Growing Edges in Unitarian Universalist Humor

jester door knockerEvery time a Unitarian Universalist congregation posts UU jokes on their website, in their newsletters, or Orders of Service, your Growth Strategist does a face-palm and whimpers a little bit.  I find these jokes to be self-deprecating, and not in an ironic way, but in a stale and tiresome way.  It sends the message that we as a UU People don’t take ourselves seriously, that we don’t believe we matter, that we have low self-confidence or worse, distain for ourselves.  We use this kind of humor to poke fun at ourselves before someone else can.

 

And others do.  We can count on Garrison Keillor in his weekly Prairie Home Companion show to regularly gird an embarrassing stereotype of tradition. Many of the characters in The Simpsons are negatively neutral to openly hostile toward Unitarian Universalism.  Stephen Colbert pokes us on The Colbert Report, which admittedly is my favorite of the three.  Somehow I find it more digestible coming from these social commentaries because it’s clearly satirical.

 

There is a difference between having a sense of humor and going out of your way to make fun of yourself.   And then there is satire…  Satire uses sarcasm and irony to effect political or social change, or to prevent it.  It’s a literary court jester.

 

The Onion is one of the most read American satirical rags.  Sometimes it’s so close to reality, I have to check to see if it’s The Onion. And sometimes an article from a news source is so outlandish, I have to check to see if it’s The Onion.

 

And now we have a Unitarian Universalist version called The Beacon.  Stefan Jonasson suggested we might call it The Bunion (Beacon + Onion.)  The writer(s) of The Beacon are anonymous. Usually I like my social commentary with names attached. However, I’ve found the inaugural addition to be open-spirited, Beacon Coverspiritually mature, and nuanced. I suspect the writer(s) are missional leaders with institutionalist hearts.  In other words, I am certain that the authors are prophetic court jesters who love our faith tradition very much.  I want to hear what they have to say even if it makes me squirm a bit.

 

Please do read The Beacon from cover to cover. Share it with other UU leaders.  (Notice I am not suggesting you post this on your website for seekers to find when looking for clear markers of our faith and your community.) Please do talk with other UUs about the messages within the humor. Do you see yourself and/or your congregation in there? Is the Beacon nudging you to consider change?  What rubs you in a raw way?  There’s wisdom there, too.

 

Good satire pokes us gently through a cheeky caricature and invites a fresh perspective. The caricature allows us to hold the commentary at arms’ length as we digest and accept and then embrace it as an invitation to healthy change and growth.

 

Today I give thanks to the Court Jesters.

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tk in snow on Common 0114Growth Strategist Rev. Tandi Rogers likes knock-knock jokes very much, especially ones about planets and bugs, but can’t actually tell a joke to save her life.  She leaves that to her 5 year old.  He’s in charge of telling. She’s in charge of laughing.

Growing and Evolving: Ten Years of Religious Education Credentialing

Sara Cloe CREETen years ago on this very day, the Religious Education Credentialing Committee (RECC) conducted its first interviews and awarded credentialed status to three pioneering candidates in the Religious Education Credentialing Program (RECP)! Helen Bishop and Gaia Brown were credentialed at what is now called the Master Level, and Michelle Richards at the (now) Credentialed Level. (Michelle went on to receive Master Level status in 2013.)

 

Think about it – how many programs from a decade ago are still around today? The RECP’s staying power has depended on our ability to keep the program fresh, relevant, and useful. Over the years, it has adapted and evolved in order to meet the changing needs of professionals and congregations, to better assure the quality and consistency of the evaluation process, and to improve the experience of both the candidate and the Committee. This spring, the RECC will consider what’s changing in faith formation, in Unitarian Universalism, and in the professional world – and then reflect on how to respond to those changes through updates to program content, structure, and expectations.

 

As the program has grown, what hasn’t changed is its commitment to fostering excellence in professional religious education leadership. The Religious Education Credentialing Program was established, back in the early 00’s, in order to nurture the call to religious education as a profession, to provide a comprehensive path for professional development, and to articulate and uphold professional standards and guidelines. It remains true to these purposes.

