Why UU Military Ministry?

Gathered at the first-ever retreat for UU military chaplains in February 2011 were: (from left, front row) Seanan Holland, Bret Lortie, Sarah Lammert, Cynthia Kane, Chris Antal, and Xolani Kacela; (back row) David Pyle, Azande Sasa, and Rebekah Montgomery.
Gathered at the first-ever retreat for UU military chaplains in February 2011 were: (from left, front row) Seanan Holland, Bret Lortie, Sarah Lammert, Cynthia Kane, Chris Antal, and Xolani Kacela; (back row) David Pyle, Azande Sasa, and Rebekah Montgomery.

My dad is a veteran. He was part of the occupation of Germany in the early 1950s. I have been aware of my father’s military service since I was a small child. He shared funny stories of military life and talked about how much he learned about people from other cultures and places. He rarely talked about how he felt to be stationed in a place where war had destroyed so much and where the monstrous evil of the Holocaust had transpired, but, all of those experiences left their mark on him.

Our congregations are full of people touched by military service. They are veterans who count their service as a formative part of their lives and their identity. They are parents, cousins, siblings, spouses, and children who care about active duty personnel and worry about their well-being. All of these people have rich stories to share—and they might like to share them with us, if only they felt their stories would be welcome. Many of them have insightful perspectives on war and peace, on the role of the military in our nation, and on the thorny questions of power in our interconnected world. Some have spiritual wounds that need pastoral care and compassion. Unitarian Universalist military ministry is about offering safe space for all of these people.

Unitarian Universalist military ministry is also about reaching out into your community. There are people currently serving in the military who long for a free-thinking, justice-seeking, inclusive faith tradition like ours. They may be young adults facing spiritual crisis when their childhood faith no longer serves. They may be career military people who have not found a religious tradition that fits their understanding of what is sacred. They may be people seeking a faith community that embraces them and their same-sex partners. There are people who would welcome our help to find Unitarian Universalism.

If your congregation is exploring how you might begin or strengthen your outreach to military personnel and veterans, you may want to investigate excellent tools recently produced by the UUA. The Military Ministry Toolkit, available online at no charge,includes six 1-hour workshops and a 23-minute video to share with congregational leadership. We’re very excited about this resource! You can find out more about it and ask any questions you may have by attending a webinar:

November 2014: Military Ministry in UU Congregations
Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 1 pm Eastern
or, Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 9 pm Eastern
Presented by Gail Forsyth-Vail with Shawna Foster, a military veteran and the military ministry coordinator for the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Larger Fellowship.

To register, email faithdevwebinar@uua.org. Specify the date/time of the webinar you wish to attend.



Gail Forsyth-Vail 2014Gail Forsyth-Vail  is Adult Programs Director in the UUA Faith Development Office, a position she came to after many years serving congregations as a religious educator. She is passionate about creating ways for people to connect their own lived experience to the depth and richness of our Unitarian Universalist tradition. She loves learning things, meeting people, telling stories, and being part of a terrific extended family!

UUA Common Read

Proclaiming Prophetic WitnessThe discussion guide for the 2014-2015 UUA Common ReadReclaiming Prophetic Witness: Liberal Religion in the Public Square by Paul Rasor, is available now to download for free.

The discussion guide is offered in two formats: a single, 90-minute session or three, 90-minute sessions. In addition to offering a framework for exploring and testing Rasor’s ideas, this discussion guide suggests books and resources to help apply his insights to specific social justice issues-which may include ones nearest to your heart or to your congregation’s justice ministry.

Reclaiming Prophetic Witness, published by Skinner House, points out a growing misconception that conservative Christianity is the only valid religious voice in our national social policy. The book includes insights from our liberal religious theological heritage, and calls us to prophetic, faith-based justice work. Rasor explores the forces and tensions that have weakened our prophetic witness in the last quarter century. He also makes a strong case for the necessity of a liberal religious presence in the public square to complement and strengthen secular voices raised for social justice.

Purchase your copy of Reclaiming Prophetic Witness today. Buy in bulk and save: bulk orders of 5 to 9 copies receive an automatic 10% discount and orders of 10 or more receive an automatic 20% discount.

We hope you will join Unitarian Universalists from all over in sharing this Common Read and in reclaiming the practice of prophetic witness.


Why participate in the UUA Common Read?   A Common Read invites participants to read and discuss the same book in a given period of time. A Common Read can build community in our congregations and our movement by giving diverse people a shared experience, shared language, and a basis for deep, meaningful conversations.

