News 4 Leaders

These posts are “news memos” for the lay leaders of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, NC.  

They provide a forum for staff and lay leaders to consider a variety of issues affecting the life of the congregation.  Most memos are written by the congregation’s Director of Administration with input from various staff members.

Comments are moderated by the Director of Administration.  All members are invited to comment – to comment click on post title, comment area will be at the bottom of the post.

Posts are irregularly timed.  

News 4 Leaders Blog

Getting Better at Planning and Measuring, One Step at a Time

OK, I have to talk about “policy governance” here for a bit, but KEEP READING! 

A brief refresher for our newest leaders:  the Board works to discern the will of the congregation and writes Ends Statements that give direction for our ministries and programming.  The Executive (Rev. Mark Ward) takes those Ends Statements, writes a few paragraphs about what he thinks they mean “in action” and then works with staff who work with volunteers to move the congregation toward the Ends Statements.  The Executive is then evaluated on the achievement of the Ends.

This year, the Board suggested that the Executive choose a small subset of the Ends to work on and then propose measurable goals for them.  That way, by next June, we ought to be able to see if we’ve met those goals.   It’s a very sensible way to organize an institution, but it’s not easy.

Here is the Executive’s 2016-17 WORK PLAN FOR ACHIEVING ENDS:


“We will embrace principles, values and practices which explore the sacred in the world and the mystery of existence.”

“We will gather together in worship which guides and sustains our individual and communal response to the sacred through multifaceted creative, artistic, and musical experiences.”

Our chief goal in this area is to more deeply integrate families in the worship & spiritual life of the congregation.

What we will measure and plan (hope?) to report to the Board next summer:

  1. 30% of registered families will be present in Sunday worship at least twice a month.
  2. The lead minister will report that at least 50 children or youth had roles in Sunday worship at some time during the regular worship year.
  3. The director of lifespan religious education will report that at least 10 UUCA families have developed family spiritual practices at home.
  4. At least 4 parents of children in religious education will have given statements in worship about why this congregation is important to them.
  5. We will hold 6 planned multigenerational activities during the year at which at least 8 children and 4 adults participate.


“Congregants will feel welcome and connected with each other”

Our chief goal in this area is to improve retention of UUCA members.

What we will measure and plan (hope?) to report to the Board next summer:

  1. 75% of congregants interviewed at each stage of the Connection process – visitors entering new member classes, those contacted after their first year & those contacted after three years at UUCA, will report that they feel welcomed and connected to the congregation.
  2. 66% of new members will report being involved in some activity of the congregation within six months of joining.
  3. 50% of members contacted after their first year will report being currently involved in some activity of the congregation.
  4. 33% of members contacted after three years at UUCA will report being currently involved in some activity of the congregation.


We will act meaningfully and visibly in community service, advocacy, and education.”

Our chief goal in this area is to broaden meaningful participation in the Social Justice ministry of the congregation.

What we will measure and plan (hope?) to report to the Board next summer:

  1. At least 150 congregants will participate in the Just Change workshop.
  2. At least 150 congregants will take part in programs arising from the Just Change workshop.
  3. At least 25% of congregants will have reported some activity during this church year to broaden their understanding or awareness of racism.
  4. At least 25% of congregants will participate in service, advocacy and education outside of the congregation.

Black Lives Matter Educational Materials for Your Group

UUCA’s ARGA Team (Anti-Racism Group Action) is leading the congregation in following through on our recent Congregational Resolution that clearly and firmly states that we are committed, all of us, to educating ourselves about and deepening our understanding of white privilege and oppressive systems.  To this end, they have developed a packet of materials that all of us can use to do this work, inch by inch, meeting by meeting, conversation by conversation.  This packet is posted on our website.  (Use the search term “Black Lives Matter” in our website’s search box if you don’t have the link handy.)

