Over spring break, I went to Cleveland, Ohio, to attend my first Executive Council meeting of the UCC. There are so many things I can, and will, blog about on this meeting, and I am so grateful to be given the opportunity to sit on the board. The technicalities of the governing process of the UCC remind me that the UCC is, in fact, a corporation. For example, it abides by not only the decisions decided by the General Synod, but also the laws of an assortment of states, including Massachusetts and Ohio. Last Friday, each of the EC members worked on a committee: Budget and Finance, General Synod Planning, Development, Evaluation Policy and Planning, and Organizational Life. I sat on the Budget and Finance committee. While the UCC is not in the red financially, our numbers are not looking good. We are different from for-profit organizations because, though we cannot dip below the budget, we’re only trying to break even. But it is no secret that just staying out of debt is a challenge for churches these days. The national setting of the UCC needs a financial boost. But, how can the local church make the wider church a priority, when they can not pay their electric bill or a full time minister? That is the reality of around 75% of UCC congregations at this time.
Which brings me to an introspective reflection I’ve had over the past three months. I am making my faith my career. I am putting my financial security in the hands of a corporation that is losing money annually. People would think I was crazy if I were to pursue any other job with the same statistics. Someone told me when I was first considering my calling that working in the church is, essentially, extended hospice care. I worry that the church is dying on a regular basis. The only people I know who are around my age and care about church also plan on becoming ministers. If I am going to be a pastor, I am going to need a congregation. The lack of young adults in the church is often addressed with vague acknowledgement and sincere, if somewhat undefined, desire to repair this gaping void in the local setting. If I had an answer to the slow and steady decline in church membership, I would be shouting it from the rooftops, believe me. I hope this year will bring me wisdom to make the church more accessible and desirable to the people who’ve stopped attending, while at the same time retaining the integrity of the worship.