Cultivating Generous Congregations
by Andrew Warner
Back when I served a congregation, a retired minister named Dave Rohlfing took me out for coffee. He wanted to talk about stewardship. I had just finished a lackluster pledge campaign. Dave, over that coffee and many more over the next several months, began to coach me in fundraising. None of my professors in seminary talked about raising money and ordination didn't confer this ability. I needed Dave's help. His lessons served me well as a pastor.
The ministry of fundraising can be learned. Just like the spiritual practices of prayer, Bible study, justice advocacy, the spiritual practice of generosity can be learned through study, observation, and most of all, experimentation. We can not only learn generosity but become adept at teaching it within our congregations.
This summer, Andy DeBraber and I will be leading the
Cultivating Generous Congregations Seminar
as part of the Damascus Project. Andy works as a Generosity Officer with the national setting of the UCC. Over the course of six online classes this summer (plus additional work in-between classes), we'll engage in the study and exploration of generosity in our congregations. The curriculum draws on the latest research and insights of the Lake Institute, a leading center for faith-based philanthropy.
The seminar will prepare you to lead the annual pledge campaign in your congregation and more broadly to engage your congregation in the practice of generosity. You will learn both the theory and the practical elements of effective fundraising.
Congregational teams of 2-4 (pastor plus lay leaders) are encouraged to
. Space will be limited.
I hope you will join me in deepening your understanding of generosity this summer.
Take care, Andrew
Virtual Annual Meeting Registration Open!
Saturday, June 6
8:30-9:00 sign in to meeting, check audio and video
9:00am-12:00pm Business meeting
Online via Zoom Webinar (join in via internet or telephone)
The registration for this year's virtual annual meeting is now available!
The Conference Annual Meeting business session will take place online this year. On Saturday morning, June 6th, we will convene with a brief gathering and worship time. Tia Nelson will then offer words of inspiration on our meeting theme, "Healing Our Earthly Home." Tia is an internationally-recognized champion for environmental stewardship, and daughter of Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day.
We will also hear from our Conference Minister, the Rev. Franz Rigert, as well as the conference-wide Creation Care Team, who will present the UCC's national climate initiative, Kairos Call to Action.
The primary business that will be transacted at this meeting includes consideration and voting on:
* 2021 budget
* Proposed Bylaws revisions
* Kairos Call to Action covenant to commitment
We will all miss the camaraderie and the learning opportunities of our usual gatherings at Annual Meeting in Green Lake. However we do plan to offer many of the educational programs we would have presented at Green Lake, online, over the course of the next many months. We will provide this information as details are finalized over the next several weeks.
In the meantime, ministers, delegates and visitors - please register for the June 6th meeting!
For those who had already registered for the now-canceled, in-person Annual Meeting, please see additional information here.
Strengthen the Church: Local Impact
by Rev. Elizabeth Hazel
On May 31, we have a national United Church of Christ offering called "Strengthen the Church." Typically, people in our congregations raise $45,000 through that offering, of which 50% stays in our Wisconsin Conference. Since the main purpose of the Wisconsin Conference itself is to strengthen the Church and its pastors, 50% of that $45,000 supports programs like those providing coaching for pastors, conflict resolution, as well as Catalyst grants funding innovative outreach by churches. But the real test is what an organization like the Wisconsin Conference does to strengthen our churches during a crisis like Covid-19.
Conference Offers Two Financial Resources Opportunities for Churches
In light of the challenges to churches during the coronavirus pandemic, the conference has structured two financial assistance opportunities. T
he response to the Emergency Response Fund has been strong, raising over $35,000 to support our congregations impacted by the coronavirus. Initially, we focused on technology grants to get congregations up and running on Zoom. But now we can move ahead with more substantial grants between $500 and $2000 to our congregations. If your congregation is struggling to adapt, please fill out a grant application at wcucc.org/coronavirus-grant. If, instead, you are able to contribute to the Emergency Response Fund to help others, please donate at wcucc.org.
The impact of the coronavirus falls unevenly on our congregations, with some reporting more significant financial setbacks than others. Realizing this, the Conference partnered with the Cornerstone Fund to create a pool of money that can be lent to congregations at a reduced interest rate. These loans will range between $10,000 and $25,000, bear a 2.5% interest rate, and will not require principal repayment in the first year. These loans will provide a crucial bridge to some of our congregations. The loan application process will be shared via email and on our website when it becomes available.
This partnership depends on the Conference and our congregations setting up new low-interest rate CDs with the Cornerstone Fund. The 12-month CD's will earn 0.75% interest. The Conference identified $125,000 that we could provide for this loan fund. But your help will be essential to meeting the needs of our congregations. Can your congregation or you as an individual set up a 12-month CD to help your fellow congregations? If so, please contact Andrew Warner via email or at 414-758-6233
Questions about the Paycheck Protection Program?