Equual Access: National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Interfaith flyerOctober is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  Today, 70% of people with disabilities are not employed, even though polls show that most of them would prefer to work. Incredibly, this is about the same percentage of unemployed persons since the early 1980′s when I began my work in the field of disabilities.

The Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition, of which the UUA is a member, in collaboration with the American Association of People with Disabilities, has published a document on ways that congregations can help to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities.  Click on the picture in the upper left corner to be directed to that helpful article.

Unemployment is an affront to one’s dignity, self-worth and ability to achieve a satisfactory quality of life.  We have to do better for people with disabilities whose dreams of gainful employment are still just that.  Thanks for your help.



mark bernsteinMark Bernstein is the UUA staff liaison to Equual Access and a Congregational Life Staff with the Central East Regional Group

Parting Wisdom from Don Skinner of InterConnections

InterConnections pictIn 17 years of working with InterConnections, which published its last issue in August, I’ve learned a few things about congregations by talking to the people in them.


At the top of the list is how we welcome people. Welcoming may be the most powerful thing we do. It’s so powerful that nearly every person I talk with who has been a “come inner” to Unitarian Universalism can actually name the person who welcomed them when they stepped into their first UU building. I know I can. Thank you, Harry Burkholder, for being there that Sunday in Costa Mesa, California.


I’ve learned from all of you that welcoming works better if it’s not delegated to a few people, but if everyone does it. Welcoming is also made easier if we remember that visitors––I like the term “guests”––are a friendly lot. They’ve pretty much all been to our websites before they visit. They know what they’re getting into. They’re ready to like us. They’re just wanting to find out how welcoming this particular congregation is. They’re looking and listening for the hum and the buzz of the place, and watching how their children are made welcome. (And if the bathrooms are clean that’s a bonus!)


One of the themes of InterConnections has been the power of one person to change a congregation. For good or ill. One person can plant an idea and then gather support for it. One person can encourage someone else.


One person in a congregation can also kill an idea or discourage someone else. We need to listen to cranky people, and to love them, but we need not be intimidated by them or let them tear down what the rest of us have built. We need to have enough respect for the rest of the congregation to stand up to individuals who would create conflict.


Congregations have changed since InterConnections started in 1998. They’ve taken up small group ministry in a big way. Many give away Sunday collections, spreading their values throughout their larger communities. They’ve learned to do Joys and Sorrows and Water Communion better.


When InterConnections began there were fewer ways for congregational leaders to get information and talk with each other. Now there are email lists, blogs, Facebook laboratories, webinars, and other tools. We hope you will also continue to dig into the InterConnections archive. You’ll find both inspirational and how-to stories about all aspects of congregational life. You truly don’t have to reinvent the wheel. That InterConnections archive is available on UUA.org.


If I could recommend one book of all the books that InterConnections has mentioned over the years it would be this one––Articulating Your UU Faith, by the Rev. Barbara Wells and the Rev. Jaco B. ten Hove. That’s because I believe that one reason we aren’t growing is that many of us still aren’t comfortable explaining our faith. If we were, we’d talk it up more with neighbors, coworkers, and others, and then invite them to church. It matters that we share this faith so that it can change other peoples’ lives as it has changed ours.



Don-Skinner_400x400Don Skinner has faithfully produced InterConnections for 17th years!  (Let that sink in. 17 years.) Tandi considers him the first Innovation & Network Specialist. You can still read previous articles in our Archives or search InterConnections by topic or keyword.

Study Guide for UUWorld Article: The Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder, Colorado

BoulderCongratulations to the The Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder, Colorado, for being the newest UUA Breakthrough Congregation! Each year the UUA’s Congregational Life Office recognizes a handful of congregations that have “broken through” barriers to achieve exemplary goals.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder is highlighted in the fall 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 the Boulder congregation. We hope that this enables lively discussions for your congregational leaders.


Questions for Discussion and Deeper Study


Five years ago, the UU Church of Boulder, Colorado was in dire straits.


Questions for Discussion

  • What were some of the challenges faced by the membership?
  • What challenges is your congregation currently facing? How do they compare to the challenges faced by the Boulder congregation?


Among the improvements made at Boulder was a commitment to “radical hospitality” and the targeting of a demographic group, in their case young adults.


Questions for Discussion

  • What is your congregation’s commitment to “radical hospitality”?
  • Who are the demographic groups that you should be targeting?
  • With specific reference to young adults, what practices could you be engaged in to better attract and retain this group?


