Dear Members and Friends of Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church,

Hello to all! 


First off, a big thank you for your patience. Waiting to hear from us was probably as fun as watching paint dry. For the past few months, we have been hard at work reviewing data, congregational reports, and vendor contracts.

Now, let's address the elephant in the room: the whispers about selling our church. While we're considering all options, selling our church is a last resort. We feel that our deficit of less than $100k has the potential to be managed.

Our task force's mission is to create a plan that can keep the church's lights on and our spirits high for years to come. This involves looking at ways to reduce expenses and increase revenues–all while keeping our congregation's needs at the forefront.


Here's a brief summary of what we've learned so far:

  1. Expenses and Revenues: We've been digging through data from other UU churches and our own archives. Think of it as financial archaeology, minus the Indiana Jones hat.
    • Key takeaway: Most UU congregations do not make enough pledge revenue to cover all of their expenses. Emerson is able to cover about 70% of its expenses through pledges alone. This puts our return on pledges (pledge revenue / total expenses) in the 60th percentile. UU churches that break-even are in the 90th percentile.
  1. Facility O&M Expenses: We're brainstorming ways to offset these costs. Possibly through long term tenants and seasonal rental agreements. If you know anyone looking for a space, let us know!
    • Key takeaway: Our expense per member (~$3k) is about $1k more than other churches in our region or our size ($1.5k to $2k). Facility costs, along with Salary+Benefits, makes up 90% of our expenses. While there is very little opportunity to reduce these category costs, the departure of our RE Director has nearly closed the 2023 deficit.  
  1. Membership Trends: We've taken a trip down memory lane, charting our membership's highs and lows over the past decade.
    • Key takeaway: We have been losing about 21 members per year, on average. In 2013, we had over 400 members. Today, we have just over 200. RE enrollment dropped precipitously in 2021 and hasn’t fully recovered.
  1. Membership Growth: We're rolling out the welcome mat. Just 25 more paying members can make a world of difference. Given recent employee changes, 10 or so more paying members could close a budget deficit.
    • Key takeaway: UUA church data shows that the number of pledging units is not a “magic bullet” for maximizing return on pledges. Good expense and revenue management will be needed to break-even, regardless of our size. With that said, new members could help ameliorate our yearly drop in members and volunteer fatigue. In any event, at this point we do not see the need to (yikes) develop a sales plan for the building(s).  


We want your two cents (or more if you're willing):

Here are some questions for your consideration…

  1. What made you think, “Yep, this is my church” when you first joined?
  2. What keeps you coming back? (Besides the coffee, of course.)
  3. Why do you pledge money to the church? 
  4. What's your favorite thing about our community?

You can submit your answers through this link here.

Your feedback will guide our efforts in attracting new members, encouraging contributions, and ensuring we provide the best value for every dollar spent. Together, we will ensure a bright and sustainable future for our congregation.


Cheers and gratitude,

Your Long Range Planning Task Force

One Comment

  1. EUUC Member August 31, 2023 at 11:26 am

    This is SUCH A GOOD update! Thank you, thank you. A sigh of relief that this Long Range Planning task is in such good hands!!

Leave A Comment

Related Posts