 

The Religious Education Credentialing Program offers a rigorous, meaning-filled process by which religious educators deepen their knowledge, reflect on their own faith development, and demonstrate their skill across competency areas deemed critical for effective religious education leadership. Our Credentialed Religious Educators aren’t the only ones gaining from the program, however! Through the RECP, religious educators become stronger staff teammates and collegial partners in their own congregations, as well as educators and modelers for colleagues in other congregations – thus their program participation benefits many other professionals. And the profession, as a whole, has been elevated because of the program’s intentionality in identifying competencies and establishing standards.

 

Ultimately, what matters most? Not the religious educators. Not the profession of religious education. No, it’s about the children and adults who have stayed better connected to their congregations, and whose faith has been further formed, because of religious educators who attended to their own professional growth by pursuing RE Credentialing. Thus, it’s safe to say that the Religious Education Credentialing Program has enriched the lives of thousands of Unitarian Universalists. Has it touched yours?

 

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Jan Gartner“Well-equipped professionals and healthy staff teams are essential to congregational vitality!” proclaims Jan Gartner, who began serving as UUA Professional Development Associate for Religious Education and Music Leaders in July 2011. Jan oversees the Religious Education Credentialing and Music Leadership Certification Programs, provides support for staff transitions, advocates for sound employment practices, and champions intentional continuing education both for individual professionals and for staff teams.

What Congregations Can Learn From The 12th Man

SeahawksYes, I’ve drunk the electric green and blue Kool-Aid.  I’ve gone belly up to Seahawks mania out here in the Pacific Northwest.  And while the pronoun is not my preferred, I am the Seahawk’s12th Man.  And while the metaphor is not perfect, I have come to understand that there is so much congregations can learn from the 12th Man.  I want a congregation full of number 12 jerseys standing in the pews. And if Skittles end up all over the sanctuary carpet, so be it.

 

First of all, Seattle didn’t make up the 12th ManThe concept originated at Texas A&M in 1922. Seattle readily recognize this and the Seahawks will end up paying a breathtaking amount of money to Texas A&M for the use of the title. We made the model ours by adding Seahawk quirk and noise.   We don’t have to be the clever ones to make everything up.  We are fine adapting the best of what works.  Congregations, take note about the adapting other ideas, but don’t get caught up in lawsuits over it.

 

In this metaphor I’m thinking of the 12th Man as the congregational members.  The board of directors and key volunteers are the players on the field.  The head coach is the minister. Specialized coaches are other key staff.  Work with me here.  It’s not perfect, but don’t get hung up on that or you’ll miss the lessons.

 

  • Our job as 12 is to cheer our team on and create a vibrant, buzzy culture where success can flourish.
  • We do not assume we know more about football than the players and coaches who have been practicing and preparing and have special training.
  • We do not jump to the conclusion that because our tax dollars and our ticket fees help play for the coaches and players salaries we should get to vote on the plays.
  • We do not email the players with suggestions on how to play. We are not Armchair Quarterbacks. That is not our job.  We cheer.  We make a joyful, booming noise.
  • We do not pout at the coach’s choice of plays and suggest to the other 12th Men around us that we could do a better job at coaching.
  • We do not run on the field.  Even if we tried out for the team and were not picked this round.
  • If our team is down and the strategies seem unclear from our view in the stands, we do not throw our water bottles on the field.  We do not boo.
  • We do not call our beloved #25 a “thug” because of impassioned outbursts that don’t hurt anybody. We know there is so much more to #25, and we stand by him.
  • Texas A&M’s 12th Man example taught us, we stand for the game, symbolically ready for coach to put us in. We stand ready to serve if called upon. And until that time comes, we cheer until we are hoarse and our face hurts from smiling.  We shout and whoop to make sure our coach and team knows we’re right behind them through thick and thin.

 

I want that culture in our congregations, too.  I don’t even like football, but I’ll wear the #12 and shout for my team, because in the Pacific NW it’s become less about a sport and more about a unified community.  We are all the 12th Man, whether you’re wearing a silk Seahawk tie or your earplugs are neon green or the number 12 is drawn in the mud on your truck.  The 12 is about coming together to cheer on something larger than us.  I want that for our faith tradition.

