“Volunteering to host coffee hour is a great way for newer folks to get involved.”

“We used to have potluck dinners, but we have so many dinners offered in our service auction that we don’t seem to have the interest to plan potlucks anymore.”

“Attending Leadership School helped me to be an effective congregational leader.”

“I’ll just buy it and donate it to the church.”

How many times have you heard (or said) something like this?  For potential leaders (or just people looking for ways to serve or get connected) figuring out the congregation’s way of doing things can create a bit of a learning curve, just as in any organization.  But for those who don’t have much (or any) disposable income, some norms can create a financial barrier against potential involvement.

“Volunteering to host coffee hour is a great way for newer folks to get involved.”

  • Financial implication:
    If you coffee hour host duties include providing snacks, this could be a barrier, especially if some host provide expensive snacks and set the bar a little high.
  • Other ideas:
    -Provide a budget line item for coffee hour snacks
    -Have separate sign-ups for providing snacks and doing the set-up / clean-up
    -Organize hospitality teams, such as the UU Fellowship of Centre County, PA does

“We used to have members host potluck dinners, but we have so many dinners offered in our service auction that we don’t seem to have the interest to plan potlucks anymore.”

  • Financial implication:
    To make social connections in the congregation, there is a cost.
  • Other ideas:
    -Schedule potlucks or game nights in the church social hall rather than people’s homes
    -Offer low-cost fixed-price dinners

“Attending Leadership School helped me to be an effective congregational leader.”

  • Financial implication:
    Many potential leaders don’t have the extra money or time off from work to attend a week-long leadership school.
  • Other ideas:
    -Provide a budget line item for leadership development, especially for young adults.

“I’ll just buy it and donate it to the church.”

  • Financial implication:
    The true cost of programs and committees is not reflected in the budget.  There may be an unspoken expectation that leaders who take on a responsibility cover the incidental costs in order to be successful.
  • Other ideas:
    -Provide a budget line item for each committee with latitude for the committee chairs to spend the money without being micro-managed
    -Insist that volunteers and leaders who do donate report those expenditures (and make it easy to do so!)
About the Author
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Leadership Development Consultant, Central East Regional Group (CERG) of the UUA. I have a vision of Unitarian Universalist congregations being led by thousands of diverse, spiritually mature and passionate people ready and willing to spread the good news of liberal religion.  I believe ministry is best when shared between lay and professional leaders. More information about me can be found on the CERG regional website.
  • kinsi

    This is a real issue and I’m glad to see it being mentioned here. The Days Off thing has kept me out of leadership, both congregationally and denominationally along with working an atypical work schedule. In a way, it’s a financial barrier assuming folks work a 9 to 5 schedule to be able to be in church leadership.

  • Aimee Loubert

    I am so glad you posted this. this is an ongoing issue for some.

  • Melissa Barlett

    My board was kind enough to move their day and help me with rides just to get me to join, which is great, because now I can bring up important issues like these, especially how social functions are often money/time exclusive and membership does not equal money. I’m hoping to make our church more accessible to our local, semi-urban, lower income population.

    Also – hi Renee! I’m a board member now. How did that happen?

    • http://www.cerguua.org Rev. Renee Ruchotzke

      Hi Melissa! You’ve been a leader as long as I’ve known you! I’m glad you’ve found a congregation that was willing to make shifts to accommodate different schedules!

  • http://mandiemcglynn.com Mandie McGlynn

    Thank you for this.

    Another suggestion I made to my congregation recently is to include TIME as part of the pledge drive. Encourage members to consider what they have to give – time, money, neither?, both? – and in what balance. As a paycheck-to-paycheck, relatively new member of my congregation, I wanted to be involved and to give. We stretched our budget to pledge, but I also have volunteered my time and services on committees, helping rebuild the website, administering the facebook page, etc. Time is what I have more of, and I feel perfectly fine that it is the majority of my pledge to our congregation.