Yes indeed I'm a child of the 80's, so I will subject our entire 3800-person readership to bad-punny Tracy Chapman allusions. That's how I roll.
And if this is what it takes to get your attention, I'm fine with that. Because some fascinating things are coming down the pike about district and regional staffing, programs, service to congregations, and some serious new efforts to get congregations connected to one another.
Here's what I know: the MBD-CBD staff - along with our colleagues in the Ballou Channing and Northern New England Districts - is moving slowly but surely toward a vision of a unified regional staff structure under a single Regional Lead. Why does this matter to you? Because we believe this shift will unlock potential for ministry that is currently stuck in redundant administrative and management systems and duplication of program efforts. We can save time, money, and human resources by sharing. It really is that simple.
We'd be foolish to underestimate the value of improved long-term economic sustainability. The Clara Barton District has about $500,000 in restricted and unrestricted assets, but that number diminishes every year because CBD congregations do not contribute sufficient district dues to cover current staffing levels. Stabilizing the economics of the staff team that serves you is imperative.
But saving resources only has limited value on its own merits. Ultimately, saving resources adds extra value when we can maintain or improve high levels of service to congregations at the same time.
We believe we will indeed live into such improvements, because it has already happened here in the Mass Bay and Clara Barton Districts over the last three years since we began sharing everything. We have doubled the number of staff people available to congregations, added a justice ministries position, and improved both the quantity and quality of district programs and services.
Here's where the devolution part comes in. Even as we expand the geographical domain of regional UUA field staff, we will focus intensely on bringing congregations together at a more local level to learn together.
Here's what we're going to do:
- Provide more programs locally. We intend to staff an increasing number of congregation-led and -hosted events where regional staff will come in as trainers and local congregations will choose the topics and invite their neighbors to learn alongside each other.
- Expand the number of locally based peer consultants. We trained sixty (60!) gifted congregational leaders this summer as "peer consultants" who will be available to facilitate board retreats, coach congregations in transition, build capacity for youth ministry and other really cool stuff. Peers teaching peers is a powerful model of covenantally-rooted learning.
- Support our district boards as they change their focus from governance to stewarding associational connections. You may not be aware of just how visionary the CBD and MBD boards are, but they are leading the nation (IMHO) in truly prophetic re-envisioning of how leaders at the congregational, district, and regional level might connect to make way for a new Great Awakening of liberal religion in New England.
You might say we are growing bigger to grow smaller. This is not some obfuscatory semantic fog meant to distract people from scary changes. The changes we are pursuing might indeed be scary to some, but we believe with all of our faithful hearts that our congregations, and our faith, will be well served.
Send your own bad puns, or reach out with your questions, hopes, or concerns. We are all learning our way through this together!