Are you in a covenant, theme, or other kind of connections group at UUCA? As you share of yourselves and your experiences, how can you bring themes and messages of the Black Lives Matter movement into your conversations? Are you on a committee focused on an Earth or Social Justice area other than anti-racism? We are learning more and more about the intersectionality of justice work. How can you bring the work you are doing into conversation with the Black Lives Matter movement?

We hope you will take seriously our congregation’s commitment.  Now is the time–for ourselves, our congregation, our city, and our nation.

UUCA-Based Leadership Training

“How Is Being A UU Leader Different From Being A Leader in the Business or Non-Profit World?” UUCA’s own Leadership Development Committee is presenting this workshop on Sunday, February 28th from 4 to 6 PM in the RE Commons.

We want you to come!  Whether you are interested in leadership positions at UUCA now or just want to plan ahead for that time when you ARE ready, we would love to have you attend.  One of the best ways we can plan for a bright and happy future for UUCA is to continually find new leaders.  The Leadership Development Committee is assigned the role of keeping developing leaders “in the pipeline” so that we are not in the position of looking for “warm bodies” at the last minute as we fill extraordinarily important positions at UUCA such as board members, finance advisory members, lifespan religious education leaders and others.

We shall bribe you with food!  Pizza and salad will be served. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to by February 21.

The Greenville, SC Workshop Has Been Rescheduled

From Mark:  Please note that Connie Goodbread’s workshop, which got cancelled because of the snow storm, has been rescheduled for March 19, a day that, thankfully, works much better for us. I see no events on the UUCA calendar that conflict with it. We haven’t had many opportunities to interact with other UUs in our area for a while and this event has the advantage of being within easy driving distance and led by a first-class facilitator. I recommend promoting it among UUCA leaders or up-and-coming candidates for leadership.

CONFLICT, CHANGE, COVENANT & COMMUNITY: A Workshop for Congregational Leaders

Where: Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1135 State Park Road, Greenville, SC 29609

When: Saturday, March 19, 2016,  10AM-4PM

 Registration: $15 per participant, includes light morning snacks and lunch.  Registration Closes on March 13

Fees are payable online at Eventbrite Payment Linkby check (made to GUUF), or at the door.  Contact Kathleen Anderson, to register. Please include your name, congregation, and food preferences (omnivore-vegetarian-vegan). Kathleen will reply with confirmation.

A Daylong Workshop for Congregational Leaders

We have received notice that the Greenville, SC Fellowship is hosting a workshop by Connie Goodbread of the UUA Southern Region on Saturday, January 23, 9am to 3pm.

At our senior staff meeting this morning, Mark, Lisa, Joy and I agreed that we’d love to see many of our leaders attend this event.  We think Connie Goodbread is a terrific workshop leader and we think the topic, “Conflict, Change and Community” hits all the buttons that we (and nearly every other congregation in the country) are dealing with.

Click here to see a description of the workshop and a short bio of Connie Goodbread on EventBrite.  This is also the gateway to paying your registration fee.

Although the price is low, if you can’t afford it, UUCA will cover the cost with a scholarship (apply through the scholarship application form on our website).

Please consider attending!

WHAT:  Conflict, Change & Community: A Daylong Workshop for     Congregational Leaders

WHERE:  Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1135 State Park Road, Greenville, SC  29609

WHEN:  Saturday, January 23, 2016, 9am-3pm

Contact Kathleen Anderson at to register, use the EventBrite link to pay. (Fees are payable online at Eventbrite, by check (made to GUUF), or at the door.)

Registration BEFORE January 10 is $15 per participant; late registration will be $25.



Introducing the New Fundraising Policy

When UUCA began giving away every Sunday collection to Share-the-Plate recipients last year, we essentially began a year-round “ask” for money from our congregants.  Nearly everyone is in favor of this community support program, but it drastically changes the “giving pressures” on congregants. Consequently, UUCA’s senior staff believes that we need to be much more thoughtful about how and when additional fundraisers occur, especially since we also regularly not only ask for a commitment to the annual operating budget (essential for planning!), but we also supplement the money people pay to their commitments with an auction, a used-book sale, Mountain Spirit Coffeehouse, the holiday craft fair and a few other contributors to the annual operating budget.

