March Congregational Conversation

About 20 people participated in the conversation. There were two main purposes of the conversation: to share the results of the pledge drive and provide a summary of the notes taken at the pledge socials

Results of the Pledge Drive
(These figures have been updated for this report to reflect the pledges that have been received since March 16.) As of March 28, there have been 95 pledges received, (88 members, 7 friends) for a total pledged amount of $157,227.  This does not meet the amount pledged last year ($175,000) and falls far short of the $195,000 we had hoped to raise. Those present were concerned and disappointed to learn these results.

Some of those present shared these Reflections on this news:

  • We’re an aging congregation–for some of us, our income is shrinking
  • There is an uncertainty factor for people that is greater than in the past. The recession has made people more cautious, they don’t want to commit to a pledge if they’re not sure they can fulfill it.
  • We are too dependent on a few large pledges.
  • There is no way we can start a capital campaign if we are on a deficit budget
  • The congregation needs to know the pledge results soon and be informed of the implications for our budget

The following Concerns were expressed:

  • How can we keep producing fundraisers to fill holes in our budget?
  • We will not be able to support a minister if pledging continues to go down
  • How do we hope to retain an administrative staff if we don’t give them periodic raises?
  • How will we keep our programs running?
  • During the pledge campaign it might have been helpful for us to see how the money would be spent. Perhaps the committees could have articulated “This is what we do now. This is what we would like to do, given a bigger budget.
  • Crafting a budget from this pledge amount will be extremely difficult.

Pledge Social Summary

The Board read through all of the notes from the pledge socials and pulled out some “recurring themes.”  Below are the themes and what participants of the Congregational Conversation had to say about them:

 What people like about Tree Of Life

1. Community was #1 thing that people valued about our church; “a sense of family” “a place I belong”

2. There were many positive comments about Sean’s ministry, the RE program and the Choir.

3. Our liberal/welcoming message

What people want for Tree Of Life

1. To get our message out, to “be known”  or “to be a presence” in McHenry

  • We seem to be still trying to determine our “identity” Perhaps we need to revisit our mission/vision to help us define ourselves
  • Promote our Second Sunday efforts—get that news out to papers, on Facebook and our website

2. More gatherings, events, potlucks, etc

  • Our location keeps some people from participating outside of Sunday morning.
  • Map where people live and figure out other places/ways to get together.
  • At one of his previous churches, Sean said they had once-a-month potluck followed by committee meetings. Only downside is if you were on more than one committee.
  • Set up a few small tables in the sanctuary right after church for those who’d like to sit down and visit, or even discuss the service
  • Small groups are powerful. It’s not so important for ALL of us to be together at once, as long as everyone’s needs are being met
  • Provide more family friendly activities (and get a couple of high chairs and booster seats for church meals!)

3. More Adult RE opportunities:

  • M.E. Tanabe tried for 2 years, offered classes before and after church, during the day and evenings, with very little participation.
  • Adult education more than just a chance to get together. It creates a different way of being together.
  • There seems to be a desire among newer members to have this kind of connection. We want to create a spiritual environment that people can reach into and learn from

4. For the church to concentrate on 1 or 2 projects and do them really well.

  • We are trying to do too many things and people feel overwhelmed by the frequent requests for help

After this the discussion shifted to membership. These remarks were shared:

  • It’s not so much fundraising as member-raising. If we take care of our current members better so they feel connected and find ways to attract new members we will grow.
  • Membership Development has been talking about a “buddy” system of all members so everyone gets a call if we haven’t seen them for a while.
  • Get Acquainted dinners
  • Have reserved parking spaces near the building for visitors
  • Member Development would like to make more follow up calls with those who visit for a few weeks then don’t come back

 Please join us for our next Congregational Conversation on Sunday, April 13.


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