Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Just Sayin' - President's Column (March 2011 Newsletter Content)

While surfing the internet the other day, I came across the following question:

"I am starting a new Church. What would be a reasonable cover charge?"

Not surprising, there were several informed responses to the question:

"What’s different about your church? Why should people pay? If you entertain them they might…If you lecture them they might sleep. It depends. Need more info?"

"I would charge about $5 a head. It's cheap enough that you won't be price discriminating your average Joe out of your market, but high enough that it should keep the less-desirables out of your country club. Once you get established, though, I would start to push the whole 10% of your income thing that most churches do and invest in a bigger steeple."

"Will you refund the cover charge back if people don’t like the talk?"

"Church is getting too expensive. The cover charge is a pain. People pay their 10 percent, but they might be better off holding on to their money and pay up when they bump into God. After all, there ain’t no sense of paying if you don’t make the list."

Some may regard the notion of a cover charge for church as uncouth, but UU churches can define membership in ways that suggest a cover charge. For instance, here is language from the bylaws of a UU congregation in Oregon:

"Members must be 16 years of age or over, have shown sympathy with the Congregation's purpose by signing the membership book, and have within the last twelve months made a financial pledge and an identifiable financial contribution. The Minister, in consultation with the Board Chair, may grant exceptions to the financial requirement."

There’s no mention here of a refund. But do note the phrasing that refers to waiving the cover charge. The language used here is not uncommon.

Indeed, the Bylaws of the Fellowship contain the same general ideas – signing, pledging, and contributing define a voting member.

Of late, the Board of Trustees has been wrestling with the archaic language of our Bylaws. Editorial changes to the Bylaws are long overdue. With some trepidation, we have chosen to address that task and, predictably, the definition of membership is one of several topics that have been open to thoughtful discussion. Soon we will invite the entire congregation to join that discussion. To be candid, I don’t expect that the modifications we put forward will create much controversy. There are good reasons for carefully defining what one means by membership. And, in this instance, the cover charge gets you lot more than just live entertainment.

In Faith,
Mark Davis