 

So please pay attention to the 12th Man this Sunday during the Super Bowl.  And don’t worry if the Seahawks don’t win the game.  We’ve already won.

 

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Loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium Seahawks-13Rev. Tandi Rogers has enjoyed walking around around Tacoma feeling more connected through the common number 12. Come Sunday afternoon she will be covered in Seahawk bling and making a joyful noise.  On Monday she will be hoarse.  A special thank you to Susan Tusa, former president of Tahoma UU Congregation in Tacoma, WA who helped her write this piece.

Year In Review That Didn’t Happen

I messed up.  I had every intention of writing a Growth Office Year in Review.  It was going to have the Top Tens of various growth-related things, along with graphs and sparklers.  And then the Holiday Break came and I went head-long into a real vacation with no work commitments. I will not flog myself, as I’m still all chill from a well-rested vacation.  But I will start working on next years…

 

A little ambitious you might think, to start so early?  Actually not.  I suggest you do it, too.  Think about it… How would you measure success in the coming year?  What would that look like? And then how will you tell the story at the end of the year?

 

Here’s a beautiful example of a Year In Review done well.  The Sanctuaries in DC produced an exquisite end of the year brochure.  If you click on that last highlight, Google will take you through steps to download it.  Just know that it is an enormous file.  There are a couple pages I’d like to point out to you that I’d like to see in every End of the Year (Celebration) Report…

1.

Sanctuaries Brochure 2013 cover

2.

Sanctuaries Brochure 2013 MLK quote

3.

The Sanctuaries 2013 story

 

4.

The Sanctuaries 2013 Brochure testimony

5.

The Sanctuaries 2013 Brochure mission

6.

The Sanctuaries 2013 Brochure model

7.

The Sanctuaries 2013 Brochure more testimony

8.

The Sanctuaries 2013 Brochure numbers

9.

The Sanctuaries 2013 Brochure in picts

10.

The Sanctuaries 2013 Brochure even more testimony

11.

The Sanctuaries 2013 Brochure forward

 

What stood out to you?  Is this a place you’d like to visit?  Stay and build community?

Note their use of visuals.  Conveying the good news and good work is not always best done with words, but in visuals.  What would you visuals be? What would your metaphors be?

 

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke‘s Adaptive Measurements blog post in Growing Vital Leaders outlines some great questions to discern what exactly to measure in a year to get an idea of “Are you doing what you intended to do?  Are you being who you intended to be?”

 

Rev. Erik Martinez Resly is the lead organizer of The Sanctuaries, DC and the mastermind of this brochure. Story telling through visuals is a clearly a ministerial gift of his.  And he’s generous in sharing them, so please do contact him for guidance: thesanctuariesdc@gmail.com

 

The template he gives includes story, testimonies, mission, model, numbers, and moving forward. Go back and look at the Sanctuaries End of the Year Report again, only this time, try to imagine what your congregation’s report could be.  I am already planning for next year…

 

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tk in snow on Common 0114

Rev. Tandi Rogers understands visuals and metaphors better than linear words. And she day dreams of having a Sanctuaries in her neighborhood.  For a treat watch one of The Sanctuaries videos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Certification Brings Sexy Back

lipstick kissDo I have your attention?  I hope so.  I’m desperate to connect with you.

I was recently trying to reach out to congregations with less than 100 members for a possible cross-pollination learning experience. (By the way that represents 549 congregations, which is almost half of our entire Association.) I used the contact email listed in the database, which is given every year during certification time. I waited in giddy anticipation.

What happened made me reach for the tissues.  Over half of that half bounced back.  My heart deflated.  I spent an hour searching websites trying to find a contact that worked.  Many listed failing contact information on their websites.  Many websites listed no contact information at all.  How is this possible?

Please go check and see if this was your congregation.  Run, don’t walk, to the congregational search on the UUA website.  Is your information current?  If so, find some (fair trade, organic) chocolate and celebrate.