The key to Boulder’s success has been a commitment to “stay at the table” rather than giving up and by being open to change and experimentation.


Questions for Discussion

  • In what ways has Boulder demonstrated its willingness to change and experiment?
  • How committed are the members of your congregation to “staying at the table”?
  • How responsive is your congregation to changing those aspects of congregational life that are holding you back? What will it take for members to be more responsive to change?


For the Boulder congregation, the UUA’s Developmental Ministry program was the right answer to address their problems.


  • Is your congregation a good candidate for a Developmental Minister?
  • If yes, how would your congregation benefit from such a relationship?


Please note that you can see all the Breakthrough Congregations here. Some have videos, some have study guides.  You can also search by size to find examples that fit your congregation.


What to know more about Developmental Ministry? This program matches congregations with significant challenges and targeted goals with ministers to solve specific institutional problems.


Crave more pictures from the story? There is a photo gallery for the story!



Bernstein MarkThis Study Guide creator is Mark Bernstein, Congregational Life Staff with the Central East Regional Group. CERG offers many excellent growth resources. Please check them out! Thank you, Mark, for so generously serving our faith.

May Be Even Better Than “Minister of Abundance & Possibilities”

Superwoman lunchboxIf you saw Scott Tayler’s announcement yesterday for my new job, you will understand why I am giddy like a schoolgirl on the first day of school. I even considered getting a new lunch box just to celebrate the transition. I thought “Growth Strategist” was a pretty awesome title, but “Innovation & Network Specialist”? Come on! It’s sparky and spicy.  I think it may be even better than “Minister of Abundance & Possibilities,” which I’ve been lobbying for for years.


And have you noticed the new mission of Congregational Life: “Serving Interconnection, Innovation, and Impact”?   I find it irresistible. I think it captures how we’re in a time where surrendering to the greater co-conspiracy of creativity and new models of church is essential to faithful work. As I think about how my new job will support this mission, here are some of the things I’m most excited about:




I have been so happy with the evolution of Innovative Learning Circles. For those of you who have not participated in one, they are on-line learning communities of leaders exploring adaptive challenges in a covenanted format that provides safe space to bring one’s whole self – the questions, doubts, vulnerabilities, passion and innovative ideas. I took the feedback from participants seriously and kept massaging the process and trying new things. It’s now ready to hand off to new facilitators (Congregational Life and Headquarters staff.) I will move into a coaching role to support the spin off of multiple learning circles.


I will also devote new attention to connecting leaders through digital media, looking at redundant and duplicated systems, and how we can best coordinate and compliment what is working. This will include social media, web presence and on-line learning. For much of this work I will be joined at the hip to Carey McDonald, Outreach Director and Sarah Millspaugh, Faith Outreach Strategist. They are very focused on UUA-wide web-presence branding and alignment, and it just makes sense to join forces!




Innovative and new models of doing church is another area of my work that has my heart. I will support our regional multisite support staff team, as well as be on a Congregational Life and Outreach collaborative team effort to develop more comprehensive and robust support services for our emerging congregations and emerging “beyond” communities. I have been so impressed with the open imaginations, commitment, and passion of Congregational Life staff to create cultures and capacities of permission-giving and experimentation and authentic hospitality and dare I say, evangelism. The possibilities are endless and this team knows it and is ready to grow it. Holy “Yes!” is swirling all around!




I will still be conducting data gathering and research projects for our UUA departments, as well as the UUA Board in their discernment to create policies and pathways easier for the next generation of Unitarian Universalist leaders. I am increasing my attention to data gathering and research for your Congregational Life staff team. Scott and the Congregational Life staff are committed to impact assessment. Does the data check our assumptions so we can plan better and do better? Are we doing what we intend to do, making the impact we intend to make?


What a time to be doing this ministry! What are you willing to surrender in order to embrace innovation and experimentation? How can we refresh our embodiment of congregational polity? How are you living out congregational interconnection in a radical and creative way? I am incredibly thankful to join hands with all of you as we leap into these important questions and new possibilities!




Tandi close up brick wallRev. Tandi Rogers has been playing J. Cole’s’ song Coming Home loudly as she color-codes (virtual) file folders for her new job. She feels great coming home to the staff team in which she started at such an ground-breaking time in our institutional ministry.

New Position Supports Innovation and Collaboration

Tandi close up brick wallI am pleased to welcome Rev. Tandi Rogers to the Congregational Life staff. Her new role will be Innovation & Network Specialist. This comes in the midst of reorganization at our UUA to enhance our support for growth, outreach and innovation. Rev. Terasa Cooley, our UUA’s Program & Strategy Officer, will soon share more details about the changes we are pursuing in a follow-up blog post. Today, I want to focus on Tandi’s new role.


