Looking Ahead with Hope

In my first address to the UUFA Congregation as President of the Board of Trustees, I highlighted some of the accomplishments of my predecessors. Space does not allow a full list, but each president builds upon the foundations laid by those who served previously, achieving goals that would not be possible without those foundations.

Some of those foundations are very noticeable, like our building expansion; others seem almost invisible except to those closely engaged in the process. Governance processes generally fall into the category of “invisible work” – almost unseen (except, of course, when there is a problem).

Prior governance work has including separating the tasks of ministry and governance. In the past, the Board was overwhelmed by the minutia of daily programmatic decisions; now that those are assumed by the Ministry Council, we have the opportunity to spend more time on process – how we work together.

The Planning Cycle of the congregation has historically begun at the January retreat, identifying goals for the upcoming program year. That allows time to identify needed resources to highlight during our annual pledge campaign in the spring, before the program year begins in June. As far as it goes, this is a solid basis for yearly planning.

However, one of the Board’s current goals is to transition from year-to-year planning to longer-term strategic planning. We intend to move in this direction for Board goals, and hope that we will be met with similar longer-term plans from the programmatic clusters. Deliberations about how to do this are just beginning, but will definitely include opportunities for congregation-wide conversations.

We have spent some time learning about strategic planning in congregations from multiple sources. The second edition of Governance and Ministry (Hotchkiss, 2016) includes a three-year planning cycle in which questions and discussions in year one feed into plans for year two and evaluation in year three. While plans are being implemented and evaluated, new questions and discussions inform upcoming work. We have informally fallen into this model when considering large questions, such as the building construction, but would like to formalize it for our everyday work as well.

The advantages of strategic planning are that it allows us to scope and focus our current work at any giving time. (I am reminded of advice given to me as a working mother “You CAN have it all. But not all at the same time.” The same is true off all the things we wish to address as a congregation.)  Articulating our current goals, while exploring “what should we do next?” in a thoughtful manner, will help us to be more effective in our collective work.

The theme for this month is “hope,” which is fitting. We look to the future of UUFA with hope, and the belief that good strategic plans will help us to turn those hopes into realities. ~ Linda Gilbert