Patience while I review the numbers

So now I’m curious what the total congregational expenditures and membership numbers tell us. How much church “do you get” for the money? This goes right to the question of church development.

These are fair, but rarely asked questions when the promoted culture is “give, baby, give.” Must you have $2,000 to spare per head to be a Unitarian Universalist? Or more? And what if you think the money is — frankly — better used elsewhere?

It’ll take me some time to review the numbers.

How you've learned to cope with less

This isn’t a “favorite lentil soup” post as such.

Will Shetterly yesterday linked to two article about class, one of which was “Rich People Things, with Chris Lehmann: A Steady Diet of Nothing

From that article comes this vital point:

While there’s little data this early in our present calamity to track the formation of durable attitudes toward saving, spending and government intervention in the economy, the general rule of thumb is that “even one really tough year experienced in early adulthood is enough to fundamentally change people’s core values and behaviors,” according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. And as Foroohar goes on to explain, “there’s an entire body of research to show that recession babies not only invest more conservatively, they tend to make less money, choose safer jobs, and believe in wealth redistribution and more government intervention.”

That’s certainly my experience. The 90s, when others were making tons of money (it seemed), were very hard for me financially. Graduating in 1991 in a bad economy, I made the mistake of going to grad school to bide my time, knowing that seminary would follow. I lived humbly and borrowed much less than others, but my first settlement barely paid at all and extra work wasn’t enough to land me in deep personal debt. It took half of the 00s with careful stewardship to drop the debt and start saving. Today, I’m comfortably middle aged and middle class; Hubby — I met him at the perfect time; too early and I would been in survival mode — and I have made a happy home with a happy mortgage.

But the old habits are there. I still don’t spend much, and there are times that I feel stingy, even if that’s not the case. I want to make use of items that others might throw away. While I don’t hoard food any more, I do like to keep supplies on hand. I save quite a bit, and even my indulgences — web domains, fountain pens and loose tea — are rather domestic, and not high-end. (And I don’t still understand the appeal of brand snobbery.)

So I suspect that however much money I may have (or not have) my habits will fundamentally be the same from here on. Practical, true, but with its own washed-out character. A character that I’ve adopted, and somewhat counterbalance (I hope) with a slightly more expressive and wry character than I once had. I feel more a part of my generation now than ever before.

That’s how I’ve learned to cope with less. And there’s a lot more less going on these day.

How do you manage?

PolityWonk on ministerial formation

I agree with Elizabeth (of “Elizabeth’s Little Blog”) that you should read PolityWonk’s “How UU Ministry Got to Be So Expensive” — and especially the little-told parts of the story from point #7 onwards.

In a related note, my own choice of seminary was conditioned on the full tuition I got from Brite Divinity School (M.Div. ’97) — but only after I had ruled out Meadville Lombard and Starr King as viable options. That said, I’m working on a longer piece on the Meadville Lombard issue for publication at my long-format blog, RevScottWells.com. But I’ll risk taking time and getting it right than hacking out a few, punchy, attention-grabbing words.

Silverman on church finances

Yes, it’s a bit rude and tons of people have seen this. But it’s Sarah Silverman and I totally heart her.

And I love where she goes with respect to church wealth. And not just — by implication — the biggest owners.

"Can my boss do that?"

Interfaith Worker Justice tomorrow launches a Web site called “Can My Boss Do That?” — a worker-oriented resource that uses a question-and-answer format to address labor rights. Some sections are state-specific. The facts can be a bit depressing, at first view. From a design point-of-view, I like how (1) it warns workers that employers might know that they if read it from work, and (2) how it formats properly for print-outs. Important for someone who prints and passes-along information.

I had a chance to talk to IWJ executive director Kim Bobo about the project and her organization a few months ago — before the scope of the economic meltdown was well known. I’m convinced that her mission against wage theft and other outrages against working people are going to become even more important in the coming months and years. If this subject inspires you, be sure to buy or borrow a copy of her book, Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid—And What We Can Do About It. (Powell’s World of Books link)

Unitarian Universalist interest: IWF gets or has gotten direct UUA, UUCF UUSC and Veatch funding. I consider that a serious endorsement.

Spread the word.

When discounting memberships, internationally

Another church administration tidbit, in a roundabout way, though really more directed to membership organizations with any sort of international outreach —

Membership organizations usually offer discounts for cause to members of certain classes of person — the young, the unemployed, students, the elderly, low earners, the retired, military service personnel, and so on — or for modifications to membership — like multiple memberships in one household, multi-year advance payment or receiving mailings electronically. We share each others’ burdens as we lift each other up. Let each give as he or she can.

So, what about persons overseas? On the one hand, overseas memberships usually cost more to administer. On the other, overseas members may benefit less from joining. And compared to average in North America and Western Europe, most people in the rest of the world have a lot less money. What’s fair then?

The TeX Users Group — TeX is a typesetting system with a particular following, mathematics and hard science academics in particular — follows the lead of the American Mathematical Society. The later has a list of countries “with modest economies” (as the TUG puts it) whose residents pay $16 a year for membership, compared with $123 to U.S. residents earning less than $80,000 a year (or $164 for those earning more) or $41 for students and unemployed members. I don’t know what benefits membership brings, but — as a non-mathematician — that seems like a fair distribution of fees to me.

Bookmark, use Class Matters

While I was reading the Class Matters site, promoted by Victoria Weinstein, who heard it from Hafidha Sofia (Never Say Never to Your Traveling Self), I noted

  • the UU blogger who left a comment, which as a state land-grant university educated person I appreciated.
  • how it hurts a little because it reminds me of how low-class I sometimes have felt in Unitarian Universalist settings. Former blogger Matthew Gatheringwater coined or used the term “governess class” to describe overeducated people of modest backgrounds, like me; see his comment at Philocrites. I overcome the hurt — softer now — by hammering away and outlasting, and no, I wouldn’t trade my background for anything. I’m quite proud of my family’s and my accomplishments, thank you. Even the moonshiners. And don’t think you’re complementing me for “not sounding Southern.”
  • the most helpful article in explaining my perpetual anger and eye-rolling about the ways of certain self-indulgent Unitarian Universalists. File this under “unnecessary weirdness” and please remember I want a chair if you’re holding a meeting.
  • if I ever start a church, I will wear my Sunday Best and, when presiding or preaching, proper clerical vesture. (I hadn’t thought how my class position might be a reason I have written about this so much.)

It’s not ‘them’ — it’s us!” by Betsy Leondar-Wright (Class Matters)

With this entry, I open the category Class