Previously, Tandi served as our UUA’s Growth Strategies Specialist, partnering with Rev. Stefan Jonasson, Director of Growth Strategies and Large Congregations, to make up our UUA Growth Office. Together, they have given our congregations and our UUA many gifts. As researchers, they have helped us understand and adapt to current and coming trends. They’ve brought a new rigor to assessing the impact of our services. And most importantly, they’ve inspired and equipped us to be more bold in pursuing new models of doing church.


Although we face tightened budgets and the retirement of Stefan Jonasson, we are committed to continuing this emphasis on research, rigorous assessment and innovation. To accomplish this, we are pursuing a networked approach to our growth services. Instead of continuing a Growth Office with a new director, growth strategies and support systems will now be developed and implemented through cross-departmental teams. Tandi’s work will focus on these systems of heightened collaboration. In particular, she will help us:

  • develop deeper partnerships between field staff and headquarters departments,
  • ensure an expanded and more integrated approach to supporting “Congregations and Beyond” efforts,
  • assess programming to make sure we are helping congregations adapt to 21st century challenges, and
  • offer research support throughout our entire system.

More simply put–and as her title suggests–we are asking her to help all of us stay connected and focused on innovation.


All those familiar with her work know that Tandi is the perfect person for this job. She has a passion for teamwork and a wonderfully creative mind. The entire Congregational Life staff and I are thrilled to have her as our partner. And we look forward to all the ways she will help us partner with you.



Scott Tayler close upReverend Scott Tayler, Director of Congregational Life, our UUA.

Congregational Life Mission:  Serving Interconnection, Innovation & Impact

Report Out from the FACT People Gathering, part 2

FACTStefan Jonasson and I attended the annual meeting of he Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership last week. (for highlights from that gathering see part 1 of this 2-part series.) CCSPis the body that conducts and publishes Faith Communities Today/ FACT Reports. The common core questionnaire of the survey replicates over 150 questions from the 2000, 2005 and 2008 surveys, plus a special section on the 2008 recession.


These are the resulting reports from those surveys:


  • Faith Communities Today 2000: A Report on Religion in the United States. This research project was the largest survey of congregations ever conducted in the United States. It also is the most inclusive, denominationally decade
    sanctioned program of interfaith cooperation.

The Faith Communities Today data brought together 26 individual surveys of congregations representing 41 denominations and faith groups.
  • American Congregations 2005
 The FACT2005 national survey of congregations profiles religious life based on the 2005 national survey of congregations. This 30 page report presents a comprehensive look at the FACT2005 findings, including trend comparisons to FACT 2000 survey findings, and new perspectives on worship, conflict, leadership, interfaith involvement, vitality, the prevalence of strong
    beliefs (both on the right and the left) and the greatest challenges congregations
  • Faith Communities Today 2008 A First Look FACT2008 is the preliminary report of the recent 2008 national survey of churches, mosques and synagogues in the U.S. This report looks at tgrowth2010he story of change over eight years and demonstrates considerable congregational decline but also a pattern o hope and lessons to be learned to grow a healthy and vital congregational life
  • American Congregations 2008 This report of the FACT2008 national survey of churches and other religious communities is the most recent p
    rofiling of congregational life in the United States. The 38 page report presents a comprehensive look at the findings, including trend comparisons to FACT 2000 and FACT 2005 survey findings, and new perspectives on worship, conflict, leadership, interfaith involvement, vitality, economic hardships and other challenges churches, mosques and synagogues tell us they face.
  • Facts on Growth: 2010 Congregations that are spiritually vital and alive, have strong, permanent leadership, and enjoy joyful, innovative and inspirational worship are more likely to experience growth,
    a new study has found.  Other factors that support growth are being located in the South; having more weekly worship services; and having a clear sense of mission and purposeInternet-cover
  • A Decade of Change in American Congregations 2000-2010 The health of America’s congregations remains a challenging situation, according to a newly released report from Faith Communities Today.  The findings that show that despite efforts at innovation, bursts of vitality and increased civic participation, faith communities are entering this decade less healthy than they were at the turn of the century.
  • Virtually Religious: Technology and Internet Use in American Congregations  Religious congregations are making dramatic strides in adapting to the contemporary Internet technological reality. This report describes the level of technological use by religious groups, identifies the factors that either aid or hinder its use, and highlights the positive outcomes for the congregation that embraces the use of technology. The report also speculates beyond the data to offer several reasons why all congregations should intentionally develop their technological ministry capabilities, no matter how large or small, technologically adept or unsophisticated.worship
  • FACTS on Worship in 2010 Worship is the central, quintessential act of religion.  The worship gathering is the major setting in which people congregate to grow in their faith. This Faith Communities Today report provides a snapshot of the United States at worship across churches, denominations
    and faith groups. The picture of worship that emerges from this research report is one of both variety and similarity.


