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: