What if membership was a spectrum?

Created by Carey McDonald, UUA Outreach Director, Lori Emison Clair, Consultant, and Marie Blohowiak, Congregational Life Coordinator and UUAMP Vice President
Created by Carey McDonald, UUA Outreach Director, Lori Emison Clair, Consultant, and Marie Blohowiak, Congregational Life Coordinator and UUAMP Vice President

 

As Unitarian Universalists, we have a traditionally operated under a model of church that doesn’t acknowledge the changing social norms about religion. Historically, we’ve only kept track of one aspect of involvement in church life, “membership”, which typically means signing a congregation’s membership book and making an annual pledge. But in reality, people interact with faith communities in dozens of different ways beyond the traditional notion of membership, often deepening and stepping back over the course of their lives. If we truly believe that everyone in our faith movement matters, whether they are official members or not, it is clear we need to re-conceive what it means to be connected to Unitarian Universalism.

We created a spectrum to help congregations see that there are distinct levels of belonging to our faith communities. Together, as leaders in the UU Association of Membership Professionals and as UUA staff working on outreach, we offered a workshop at 2015 General Assembly about how to engage the whole spectrum.

 

Curious Individual

These are the people who know us and are in sync with our values, but not involved in our programs or ministries. Some examples would include those who participate in community activities related to a UU group, follow UUs on social media, share UU content, read UU books, see and/or support UU social justice actions.

Welcomed Visitor

Those who are involved with UU programs or ministries at a basic or fluid level, and may or may not identify as UU, are at this stage. They may attend events hosted by UU congregations, go to Sunday services occasionally or participate in UU community-oriented ministries and programs (e.g. day care, lecture series). Sometimes they have a friend or family member who serves as a tie to the congregation.

Succeeding in the first two stages (outreach)
  • Pay attention to how you show up virtually (website, social media, Yelp/Google/search functions, news media), so you look as beautiful from the outside as you do from the inside.
  • Create multiple entry points that don’t revolve around Sunday morning (get creative! Get passionate!) AND pay attention to visitor experience at all of these entry points.
  • One transition between welcomed visitor and connected friend is the traditional “pathway to membership,” but support is needed for all transitions.
Connected Friend

After attending services several times, those who attend a one time or low commitment activity outside of services have become a connected individual. This gives them better opportunities to meet people and start building relationships. Having several easy opportunities, like a Circle Dinner, one time small group, helping set up at an event or serving coffee give new folks a way to meet others without making a big commitment.

Engaged Individual

When a person gets involved in a regular activity, such as an affinity group, small group ministry, religious education teacher or serving on a committee, they have engaged with the community. All of these programs require ownership in one way or another, an expectations of regular participation and, in many cases, opportunities to share spiritual journeys with each other.

Integrated Leader

At the final stage in the spectrum, individuals emerge as leaders. We have found that as someone steps into the role of a leader they are more than simply engaged with a community, but they are also integrated. And by being integrated they are changing the community. They put their own personal twist on the programs they lead and that is a deeper level in involvement then just showing up, even on a regular basis. You become an integrated leader when you are willing to put your efforts into making the community better. Some examples would be a committee chair, small group leader or religious professional.

Succeeding along the spectrum (welcoming and membership development)
  • Make sure facilitators and leaders of groups know how to welcome newcomers at each stage as people enter the spectrum at different points.
  • Have training in place for leaders to ensure they have healthy boundaries and motives consistent with the mission of your congregation.
  • Have a tracking system in place to know where people fall on the spectrum. This will be an invaluable resource for recruiting for programs and volunteer opportunities, discovering emerging leaders, as well as those who need assistance in connecting.
  • We need to understand that there will be people who move both directions on the spectrum, and even leave our path. We want to support them in their journey and leave room for them to comfortably return should their path bring them back.

 

Looking at these stages calls us to pay attention to how we help people move from one stage to another. Again, most of us will move up and down the spectrum over time, but transitions between stages will always be important for religious leaders to support (the transition of “bridging” from youth to young adulthood is a great example). We hope this model will inspire UUs to think differently about their faith, from outreach to curious individuals all the way to spiritual enrichment for our integrated leaders. It can even include non-congregational groups, conferences or ministries. Embrace the full spectrum!

Additional Resources

Notes from 2015 General Assembly Workshop

Unitarian Universalist Association of Membership Professionals

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Created by Carey McDonald, UUA Outreach Director, Lori Emison Clair, Consultant, and Marie Blohowiak, Congregational Life Coordinator and UUAMP Vice President

Improving your User Experience (UX), online and in person (Part 3)

In this day and age, peoples’ experience with our UU congregations and groups typically begins online. They engage with our websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds, and the feelings and conclusions they develop will lead them towards, or away from, engaging in our communities. I blogged here this summer about the rising field of User Experience (UX): how it can reveal to us the unintentional signals we send to newcomers and how we can learn a lot from our new users.