What survey is on the horizon? We’re studying young adult ministries! That made you perk up, didn’t it? This late fall each congregation in the Association will be taking the same survey that interfaith communities across the country will be taking. This blog will report out both our internal Unitarian Universalist findings and the larger FACT reporting.


According to the FACT website: The emerging consensus of research shows a growing percentage of young adults are not connected with any religion, although many younger Americans express an interest in spirituality. This reality raises concern about young adult participation in religious communities.

What is the involvement of young adults in local congregations of all faiths across the United States? And how are faith communities with significant proportion of young adults distinctive?

For these resources, a congregation is considered to have significant young adult participation if 21% or more of its participants were 18 to 34 years of age.  Across all faiths, a total of only 16% of all congregations were in this category.


So watch for the next FACT survey coming from the UUA. Make sure you’re faith community is represented!



Stefan and Tandiat CCSPStefan Jonasson and Tandi Rogers read these reports not just for fun but as a blue print for priorities and strategy.  Drop Tandi a line with stories as to how your congregation changed a direction, strategy, program or behavior due to inspiration from one of these reports. She can be reached at trogers@uua.org.

Report Out from the FACT People Gathering, part 1

FACTAs it turns out, data geeks throw a pretty good party! Stefan Jonasson and I attended the annual meeting of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership last week. It was held in Chicago at the beautiful headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.  About 30 researches from over 25 denominations or religious networks gathered to compare notes, observations, challenges, and excitement over current studies. I was downright giddy to be there!


I got to meet my counterpart from the Greek Orthodox community who attempted to replicate the study I had done a couple years ago on Free Range Unitarian Universalists. He and I spent many hours on the phone last year talking about how polity, culture, and many other variables effect translation of research instruments. Try to grock that for a moment. In the room of religious researches Alexei and I would be placed on opposite ends of the spectrum for so many reasons, and yet we could not wait to finally meet and break bread together.


Researchers for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Church of the Nazarene and I excitedly swapped challenges of our fall 2015 study and checked our assumptions – Is that true? How would we know? What do you see from the vantage of your tradition?


I disclosed holy envy for the new, comprehensive and dynamic database that the United Church of Christ researchers use with the whole of their national and field staff. And followed them on break to take notes on the details of a study they are doing on Congregational Vitality. I want to borrow their instrument!


Some expressed holy envy at how Unitarian Universalists use technology with relative ease to break down barriers to communication. We are early adapters and adopters of technology. They looked at Stefan and I in wonder because we primarily collaborate across national borders through regular video conferencing.


Many of the researchers were equally fascinated that data analysis is a relatively small percentage of our Growth Office’s dedicated time. That most of our work is in actually actively using the findings to do ministry better, whether in direct service or in resource development. They had holy envy that our reports are actively being used by our UUA Board of Directors to make better decisions about our future. And that our field staff uses reports to determine priorities and check intended impact. I know many of our congregations do, too! “Give me those numbers so I can decide how to do better!”


And there was discomfort, too. When the researcher from the National Council of Churches pointed out that the historic Black churches were missing from our cooperative, I kept pushing the issue. Why? What are we going to do about it? And now we have an effort to examine who is missing and to actively invite those groups into the cooperative. Later my new friend from the LDS tradition observed, “Inclusion is very important to your religion, isn’t it?” Yes. Yes, it is.


In partnership with others similar enough to be able to communicate but different enough to challenge same-ness assumption is where I really begin to understand myself. My participation with the CCSP clarified for me that I come from the people of


  • Adaptivity
  • Relational Curiosity
  • Thinking to do
  • Working toward justice


I feel blessed to live in a time where I can work along side my cousins in faith and use quantitative and qualitative research to help see a clear picture of who we are individually and together in this 21st century landscape.


Part two of our FACT People Gathering report will focus on the actual publications of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership and the most current survey taking place.



Stefan and Tandiat CCSPYes, Stefan Jonasson and Tandi Rogers pass notes in class and egg each other to make mischief for the good of the group. They were in their element at this particular gathering.


behave yourselfI hear these laments all the time.