As a result, a new fundraising policy has been created to reflect the changing needs of the congregation. The old policy basically said, “Check with the Board of Trustees” if you want to initiate a fundraiser.  The new policy is a bit more nuanced, explanatory and, we hope, helpful.

What Should I Do?

Now that the new policy is in effect, each group within the congregation that does fundraising for outside organizations needs to take some time to assess your existing and potential fundraisers. We suggest that you read the new policy, ask questions, and think about what you want to do moving forward. Is your recipient a candidate for Share-the-Plate? The bottom line is that we will not be able to do every single one of the fundraisers we’ve done in the past, but we have an opportunity to be more intentional about the choices we make. Your staff liaison is available to help facilitate this conversation if it would be helpful.  (Remember that each committee and group in the church is “attached” to a senior staff member; Rev. Mark Ward, Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper, Joy Berry or Linda Topp.)

Ultimately, the goal is to effectively use any funds we collect to support outside organizations (although we’d prefer supporting organizations with our time and talent rather than our money) while at the same time focusing our efforts so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by unrelenting requests for donations at UUCA.

General Information about UUCA Policies

Here’s a little review about UUCA policies in general:  There are two levels of policies that affect the workings of the congregation.  The first set is the “policies of the Board,” and they take the form of the Governance Document.  The Board has no other policies.  All the rest of the policies of the congregation come from the Executive.  The Governance Document states that the Executive needs to “Insure that a complete and current set of Congregational policies is readily accessible to all members of the Congregation.”  Despite all best efforts, that “complete and current set of Congregational policies” does not yet exist.  Ever since we switched to policy governance, the policies that existed before then became out of kilter with the new way of doing things.  However, though it’s been three years since we switched, the “policy project” has not been completed.  Last year I put together a Policy Team to address this situation, but just as we were getting started, the Welcome Project started and ALL of my time has been consumed by my regular work duties PLUS Welcome Project duties.  However, when the need has arisen, we have updated a few of the “old” policies.   They include the Facilities Rental policy, the Inclement Weather policy, the Gift Acceptance Policy, the Naming Policy and now the Fundraising policy.  All can be found linked off of the Board of Trustees page on our website.

Spirit Play Needs You—Truly

As you may recall, last spring the RE Committee announced a new way to offer Spirit Play to our kindergarten-5th graders.  The Spirit Play curriculum is already an outstandingly interactive, age-appropriate, fun way to encourage faith development in our youngest UUs and the new plan seemed to make it even better by being able to allocate resources differently while giving kids the opportunity to interact in mixed-age groups.  However……

As an experimental year, almost everything is good. The stories are always interesting and the times for activities, be they art, drama, dance, contemplation or science, are a wonder to behold.  Early on, we noticed that the second service 4th and 5th graders were not engaging properly.  We had a most amazing offer from Anna Olsen who offered to lead a separate class for these young ‘uns who are now prospering in their self-named class, District 45.

Here’s the part where we need YOU!  At its inception, using “activity rooms” as way to do Spirit Play was new so it was not obvious how to recruit teachers/helpers for the various adult roles needed each Sunday.  Everyone hoped that with a shorter-term commitment, it would be easy to fill the slots.  Turns out that our hopes did not become our reality.  So, for the rest of this year, WE NEED SPIRIT PLAY ADULTS!!!

If each person reading this gave up three Sunday worship services from now through mid-May to instead give their time to UU children, all the teaching and helping slots would be filled, and then some.  Joy, Jen and Kim (our lifespan religious education staff) absolutely cannot do it all.  In fact, they shouldn’t be doing it at all.  These are our children, this is our congregation, and we proclaim that “children are important.”  If you believe that, then you must also believe that these children are important to you, and that you need to be part of a solution to a problem that we think we can mend next year.  But for the remainder of this year, please contact Joy right now to tell her you are willing to lead (they have advice and resources available) or at least be the second person in the room for three Sundays (or two, or one if that’s all you’ve got).