If not, find out who in your congregation is in charge of updating information and gently nudge and perhaps some chocolate as a reward. The online system for annual certification of membership for UUA congregations is now open. All congregations are required to log in to their online accounts and submit this report before the deadline on Mon., Feb. 3 at 5 p.m. Pacific Time. Congregations must submit their certified number of members and financial statistics from their recently-ended fiscal year, including total operating expenditures. Learn more and review the certification process online, or contact data_services@uua.org with questions.

Keeping your information updated is part of each congregation’s responsibility as a member in our Association.  Staying connected is a big part of our congregational polity — not “you can’t tell me what to do” or “bugger off.”  But rather radical interdependence and responsible communication.  We show our love by showing up.

Responsible associational interdependence is incredibly sexy.  Synonyms of sexy according the dictionary provocative, attractive, desirable, tempting.  Yes, do that.

 

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tk in snow on Common 0114Rev. Tandi Rogers day dreams of Average Sunday Attendance numbers and makes colorful graphs of them for fun.

 

 

 

 

The Magic of Empty Chairs

When I was little I used to think my Gramma Erma was magically.  She had the magic power of profound hospitality.

 

I learned to cook from her.  She taught me to pray into the food so that it nourishes the bodies and souls of those who will play their part of our intertwined lives.  I do that in my current ministry.  Those administrative, sometimes tedious pieces that make the machine run, I pray into those.  Those strategies that I start to form into plans to pass on to those building our faith, I pray into those and then wish them well in the capable new hands that may see them into fruition.

 

Gramma Erma also kept an empty chair at the dining table because you never know who will show up hungry. And you know what? More often than not we had an unexpected visitor join our feast.  And then she would add another chair. It was such a giddily anticipated ritual during the holidays – who was coming? What stories would they bring?

 

And yet, I hear this sometimes from leaders in congregations…  “We don’t need to grow.  We need to serve the people in our congregation better.”

 

Here’s what I want to say to folks who are harboring this notion… We are a covenantal faith tradition.  That covenant requires growth as a religious imperative.  We are a faith tradition with radical Universalism at our core, which requires a joyful invitation. It requires we pull up an empty chair and anticipate someone hungry or ready to serve or both in one.  And when they come, it requires we look deeply in their eyes and say, “We’ve been waiting for you.  Welcome home!”

 

In some youth circles there is a rule called Robbie’s Rule.  Robbie Seager is now a young adult and the inspirer of Robbie’s Rule.  The rule requires that in any circle an accessible place be kept open for the next person coming.  The circle doesn’t know who that person will be, only that they will surely come. And when they do, another space will be made available… and so on.  I can testify that this norm changes hearts, minds, and expectations.   It is the embodiment of my Gramma Erma’s hospitality and the Jesuit Radical Hospitality.

 

This year, please try this.  An empty chair, any empty place with the spirit of invitation swirling in and out of the open spaces throughout the circle.  Whether you are in a coffee hour huddle or a parent discussion group or a social justice planning session.  Keep a space open, even if it is symbolic.  At committee meetings and at board meetings, keep a chair open knowing that our own place is time-limited, transient. Others are coming who will sit in the place we once sat.

 

Every morning recite this prayer given to my home congregation by the Rev. Ken Jones.  I think it exemplifies our covenant beautifully.

 

I light this chalice (of my life) in deep respect for the mystery and holiness of life;

With honor and gratitude for those who came before;

With compassion and love for those who dwell among us;

And with hope and faith for the generations yet to come.

 

This year, consider using this prayer as a reminder that we are not alone. Once people are seated, pull a chair up.  Pull a chair up for that person yet to come.  Pull up another chair for the elders who came before.  And consider saying a prayer for the next person sitting in your chair.

 

May this year be filled with magic and radical welcome.

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Tandi mouth 513Rev. Tandi Rogers prays into the social hour coffee at church when she makes it.  And loves to watch people drink it up along with the coffee bean juice.  Think about it.  If you’ve ever had coffee or tea or soup made by Tandi, you’ve got her prayers swirling around your system.