“We can’t get young adults to join our congregation.”

“We have a congregational covenant, but there still seems to be a lot of conflict around here.”

“I can’t get anyone to serve on the Board of Trustees.”

“Our fund drive came up short again. No one wants to talk about money.”

These are some of the realities of congregational life. In their struggle to deal with them, leaders often ask the question, “How can I get people to change their behavior?” The answer, many of us think, comes down to more information and changing attitudes. We reason that if we can just give people the right information; if we can get them to think differently, then they’ll come and visit, they’ll readily volunteer, they’ll get along, they’ll contribute generously.

Well, social scientist Jeni Cross, sociology professor at Colorado State University, tells us that this reasoning is incorrect. She debunks two of the myths of behavior change, that education changes people’s behavior and that in order to change behavior, you have to change people’s attitudes. Instead, Cross contends, the most effective way to change behavior is to change behavioral expectations or to reinforce existing social norms. To put it simply, people are more likely to change their behavior if they see others doing it.

So, for example, if you want people to be more ecologically responsive, you won’t get them to do it by appealing to the need to save the planet. They’ll be more likely to respond if you display an ad showing George Clooney or Katy Perry tossing a plastic water bottle in a recycling can. If people are going to toss a dollar bill into the guitar case of a street musician, they are more likely to do so if they see other people doing it. We are more likely to change our behavior if we see that it is part of the social norms in the context of that situation.

In our efforts, then, as leaders in our congregations, it is not enough to just provide information. It is not enough to inspire and challenge and motivate potential and current members so as to change their attitudes towards the congregation and Unitarian Universalism in general. We need to do more. We need to change the expectations of their behavior. We need to create new social norms.We need to change the culture so that people respond because they see everyone else doing it.

So how do we do that? Hey, I’m not saying this is easy. But here are some things you can try in response to the lamentations I listed above. What they all have in common is that they are intended to demonstrate or reinforce expected behavior rather than relying on information or inspiration to get people motivated.


Can’t get young adults to join…or even to visit?

  • Post pictures of young adults on the home page of your website engaging in various activities related to congregational life.
  • Include one or two quotes from young adults on your website talking about life as a member of your congregation.
  • Encourage young adults to serve as greeters. Nothing is more impressive to a young adult visitor than walking into the building and being greeted by a young adult.

Got conflict?

  • Make it a practice to read your covenant at every Board and committee meeting and every other event at which members congregate (of course, make sure the covenant is short enough so that you’re not taking half the meeting reading it).
  • Look for fellow members who are living out the covenant and publicly and privately thank them for doing so.
  • Publish a story in each issue of your newsletter profiling a member who embodies the tenets of the congregational covenant.

No volunteers for the Board?

  • Publish a list of all past Presidents in the history of the congregation. Let your congregation see what a distinguished list of leaders it represents.
  • Ask current and past Board members to talk about their positive experiences in service. Either publish their comments in your newsletter or ask them to do a testimonial during a worship service.
  • At least twice a year, during a worship service, ask all members of the congregation who are in volunteer positions (any position) to rise. Chances are it will be a very large majority of those in attendance. You and the members of the congregation will see that serving others is more of a social norm than you might think.

Need to fill up the coffers?

  • Ask people to give live and written testimonials on why they give and how the congregation makes a difference in their lives.
  • Publicly acknowledge people who do pledge during the fund drive, with a ribbon that they can attach to their nametag (I PLEDGED FOR (CONGREGATION)) or by putting their names on a display that is shown prominently in the lobby for all to see.
  • Throughout the fund drive, continuously make the congregation aware of how many people and what percentage of the congregation has already pledged. You want members to see that pledging is the norm. Everybody’s doing it, so why not you?
  • Consider a “Pledge Sunday” where all members of the congregation are asked to step forward and drop their pledge in a ceremonial basket as part of the worship service.

None of these strategies is a quick fix. Effecting behavior change means changing the culture, and changing the culture takes time. Our congregations are not speed boats. We are more like big ocean liners and it takes a lot more time and effort to turn an ocean liner than a speed boat. So, we need to continue informing and educating. We need to continue inspiring and challenging. But we also need to be demonstrating and encouraging and reinforcing positive behavior. And where do we begin? With you, leader. Behave…Yourself.



mark bernsteinMark Bernstein is Congregational Life Staff with the Central East Regional Group. He always behaves himself and has never been on either a speed boat or a big ocean liner.