Welcome to Growing Unitarian Universalism, a forum for sharing ideas and strategies for growing our liberal religious faith in breadth, depth and numbers. Sponsored by the UUA Office of Growth Strategies, we will use this blog to share research, review resources, articulate strategies, identify good practices, present guest commentaries, and share stories from the field—all in an effort to stimulate Unitarian Universalists’ passion for sharing our faith and growing its congregations.
Established in 2011, the Office of Growth Strategies was initiated to help restore the Unitarian Universalist Association to a position of active evangelism. Yes, evangelism—sharing the good news we have to offer with hungry, thirsting souls whose lives might be enriched by our unique way in religion and whose labors might be harnessed in service to the world.
It is not the purpose of the Office of Growth Strategies to single-handedly increase the number of Unitarian Universalists. That’s the collective work of all Unitarian Universalists and it must focus on witnessing to our principles and values in new and compelling ways, not seeking numerical growth for its own sake. Indeed, while numerical growth may be a useful measure of success, our real goal is changed hearts and transformed lives. Our office’s role is to inform, equip and inspire Unitarian Universalists in this work.
Over the past several months, my colleague, Tandi Rogers, and I have been surveying the landscape: we’ve reviewed the Unitarian Universalist Association’s previous growth initiatives, identified resources from a wide variety of outside agencies, and consulted broadly with individuals and groups who care about the health and vitality of Unitarian Universalism. Recognizing that a sustained growth initiative will require the alignment of existing denominational resources in ways that promote evangelism and outreach, we asked UUA staff three questions:
- How does what you do contribute to growth?
- What would a religious venture capitalist do in your role?
- What three things that you currently do, if you stopped doing them, would actually contribute to growth?
Along the way, we’ve discerned that the best programs and initiatives seem to have a “shelf life,” after which they need to be retired, since they begin to produce diminishing returns, however effective they may have been at their peak. We’ve realized that our institutions reward caution much more than responsible risk-taking. We’ve seen how technology is outpacing our imagination for its effective use. And we’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover that our regional staff are working with more than 60 emerging congregations or groups of various types.
As this blog unfolds in the coming weeks and months—even years—we will share what we’re learning in greater depth, point to resources you might find useful, offer our best insights and advice, and invite you to participate in the conversation. We promise to provoke and inspire, challenge and encourage, lead and listen. Together we can expand the influence of Unitarian Universalism and welcome newcomers to join us on this adventure of faith. Can we count on you to work with us in growing Unitarian Universalism?