Getting started

It's easy to organize a program! Follow the simple steps below. For assistance, contact UUSC by e-mailing volunteerservices @ uusc.org or calling 617-301-4366 or 800-766-5236.

Step 1. Review this planning guide

The guide includes all you will need to celebrate Guest at Your Table with worship and religious education activities.

Step 2. Identify a program coordinator, partners, or helpers

In most congregations, the UUSC local representative or the Guest at Your Table program coordinator helps organize activities. UUSC members and supporters can help too, with tasks such as tallying donations or reminding participants during worship service announcements to contribute using the envelope or box.

Step 3. Partner with your congregational leadership

The congregation's UUSC local representative, minister, religious educators, and worship or social action committees all have important roles in creating and completing a meaningful Guest at Your Table program.

Collaborate with the director of religious education to plan how religious education classes can participate — share the resources on religious education with them.

Share the sample worship resources with your minister and work together to plan an intergenerational worship service. Start early to reserve a date on the congregation calendar!

Step 4. Plan Guest at Your Table worship services

It is important to schedule Guest at Your Table for a time that best suits your community. UUSC suggests that you begin your program on November 18, the Sunday before Thanksgiving. However, some congregations hold successful Guest programs at other times of the year. Most programs run for about four weeks. Many congregations build meaningful and intentional participation by scheduling one full worship service at the start of the program and celebrating with a special recognition during a service at the program's conclusion, when donations from participants are returned. Consider including a Moment for All Ages and share from Stories of Hope as a way of educating your congregation about UUSC's work.

Step 5. Gather your materials

All planning materials are available for download. All printed program materials, such as posters, donation envelopes, boxes, Stories of Hope booklets, stickers, and other supplies for your congregation, can be ordered free of charge online. Be sure to place your order early, at least four weeks before your opening worship service, to avoid rush shipping charges.

  • Key items for your congregation include a poster and resources for worship and religious education.
  • Key items for each participating family include a Guest envelope or box, and a copy of Stories of Hope.

UUSC offers additional resources for your pre- and post-service activities, such as sample announcements.

Building the momentum

Step 6. Get creative — plan a few special activities

Make Guest at Your Table a fun as well as meaningful experience for all members of the family.

  • Personalize your program with something special, such as a luncheon featuring the Guest envelopes or boxes.
  • Youth groups may also get involved, with skits or other creative participation in the service.
  • Consider inviting a UUSC speaker for your worship service.
  • Find more inspiring ideas and creative activities that can help engage people of all ages.

Step 7. Promote Guest at Your Table to inspire participation

Your program will be successful if you drum up interest in advance and keep the excitement high during the program.

  • Set a goal (total amount raised, number of memberships, or next level of congregation award, for example) and set a specific date to culminate the program and return contributions (often four to six weeks after launch).
  • Report on the congregation's progress toward your goal each week until the culmination date. Publish articles in your congregational newsletter as well as on your listserv and website.
  • Make announcements during services. (Here are some sample announcements and articles.)
  • Work in advance with your newsletter or bulletin editor and others to plan the printed and spoken announcements.
  • Prepare a colorful display in your congregation, incorporating the box and highlighting this year's guests. It may help to mount a world map and connect your congregational location to the guests' locations with ribbon or yarn to demonstrate the global impact of your congregation's participation.
  • Invite children to create special posters to remind of the date when the Guest envelopes and boxes are due. Prepare your own communication using Stories of Hope and other online resources, such as sample articles and announcements, and generate other ideas for spreading the word and building participation.

Wrapping up

Step 8. Collect donations, complete the tally sheet, and mail together to UUSC

  • Ask all participants to convert cash and coins to a check made out to UUSC Guest at Your Table, with the congregation name in the memo line.
  • Consider asking participants to return their donations during a processional or special collection, to add a special pageantry to the program.
  • Remind people that, to be acknowledged for their tax-deductible gift and to earn UUSC membership, all donors in a family must be listed individually on the donation form or tally sheet.
  • Complete the tally sheet only for any contributions that are not accompanied with an envelope and personal check (such as aggregated cash gifts on a congregation check, to be sure the individuals receive an acknowledgement of their gift, and anonymous gifts, to be sure they are included in your congregation's total). To be acknowledged for their tax-deductible gift or to earn UUSC membership, all donors in a family must be listed on the tally sheet.

Send donations to UUSC promptly, especially if your participants want their gifts acknowledged for tax purposes before the end of December:

UUSC Guest at Your Table
PO Box 808
Newark, NJ 07101-0808

Step 9. Celebrate your congregation's good work

  • Recognize the generosity and activism of your congregation. Announce the congregation's collective total contributions raised during Guest at Your Table.
  • Thank and congratulate the congregation, especially if they increased over the previous year or exceeded your goal for this year.
  • Consider creating a Guest at Your Table "honor roll" of individual donors published in the church bulletin or elsewhere. (Remember to get permission from donors before listing their names publicly.) Celebrate that your congregation put their values into action.
  • Help your participants visualize how financial support translates into real human rights.

Step 10. Plan ahead for next year

While the congregation's energy for UUSC is high, right now is a great time to mindfully plan how you will participate with UUSC in the future.

  • With the program still fresh in your memories, share together what worked well, what you would like to try differently, and determine your most effective timeline, then ask the congregational administrator to confirm the dates now for next year's Guest at Your Table program.

This is also a good time to begin discussion of Justice Sunday, a comprehensive congregational program in the spring for learning, advocacy, and social action on one featured focus area. Justice Sunday is designed to take place over several weeks, culminating in a worship service.

UUSC provides materials to deepen understanding and invite congregation members to personal reflection and participation; worship resources to help launch and celebrate the congregational Justice Sunday program; and a series of educational resources and activities for adults to learn more and respond to key issues.

Grow UUSC membership!

Participants can become members of UUSC with benefit-level contributions to Guest at Your Table:

Individual ($40 per person)
Dual ($75; 2 adults)
Senior ($20 per person, age 65 or over)
Student/youth ($10 per person)

All individual and family unrestricted contributions of $100 or more are eligible to be matched dollar for dollar by the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, N.Y.

Donations can be made as monthly gifts.