People's Church
115 West Loomis St.
Ludington, MI 49431
Phone: (231) 845-6493
Sunday Services 11:00am

Heart & Mind - January 2018

Heart and Mind - January 2018 - Dr. Lou Yock

As we begin the budget process for 2018-19, I was able to review past documents that dealt with the process in light of our goals of being open, transparent, and democratic.  Board minutes from 2008 contained a Finance Committee report that perfectly captured what I wanted to write:  “The budget should be the framework for the church’s financial program.  Since that budget is developed openly with committee and member input, amended or endorsed by the Board, and voted on by the congregation, it represents a broad base of view and priorities, not just those advocated by a single individual or small group.”

            When implemented with these goals in mind, the budget process is one of the best ways for congregants to know what is happening, what the priorities are, and best of all, be as involved as they want to be.  For some reason though, this phrase “budget process,” often strikes dread and inspires loathing.   I write this to urge everyone to keep in mind that the budget process is one of the surest ways to assure openness, transparency, and democracy.

            You know how much I like committees.  I like committees because I believe this is where openness and transparency start, and where the democratic process is best implemented.  Committees can be argumentative and cumbersome, but that’s what happens when we are open, transparent, and democratic.  Many churches use a hierarchical model which is more efficient and accomplishes goals, but leaves people out of the decision making.  We, by choice, include our friends and members in the decision making process. 

            Committees are the means by which we let each other know what’s going on, what’s being considered, how the decisions are being made, and provide the rationale.  None of our committee meetings or board meetings are closed.  Because we do not want to have a congregational vote on every item, or the board voting on every item, we entrust the committees and give them a budget to make and implement the decisions.  The budget requests go to the finance committee, the annual campaign works to raise funds for the budget, then the final budget is given to the congregation for final approval at the annual meeting.  The more specific committees are in their requests, the more open and transparent the process, and the more individuals are involved in the process. 

            The Finance Committee requests that people and committees submit items for consideration in the 2018-19 budget, which begins in June, along with a projected cost for the proposed program or project.   Not everything requested will be acted on.  Not every good idea will be accomplished next year.  But we don’t want to let that discourage us.  It may be acted on in the following year, or the year after, or maybe it will be acted upon in the next year after all, depending on successful fundraising, heightened interest, or unused funds.  Whatever the decision of the committees, finance committee, board, and ultimately, the congregation, it is good that we let each other know what we are thinking about. 

            As a side note, keep in mind that we will celebrate our 25th Anniversary as a church in March of 2019—so the budget we are writing now includes that occasion.

            Part of our witness as UUs is modeling how our ideals can be implemented.  We want to show that discussion and reasoning can lead to good collective actions, even when we do not always get our way.  We do not pledge just so that a particular project can go forward, but to witness to the trust and support I share with the members of my congregation.  I encourage everyone to welcome and engage in the budget process.  Work with your committees to determine what it is you would like to see done over the next year or two.  And then, when the annual campaign begins in March, consider the value of the process we use.  Our pledges may not always meet our particular heart’s desire, but our funding does support the collective work of an open, transparent, and democratic process