Large list of non-contributing churches

I wasn’t going to write about the certification of UUA congregations because I didn’t think it would do any good. But one thing stuck out when I looked at the certification list — which closed on February 1 — so a few words.

I was struck by how many congregations gave no money to the UUA.

There are always some: very small or fragile ones, for instance, and I’ve noticed that Christian and Pagan congregations are over-represented. I read that as alienation, discontent with services provided or not provided and perhaps more. Non-contributing is one of the things that keeps you from having voting representation at General Assembly (big deal) so, the UUA isn’t truly being punitive for publishing this list. But I’m sure peer pressure plays into the calculus (good luck with that) — and besides, showing displeasure goes both ways.

What makes this year different is the number of non-fragile, non-tiny, middle-of-the-road congregations on the list. More than I’ve ever seen before. Not that the UUA has been the easiest to defend lately, at least on financial grounds. I can imagine the calculus of giving nothing to the UUA as opposed to planning for strategic spending or making up for losses. The UUA is a hard sell, especially as it becomes harder and harder to identify what one gets for the money. Who might be emboldened by that list, rather than embarrassed?

Many people I know have fallen for Marie Kondo’s method of de-cluttering, and her signal question, “Does it spark joy?” The list suggests that, for some at least, the UUA doesn’t.

3 Replies to “Large list of non-contributing churches”

  1. One of the congregations on the list is one that I have served in the past. I’m guessing that it doesn’t matter to them if they can’t vote at GA because they very rarely even send delegates to GA. And I can imagine the membership thinking that it might be better to spend their funds closer to home, at a time when I’m pretty certain their budget is probably declining due to demographic shifts in the congregation. More older members on fixed income, and the small group of younger members sadled with massive student debt. The deep pocket givers have largely died out. And in all honesty, choices then need to be made about where to match resources with the congregation’s sense of calling.

  2. The 2008 recession hit UU congregations hard, and I suspect most congregations never really recovered from that. And health care costs for staff are outpacing inflation. And do a Web search for Baumol’s Cost Paradox.

    All this means that nearly all UU congregations are losing ground financially. This trend holds true through much of the nonprofit sector, especially for nonprofits that rely on member donations. And this trend is probably hitting UU congregations even harder because of the demographic trend that young people are avoiding organized religion.

    Congregations that aren’t making contributions to the UUA may represent a new trend. Dropping your UUA contribution is one obvious way to (temporarily) balance the budget.

    Another way of saying this: it’s not just the small congregations that are fragile these days; the mid-sized congregations are not facing serious financial stress, and that stress is only going to get worse.

  3. Sorry, typo, here’s a correction: The mid-sized congregations are NOW facing serious financial stress, and that stress is only going to get worse.

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