An Innovative Learning Circle of Your Own…

Innovative Learning Circle logo“What is the magic behind the Innovative Learning Circles?”  “How can I start one in my area?”  I get these questions more and more as word is getting out about the success of Innovative Learning Circles.

 

The purpose is to bring innovative leaders together to spark, inspire, and cross-pollinate each other.  Let’s be honest.  Being an innovator can be isolating and lonely.

 

Innovative Learning Circles is a cross between small group ministry, video conference, and case study. We meet monthly at a consistent time for an hour and a half by video (if you do not have a camera for your computer you will receive one in the mail.)  The regular agenda looks like this:

  • Chalice Lighting
  • Check-in
  • Shared Case Study
  • Reflection and/or feedback
  • Take-Away (What nugget of wisdom or observation are you taking away)

Each group has a question they explore. Some of the questions the Innovative Learning Circles I shepherd are exploring are:

 

  • How can leaders navigate challenges to plant Unitarian Universalist communities that meet the needs of the 21st century?
  • What experiments might be replicable in other Unitarian Universalist settings?
  • How can campus ministry programs reach beyond their identified UU group and make an impact? How can Campus Ministry impact area congregations?
  • How can leaders adaptively shift congregational systems to break open and make way for concepts in the Faith Formation 2020 (John Roberto) training?
  • How can small congregation focus on health and lower their walls for bigger impact in the world?
  • How can prison ministry programs reach beyond their identified UU group and make an impact? How can prison ministry impact area congregations?
  • How can leaders use worship to shift congregational systems to meet the needs of the 21st century?

 

So, if you were gathering your own circle, what question would you like to explore?  Who within your community or perhaps in the surrounding, larger community would you like to learn with?  This is a great opportunity to meet your counterparts or peers from other UU congregations in your cluster.

 

What kinds of challenges could you explore together?  This is the outline for the first meeting:

  • Chalice Lighting
  • Check-in
  • What you need from this group? This experience?
  • Sharing: What are challenges we deal with that other positions/leaders just couldn’t understand.  What do we wish the board/minister/UUA/<fill-in-the-bland> understood? What are challenges we might explore together?
  • Reflection and/or feedback
  • Take-Away (What nugget of wisdom or observation are you taking away)

 

Those questions about challenge are where the gold is.  Those will be where the “case studies” come from. Each participant takes turns giving a “case study,” which is a story or description about a challenge related to your ministry.  It’s almost always about an adaptive challenge – one that won’t go away. Some guiding questions:

  • What is the current situation? Where do I want the situation to be?
  • Who else is involved? What are our roles and responsibilities in this situation?  What part have I played?  Not played?
  • What is within my control? Outside of my control?
  • When things change a bit, what happens to the rest of the system?
  • What do I need to learn?
  • What do I need to let go of in order to embrace something new?
  • Who else needs to be involved to make possible adaptations stick?

 

The group listens with pastoral and wondering ears, not “fix it” ears.  It takes great vulnerability and trust to reveal a challenge one isn’t sure about.  And that is where the real learning happens.  It is an affirming process.

 

An Innovative Learning Circle lasts between 7-9 months.  There’s an opening circle, a case study session for each participant (between 5-7 people is recommended), and then a closing circle.

 

In the closing circle, the final session, we take time to capture the over-all, meta-learnings from our sharing. Were there patterns in each other’s stories? Is there feedback we need to give to our regional staff (or other resource people) about what we’ve learned?  Might a workshop or training come out of anything you’ve learned together? The final go-around is gratitude from each other. Hold up each person and allow circle members to tell then what they’ve learned and appreciated from their presence.

 

This model is still in beta.  I use a virtual model, because of geographic challenges, but a face-to-face format would be lovely.  What makes it an Innovative Learning Circle is the guiding question, the gathering of innovators, and the sharing of the challenge stories. Feel free to experiment! And let me know what works for you. I’d love to hear from you!