The SBA recently issued guidance reminding organizations that they have to certify the loan is necessary, and that if the company's loan is audited and found not to be necessary then the company may be subject to some adverse action. This has raised questions, and UCC General Counsel, Heather Kimmel, has provided the following information to help clarify the requirements. (
and other guidance is also available on the
Conference Coronavirus Resources webpages
The FAQ recently issued by the SBA that refer to other sources of liquidity and need for a loan have raised more questions than they have answered for religious and other organizations. Note that the FAQ was updated April 29 but the guidance did not change significantly. The guidance was issued in response to large public companies that received loans that likely were not necessary given those companies' access to capital markets.
Section 7(a)(2)(G)(i) of the Small Business Act, as amended by the CARES Act, and the SBA'sform of PPP loan application, requires an applicant to certify that a loan is "necessary" to support the borrower's ongoing operations. The necessity standard is vague, but there has been general agreement that current protection of jobs is the bedrock principle and should form a key part of the support for any church's decision to apply for a PPP loan.
Kimmel's reading of the specifics suggests the following:
- Companies that borrow $2 million or more should expect to be audited with respect to their certification of need for the loan (based on the Treasury Secretary's statements). Companies that borrow less may be audited, though the risk is lower.
- Companies (including churches) should assess their need for the loan in light of other available sources of money that can be accessed without serious detriment to the business. Some of those sources may be an undrawn revolving credit line, cash in the bank, etc., though this is not an exhaustive list.
- Companies should document their assessment of need for the loan. For a church, this may include minutes of a meeting or meetings supported by documentation considered at the meeting.
Stewardship Strategies for Virtual Church
Many congregations are facing financial challenges related to the pandemic. Over 84% of individual donations to a congregation typically have come in through the offering plate. During a time of virtual gatherings, we need new stewardship practices.
In this Extravagant Generosity video, we reflect on how the practice of generosity impacts our communities, touches our hearts, and works for a more just world. Created by
Andrew Warner and national UCC staff, the
and accompanying handout offer helpful strategies for your church to consider. No one solution will work for every congregation, so we lift up a range of four ideas that may be useful for your congregation to implement.
- Encouraging people to mail in donations they would have placed in the offering plate
- Promoting auto-bill pay
- Setting up online giving for those congregations who don't currently have this option
- Inviting annual givers to make their donation in April
Check out these resources to learn how you can put these strategies to work.
Supporting Our Clergy
Are you living with a mental health challenge/diagnosis? Do you need a confidential space outside of your setting or clergy circle? Are you yearning for a place to share your strengths and your struggles with symptoms? The United Church of Christ Mental Health Network is here to support you.
Here is information about two online support groups for clergy led by two of our board members:
Online Peer Support Group for Clergy Living with Mental Health Challenges
Free * Confidential * Thursdays, 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm EDT via Zoom
Rev. Amy Petre Hill
UCC Mental Health Network Board Member
Mental Health & Inclusion Minister
Mountain View United Church, CO
Online Peer Support Group for Clergy Living with Mental Health Challenges
Free * Confidential * Tuesdays, 3:30 pm CST via Zoom
Beginning May 5th
Contact for Zoom Link:
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe
UCC Mental Health Network Vice-Chair
Former Psychiatric Chaplain
The Lifesaving Church
(2018) by Chalice Press
Living Table UCC, South Minneapolis, MN
Howard Kanetzke UCC Historical Display
Display Available for Churches
During last year's General Synod meeting delegates and visitors enjoyed viewing an historical timeline of the UCC and Wisconsin UCC history displayed on a large professionally created display board. The Historical Committee decided to name this display in honor of recently retired committee member Howard Kanetzke, and to make it available in physical and digital form for Wisconsin churches.
Howard served on the Historical Committee for over forty years as its resident historical advisor and expert because of his professional experience as a staff member of the Wisconsin Historical Society and active membership in Community of Hope UCC in Madison. He was a student of church music at Augustana College in Illinois, served as a Chaplains Assistant in the army, and graduated from the UW Madison in history and school curriculum. At the Historical Society he edited Badger History magazines, later booklets, used by fourth graders in Wisconsin schools. As a member of the Historical Committee Howard served as liaison to the Wisconsin Historical Society as well as editing The Historian's Handbook, a popular resource for local church historians.
Kanetzke combined his love of history and music by serving his local church and the Conference as accompanist, and by creating and performing programs of Wisconsin historical music with his wife, Lucetta. Howard's collection of Wisconsin-oriented sheet music, tapes, vinyl and CD's became the basis of the Wisconsin Music Archive in the Mills Music Library, UW Madison.
The "Howard Kanetzke UCC Historical Display" has been on tour in the Wisconsin Conference and when the "Safer at Home" restrictions are lifted will once again be available to churches in the Conference. If your congregation is interested in utilizing it, please contact Rev. Scott McLeod. In addition, the Historical Committee plans to create an annotated digital document which can be utilized in new member and confirmation classes as well as for general education.
