in 2013, we asked on the survey the type of minister we wanted. There were four choices: 1)The Administrator—a leader who crosses his t’s and dots his i’s on all issues, 2) Pastoral – a minister that tends to the individuals in the flock—usually good for small churches, 3) An intellectual- a minister that challenges your brain, but not your heart-- perhaps like Rev. Kim Beach in the 90's, and 4) The Prophet—a minister that leads with vision and charisma. The survey clear what we wanted… the prophet.

We have not arrived on our journey of accomplishing all the outcomes we want.  We don’t quite have all the 4 pieces together of a best-practice church.

But if you haven’t notices, the world is burning outside of these walls, and the world needs us. And if that’s not enough motivation to being as effective in our mission as possible, I don’t know what is.

So this is a Board report—aren’t you going to talk about Board stuff? This IS board stuff. Critical job of the board is to elevate the conversation to the big picture, to the long haul, and to focus on measurable outcomes. We do sweat the small stuff, we do get into the nitty gritty of daily life at the church, but our true north compass faces the future. 

All that said, we are going through changes right now. Our Faith In Action minister is leaving at the end of the month. This is hard for many of you. The board does hear you. But we will move on. We’ve had ministers here for 19 year and survived, for 13 years, for 5 years, and we even survived an unpopular interim minister for 2-years and survived. We will be fine. 

We will make this work, we will move forward, and we will do it as a community that is grounded in our values of COMPASSION – GRATITUDE – TRUST – DIVERSITY – COMMITMENT.

Thank you.