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Tandi mouth 513 Tandi Rogers facilitates eight different, virtual Innovative Learning Circles during the third week of every month. At the end of every Innovative Learning Circle she bursts out of her office and says, “These may be the most important thing my office does for growth! Wow! That was amazing.”

 

 

 

Future of (Our) Faith

Future of Faith picCarey McDonald is one of those innovators and collaborators growing our faith beyond silos and traditional boundaries who I love to dream with. Whenever I’m in Boston we set aside a chunk of time to play into the following questions:

1. “If we were in charge …”  and then we excitedly spill out possibilities with no regard to our current authority or resources at our disposal. Note that the “what” of our charge shifts at our creative whim. Sometimes we’re in charge of the UUA. Sometimes we’re in charge of the world.

Sometimes the imagination playground is inspired by a book we’ve both read.  Last year Carey turned me on to American Grace by Robert Putnam, and that still makes appearances in our conversation.

2. “However, we aren’t in charge.  And we still can …” is the second, perhaps most important part of our exploration. We get real with what is our current authority and responsibility and “our work.”  Accessible resources magically sparkly with new and variant possibilities. Partners within and outside our system become apparent.  Strategies begin to take form.  We both come away feeling energized and inspired by our partnership.

I encourage you to seek out a partner to try these questions within the context of your leadership.  Don’t go to the most obvious partner in your system. But do find someone who is also passionate about growing our faith and is clear in the mission of your community.

Sometimes Carey and I try ideas out with each other that aren’t quite word-ripe, or we show each other pieces that we’re just putting the finishing touches on.  Future of Faith: Unitarian Universalism and the Millennial Generation is a presentation that is stunning and smart and right on. Carey’s been thinking about the Future of (Our) Faith for a long time.  This presentation brings it all together!  (Note: there is no sound and you move the presentation along with the arrows at the bottom.)

Please tell us what jumps out at you in the comments. What excites you? Gives you frown lines? And feel free to share the presentation.  I think this would be a great piece to show at a board meeting or staff retreat.

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cmcdonald_headshotCarey McDonald is the mind behind Future of our Faith.  Carey joined the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in the summer of 2011. He most recently worked as the staff director for a statewide advisory body, the Ohio School Funding Advisory Council, where he has focused on education reform, educational equity and “closing the achievement gap.” He has also worked as a budget analyst, policy advisor and legislative aide, and has considerable experience in political campaigns and organizing. Throughout his varied career, Carey has focused on creating a world more just through a community more loving, and is excited to bring that inclusive approach to the helm of the Youth and Young Adult Ministries Office.

Carey is a seventh-generation Unitarian Universalist who was active as a youth with Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU). He is formerly a member of the Ohio-Meadville District Youth/Adult Council, was active as a youth in Diverse & Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM), and served three times as a delegate to General Assembly. Before moving to Boston, he was an active young adult in his congregation in Columbus, Ohio, as a member of the Young Adult Covenant Group and chair of the church’s Annual Budget Drive. He also has served in recent years as a lay member of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. Carey has a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Economics from Pomona College in Claremont, CA. He lives in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston with his wife, Sarah.

How Can My Congregation Become a Breakthrough Congregation?

breakthroughI can say with authority that none of the 52 Breakthrough Congregations developed a strategic plan to become a designated Breakthrough Congregation.  They didn’t set out on a mission to become a Breakthrough Congregation. And yet one of the most asked questions I get in the Unitarian Universalist Growth Office is, “how can my congregation become a Breakthrough Congregation?”

 

This is how I want to answer that question:

  • Do “religious community” well.
  • Be yourself intentionally, joyfully, and impact-fullly.
  • Live your saving message in bold, generous, loving ways inside your walls.
  • Live your saving message in bold, generous, loving ways outside your walls.

But you don’t need me to tell you all that.  Read their stories in the UU World or watch their videos.  It’s all in there. I believe their stories can spark your imagination as to what your work is to become a Breakthrough Congregation.

