A bolt of lighting stuck me when I was watching Al Gore’s new slide show on climate change.
I’d never really understood his idea of a Carbon Tax, but now I do.
Instead of taxing people for doing the things we want them to do, like work and shop, the government should only charge people for the amount of carbon they’re releasing into the air. I could pay little to no taxes if I live green, ditching my car and riding my bicycle to work for example. Carbon-heavy activities and products would become expensive- in some cases prohibitively so. People are motivated to change their lifestyles to the betterment of us all.
How does this translate to church going?
We want people to come to church. When they get there, we ask them for money. As living proof that America has a dissolving middle class, requests for money are a big turn-off. Asking for money causes tension in young, the skeptical, the poor, and the alienated.
What’s that you say? Those are a majority of the people that first make their way to a UU church?
(Hey, how many old, wealthy, open-eyed socialites do you even KNOW?)
Well, instead of asking for money from church goers, why not have the church pay members for ATTENDING.
Say, $5 a person would do it. That way, the church isn’t charging for something it wants to encourage.
Most people would ‘spend’ the money at the service anyway on coffee, cookies, etc.
Can you imagine the different feel something like this would have? Instead of shirking every time I grab a coffee and cookie, hating the $ donation sign and hating myself for clinging to my cash, I’d feel like I had a little spending money every time I walked in the front door. And if I felt like keeping the money, well… it WAS my money after all.
In this set-up, NOT going to church would feel the way it SHOULD. Like I was LOSING out.
Losing money. Missing friends. Missing an opportunity to grow as a person and add a quick fiver to my wallet.
Convincing people to donate an additional $250 per person shouldn’t be that hard. Heck, most UU’s can afford it. And who wouldn’t want to be a “Greeter” handing out cold hard cash to everyone that walked in the front door?! Can you imagine the look on the face of first time visitors as you lay a bill in their hand?
“Spend it however you want. Get some cookies. Buy a book. Heck, keep it! We’re just glad you’re here.” I’d say. “No, really. Take it. Everyone gets one.”
I bet UU’s would have a higher retention rate. I bet young people would show up more often as well. Use it to replace your sons allowance? Maybe. Beggars off the street? Could be. But it what’s wrong with giving directly to those who need it? It might help diversify and raise social awareness in the congregation. Don’t make me break out the ‘limousine liberal’ label.
Where does the money for guests come from?
Usually, churches are funded by contributions from all members with a few people contributing far more than the rest. Long time members interested in growing the church could be convinced to ‘sponsor’ a new member. Wealthy members could agree to sponsor any guests for a month. As new people walk through the door week after week, I’d be hard pressed not to ‘claim’ them as ‘my member’ and slip some cash to the greeter.
**Remember, all funds are received FIRST from pledged members specifically for this purpose. It’s like a membership at a gym. If you’re not using it, you’re not getting anything out of it. Church is sort of this way anyway, but the best gyms give members all kinds of perks: towels, fruit, drinks, classes, etc. It’s a much more pleasant experience than the ‘cheap’ place with ‘no frills’. Let’s think about providing a full-service service.
Change is scary. But what’s the worst case scenario? You run out of funds because too many guests start attending? You’d be lucky to have such a problem.
I know. I know. I’m young. I don’t get it.
We have to continue with the old ways and charge people for things we want them to do, while it remains free to everything else. Carbon taxes don’t work.
It’s not possible. It can’t happen.
I believe in my right to search for the good, to choose it for myself, and hold it in my heart.
I affirm this right in you as well.
Together we share in the joy of community, the power of reverence, and the challenge of freedom.
This is the promise of my heart extended to you, as we walk on separate paths, together.