Your congregation has a very specific, immediate need for your time and talent.  Please take this opportunity to live your values.

Visioning for the Future:  Lifespan Religious Education at UUCA

An extremely important UUCA workshop for Congregational Leaders

Friday, February 27 5:00-8:00 pm and Saturday, February 28  9:00 am–3:00 pm

Generally speaking, it’s always good to set a destination before you set off on your journey.  Now that our new Director of Lifespan Religious Education has gotten the lay of the land here at UUCA, it’s time to help Joy Berry set the future direction of all the educational programs we provide for adults, youth and children.  We urge you to join in on this important opportunity to talk about the ministry of religious education and faith development at UUCA.

The UUA has consultants to help out with these types of workshops and sure enough, our Visioning weekend will be led by Kathy McGowan, a Congregational Life Staff member of the Southern Region.  Because lifespan religious education is such a vital piece of a UU congregation—what Rev. William Sinkford, former UUA President and current minister of one of our largest congregations, called the engine of new growth in our churches and what many of us understand to be the place where faith formation most concretely occurs—we need YOU to be in on the conversation.  This work is covenantal in nature, and so we are inviting all who have an interest in religious education and faith formation to attend—lay leaders, board members, parents, elders, teachers, and youth are especially invited.

As you know, our Board is working this year to discern again the future of UUCA, so too, this lifespan religious education visioning process needs your voice to help shape the future of UUCA.  During this time, we will share our knowledge of the history of RE at UUCA and look to the future as we envision the program of faith formation that we will work together to create. We will consider expectations of the congregation and outline mutual hopes for the future of the program.  A Covenant for Excellence in Religious Education invites us to place lifespan religious education and faith development at the center and heart of congregational life.

Here is a rough schedule of what’s planned:

Friday night, 5pm-8pm: It’s a Potluck History Party!!

All are invited to a church-wide potluck in RE Commons. We will start a conversation about “where do we come from;” a bit of the history of lifespan religious education at UUCA.  It would be very nice if people who actually had some historical knowledge of our congregation showed up!

Childcare will be provided – RSVP to with ages of kids.

Saturday, 9am-3pm: On to the Future!!

Everyone in attendance—congregational leaders (that’s you) and board, RE committee members, RE staff, ministers, youth, members, friends—everyone who is passionate about the ministry of religious education and faith development will gather to set the course for the best, most meaningful faith formation/religious education program UUCA has ever known!

Lunch will be catered, childcare will be provided.  RSVP to for lunch, for childcare (specify ages please).

Y’all come!

Staffing for Growth

There is an excellent presentation on YouTube by Rev. Scott Tayler, UUA Director of Congregational Life, and Mark Bernstein, Growth Consultant, CERG (Central East Regional Group of the UUA covering most of OH and WV, all of NY and parts of PA and NJ) addressing  four organizing models for multi-site ministries.  The video is embedded at the bottom of this posting.

Aside from the clarity Scott and Mark bring to the idea of multi-site churches (four variations of how some functions can be centralized to provide support to geographically separate congregations), they describe the reasons why multi-site ministries are starting to spring up.

They first make a case for “staffing for growth.”  Here is their premise (these are well-known figures):

  • Staffing for decline = one program staff person per 200 congregants
  • Staffing for maintenance = one program staff person per 150 congregants
  • Staffing for growth = one program staff person per 100 congregants

I would contend that in our case, “congregants” are our members, friends, children and youth—all people who benefit from programs at UUCA.  So, the numbers for UUCA:

  • Number of members and friends and children and youth: 800
  • Number of program staff (full-time equivalent): 4.75   [Mark (1), Lisa (1), Milt (0.5), Joy (1), Nick (1), Jen (0.25)]

UUCA has one program staff person for every 168 members, meaning that we are staffed for something between maintenance and decline.