 

And yet I know what most people mean by the original question is really, “how are Breakthrough Congregations chosen?”  Here’s how…

 

There is a stellar BTC Advisory:

 

The BTC Advisor watches and “collects” congregations all year. Congregations that have captured our attention go in the hopper. When people like you nominate a particular congregation, they go in the hopper.  I’ll ask District and Regional Staff in late spring who they think should be considered. Those congregations go in the hopper.

 

Then I take all those congregations in the hopper and compile quantitative data on them. The BTC Advisory takes this list and we peruse their websites, newsletters, area news. We ask UUA staff that have worked with them in the last couple of years about their story, their breakthrough and vibrancy.

 

What we’re looking for is a teaching story about each congregation’s breakthrough. We know we’re on to something when a headlines jumps into our imagination.

 

In August the Advisory is convened virtually.  We make a round of votes and see what patterns arise. Who are the favorites? Which congregations got no votes. And we debrief what that all mean.

 

Then we talk about what we’ve seen in the last year — what are the stories our (Unitarian Universalist) people need to hear, see, experience?  What do our people need to learn?  What kinds of growth do we need to hold up in light of all that?  And we go back to the list with deeper conversation.

 

And then more rounds of voting happen, not in the spirit of the most votes “win,” but rather where is the group’s yearning?  By then, we’re in a consensus groove. We choose a top 4 with a 5th in the wing in case something happens to one of the 4 that effect the power of the story.

 

Chris Walton, Executive Editor of the UU World, then assigns the quarter each congregation will most like be featured and a reporter to go spend a chunk of time with the congregation.  I give the information from our discernment to the reporter and then let it go. They go find the story they experience. Right before the story goes public, Mark Bernstein creates the study guide, and it all gets posted in the Growing UU blog with links on uua.org.  Before it goes live the Public Relations folks at the UUA contact the congregation to see if they need help with press releases and such.

 

And that is how the Breakthrough Congregations get chosen.  … So, what is your breakthrough? What is your teaching story? What is your headline?

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Tandi Headshot GATandi Rogers convenes the BTC Advisory.  She also waits on the steps for the UU World to come and flips through to the BTC article every month with wild anticipation.

Study Guide for UUWorld Article: Harmony Unitarian Universalist Community in Landen, OH

asset_upload_file300_290443Congratulations to the Harmony Unitarian Universalist Community in Landen, Ohio, for being the newest UUA Breakthrough Congregation! Each year the UUA’s Office of Growth Strategies recognizes a handful of congregations that have “broken through” barriers to achieve exemplary goals.

Harmony Unitarian Universalist Community is highlighted in the winter edition of the UUWorld, which will be hitting Unitarian Universalist members’ mailboxes at any moment. The following study guide is intended to accompany the article about Harmony.  We hope that this enables lively discussions for your congregational leaders.

 

Questions for Discussion and Deeper Study

 

With such a large ratio of children to adults, Harmony is very intentional in including children in the life of the community.

 

Questions for Discussion

  • What are some of the ways in which Harmony does this?
  • How is your congregation including children and youth in your community life?”
  • What changes would your congregation have to make in order to better include children and youth in community life?

 

Harmony prides itself on being “one-hundred percent volunteer-run.”

 

Questions for Discussion

  • What are some of the ways in which Harmony promotes volunteerism?
  • How prevalent is volunteerism in your congregation?
  • What are some of the barriers to volunteerism in your congregation and what are strategies to overcome these barriers?

 

The atmosphere at Harmony is low-key and friendly, with an emphasis on intimacy.

Questions for Discussion

  • How would you characterize the atmosphere at your congregation?
  • What are some strategies for implementation in your congregation to become friendlier and to achieve a greater sense of intimacy?

 

The Co-President calls Harmony “the un-church”.

 

Questions for Discussion

  • What are some of the examples cited in the article that give Harmony this title?
  • What emotions and thoughts does the phrase “un-church” raise for you?
  • What are some of the practices in your congregation that would be considered “un-church’ like?

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This Study Guide creator is Mark Bernstein, Regional Consultant for Growth Development with the Central Eastern Regional Group.  CERG offers many excellent growth resources. Please check them out! Thank you, Mark, for so generously serving our faith.