This project was funded by generous donations from the Wisconsin Conference UCC, St. Paul's UCC in Wausau, First Congregational UCC in Elkhorn and private individuals.
Grow in Faith with Lay Academy - Online!
A new Lay Academy cohort is forming soon and will launch into learning in a new format this fall. In light of uncertainties about in person gatherings due to the Covid-19, the program will take place entirely online. Much about the program's structure will remain the same. There will continue to be five sessions for each Lay Academy year, evenly spaced between late August and April. Each session will feature the same amazing instructors and transformative learning opportunities. Participants will still have independent reading and at-home activities to complete. There will still be time to engage with the instructor and other cohort members using the same technology platforms many of us are using now under the Safer at Home order. The primary difference is that we will gather virtually instead of in person.
If you've never heard of the Lay Academy or have been thinking of participating for years, I hope you will consider joining this transformative learning community in which your faith will deepen, your knowledge will expand and your understanding of your place in the body of Christ will grow. Throughout your involvement in the program you will dive into scripture, explore theology, consider God's presence in your life and discover fresh ways to speak about and live out your faith in your day to day life.
Because of the many ways we are adapting to this new reality, registration is delayed for a few more weeks. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more or want to be on a contact list when registration is opened, please email Tisha Brown and let her know you're interested. For more detailed information, go to wcucc.org/layacademy.
Poor People's Campaign: An Opportunity for Action
The Wisconsin leaders of the Poor People's Campaign have written a letter for church leaders, especially those in local churches, to read, to edit as they see fit, and to send to Governor Tony Evers. The intent of the letter is to encourage Governor Evers to take actions during this time of pandemic that will create conditions for the physical, social and economic health and well-being of individuals, households, neighborhoods, as well as towns and cities that have long suffered from unequal distribution of resources and wealth. Download the letter here.
If you have questions about this letter, or about the Poor People's Campaign, please email Rev. Steve Davis. He serves as a liaison for the Poor People's Campaign to the Wisconsin Conference UCC.
Tips for Supporting our Youth
Find this and other helpful resources on the Conference Coronavirus Resources webpage at
Reminder: Please Complete the Creation Care Team's Survey on Sustainable Practices
The Wisconsin Conference Creation Care Team is asking for your help. On Earth Day, we launched a survey to find out what types of Earth-sustaining practices are underway in our churches and congregations. We will use that input to guide our team's work over the next year, and to help all of our members respond to the
UCC Kairos Call to Action
If the survey has not been completed yet for your church, please be sure to do so as soon as possible. Though we will accept the information at any time, there is an incentive for completing the survey right away!
All churches that respond by May 15th will have a chance to win one of a collection of children's books related to Creation Care for your church's library.
The survey can be accessed at this link. Thank you!
Help Others - Donate Now
The Emergency Response Fund of the Wisconsin Conference will provide help as congregations deal with critical needs caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. All funds will be awarded to organizations experiencing financial hardship and those meeting crucial needs in their community.
Donate to the Emergency Response Fund
The General Fund of the Wisconsin Conference helps us connect, support, and resource pastors, leaders, and congregations. Your gift allows the Conference to provide relevant and timely help during the pandemic and beyond. Donate to the General Fund
To see all searching churches, click here.
- Plymouth Church in Milwaukee is searching for a pastor. Details
- Rev. Susan Drake began position as Designated Bridge Pastor of Parkside Community UCC in Saukville on April 1.
- Wisconsin Conference staff member Susan Taylor shares this message: Thanks to all of you who reached out to me with your cards, emails, gifts and condolences with the passing of my beautiful mother. You touched my heart at the same time it was breaking. I love you all!
- Elizabeth "Betsy" Crandall, mother of Pastor L. Scott Crandall, passed away on April 24, 2020. Obituary
The Conference Transitions feature appears monthly in the Wisconsin Conference Life. Please share your transition information, including church anniversaries, with the newsletter editor by emailing Nola.
Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ
4459 Gray Road | DeForest, WI 53532
Generosity Forward e-newsletter
to learn about new ideas, best practices, and training opportunities around
Check the Conference
for upcoming events.
Is your church considering an Open and Affirming Process? The Wisconsin Conference has a committee to help! Please feel free to use us as resources for your discussions and preparations. Contact
of the Wisconsin Conference UCC Committee on Ministry with LGBTQ Persons.
Also: check out the
Facebook page for ONA churches
Join the Conference-wide Creation Care Team!
Are you passionate about Creation Care? Want to connect with others who are taking action to care for the earth? The Creation Care Team's primary focus is to encourage, support and provide resources to congregations in the Wisconsin Conference as they do what they can to care for creation. If you would like to be a part of this team, or for more information on the Creation Care Team, contact John Helt. You can also go to wcucc.org/creationcare to learn more.
Let us know! If you have something you'd like considered for publication in
Wisconsin Conference Life
at the Wisconsin Conference.