They then go on to explain the budget pressures that congregations are experiencing that make it impossible to staff for growth:

  • Rising health care costs
  • Building maintenance requirements
  • Financial responsibility resulting from our covenantal relationship with the UUA (the Southern Region’s GIFT (Generously Investing for Tomorrow) program)
  • Moral responsibility to fairly compensate staff
  • Rising energy costs (currently not a factor)

So, if it is impossible to staff for growth, how do we currently handle the growth we experience every year, the 30-40 newcomers who become members and friends of UUCA each year?  Right now, we simply lose the equivalent number each year, maintaining our membership number but literally not growing.  We are staffed for maintaining, and maintaining is what we do.

Whether we choose to use a multi-site ministry to help address this remains to be seen.  I just thought it was fascinating.  Here are some “wonder questions” we might ask.

  1. How might staffing for decline look at UUCA?  What might you see happening as a result of not having enough staff to oversee programs?  (This is different from administrative staff needed to keep the organization going.)
  2. How might staffing for maintenance look?  What might you see happening as a result of having just enough program staff hours to keep up with the existing programs?
  3. How might staffing for growth look?  What might you see happening as a result of having staff members with plenty of time to create and oversee programs?
  4. What could we accomplish if we were able to grow beyond 700 members/friends to, let’s say 800?
  5. What are some reasons we might want to stay just the size we are?

Here’s that YouTube video about multi-site congregations:


Communications, Again—Specifically the Monthly Newsletter

An early post laid out the communications issues that we deal with on staff.  This post continues the conversation.

 We have now converted our monthly newsletter to an electronic format and created a one-page UUCA Communique that we mail to our non-electronic members and friends (about 20).  Unfortunately, I think this was one of those things that “seemed like a good idea at the time.”

The electronic version of the monthly newsletter does in fact accomplish what we set out to do.  It’s much more reader-friendly on a computer or smaller device, it takes much less time to lay out than the print version did, and it does not require strict word limits for articles.  However, it has one fatal flaw: it reads exactly like a weekly enews edition WITH a month’s-worth of sermon titles and 4 columns.  And that causes its own set of problems.

First of all (because it’s all about me, right?), it is a completely aggravating experience to proofread both the monthly newsletter and the weekly enews because 1) they are extremely redundant and yet 2) are created by two different staff members so that edits I have made in one do not carry to the other.  Let’s just say it’s not fun to make the exact same changes to the same announcement twice.  (I edit them because I am here and because I have a good overview of what’s going on and can therefore add to or shorten an article intelligently.)  Second, we have hopelessly confused all the folks who submit articles to us.  Now no one knows who creates the monthly newsletter (Jules), who creates the enews (Tish) and what differences they should make to their announcements for each outlet (none of us seems to be clear on that).

But, most important of all, there is no reason to have two of the same set of announcements available electronically if they both are accessible on the website (and then printed for the order of service besides).  So, here’s a proposal for your comment:

  • Maintain the weekly enews and the insert to the order of service. (Remember that this also gets posted to the website so the current and past editions are always available for reference.)
  • Discontinue the monthly newsletter.
  • Add a “calendar” page to the lifespan religious education website area that reproduces what has been available in the monthly newsletter.
  • Create a new “post” page on the website that will feature a new column each week by one of our four column writers (Mark, Lisa, Joy and Board Chair Jane Bramham). Each enews will link to the newest column.  And as a bonus, these columns will allow for reader comments.
  • Recruit a volunteer* to create the monthly UUCA Communique printed piece for mailing and foyer rack placement (no luck finding this person yet).

What do YOU think about this latest proposal?

* Remember that Jules has reduced her work hours to 30 per week, so replacing her with this one volunteer job and having Tish create the enews should help her fit her other work into the allotted hours.  Jules’ reduction in work hours also has the happy side effect of reducing our personnel costs a bit.

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