If we’re going to do effective outreach online, we some insight into the experience of the large and slightly mysterious pool of people we call prospective visitors. Who are they? What do they want? And how do we design our websites for their positive UX?

Creating personas can help. It’s an imaginative exercise, one that helps us “insiders” see things from a different viewpoint.

For a General Assembly 2015 workshop on websites, I developed two personas and “looked” at two congregations’ websites through their lenses (with their blessing, of course!)

First persona: James from East Tennessee. James is a white male high school student, age 17, who identifies as gay. He’s been raised without religion, yet he has had some profound spiritual experiences he wants to talk about with peers. His ideas about the sacred don’t fit neatly into any box. He calls himself agnostic.

james
from Flickr ©Jasn/CC BY-NC 2.0
“James” the persona

James has some questions. He goes to the nearest UU congregation’s website, in this case Oak Ridge UU Congregation, and tries to find out:

  • Is this a place where I can talk about my spirituality?
  • Will they accept me as a gay person?
  • What is there for high school youth?
  • What are the other teens like?

I encourage you to click through ORUUC.org. Are you able to find answers to his questions? How hard, or how easy? It’s a beautiful website. You might notice that right away, the website speaks to his spiritual question. Yes! You might also notice that it doesn’t say it’s an LGBTQ welcoming congregation, though the FAQ indicates that there are transgender-welcoming bathrooms. And where does he know to look for information on the high school youth program? Under “Get Inspired?” “Grow in Faith?” “Be Involved?” He doesn’t really know what any of those three sections are. He’s kind of confused. Even though this is an extravagantly welcoming congregation for a gay teen like himself, he doesn’t know that. Looking at the website he is getting some really positive answers to some of his questions, and is not quite sure about the answers to some others.

family
from Flickr ©Jennifer Borget/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
“Tricia” and her family

Another persona is Tricia. She is 37 years old, an atheist, a teacher, multiracial, and a mom of two. Her husband is white and believes in God. Their daughter is asking them big questions, and Tricia is looking for a place where their whole family can explore meaning together. She lives in Eastern Massachusetts, and she Googles First Parish in Cambridge to find their website. She explores it with these questions in mind:

  • Is this a place that includes people of multiple ethnicities and cultures?
  • What do they believe? Will everyone in my atheist/God-believing family be respected?
  • What do they teach the kids about God and the supernatural?
  • Will the kids like it?

She explores FirstParishCambridge.org and immediately sees text and images that tell her this is an intentionally multicultural congregation. She is thrilled to learn this and thinks this bodes well. She loves what they affirm on their homepage: “You are loved… You are free… Your are called…” She wants to know more about what they believe. Where does she look? The navigation bar says “Home, Welcome, Get Connected, Worship, Children/Youth, Justice and Transformation, Y2Y, Pastoral Care, Giving, and Contact Us.” Hmm. No obvious place to click to learn about beliefs. So instead, she clicks on Children/Youth to learn more about the kids programs. She finds this great page called “What We Are Learning.” “Yes!” She says. She reads about “Spirit Play” and “Moral Tales,” which are both focused on the kinds of questions her daughter is asking: “Where did people come from? What are we doing here? What happens when we die?” She really likes this, and the programs sound like things her kids would love to do. She still doesn’t have the detailed answer she seeks about beliefs, but she’s willing to give the congregation a try.

Using these personas, we are able to imagine the experience of a user, and change our design accordingly. For James, we’d make our inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities much more obvious, with words, photos, and images. For Tricia, we’d create clearer path to find out what UUs believe. For both personas on both websites, we’d do some re-organization and re-titling of the sites’ sections, to ensure our navigation headings are clear, and help our users find what they need to find.

Do you see what James and Tricia helped us see? As Usability.gov makes clear, personas help us write for the appropriate audience, focus our content decisions, test and prioritize, evaluate new content and features, and more. They help us improve our users’ overall experience, by expanding our frames of reference beyond those that have become habitual.

Who do you as a congregation want to make sure you’re reaching? Try creating some personas, some real-seeming people with real needs that might be served by your congregation. You might develop five or six personas, or even more, and look at your website with the questions and concerns of people who are:

  • Different theologies/spiritual orientations
  • Different ethnicities/races
  • Different social classes
  • Different ages
  • LGBTQ
  • In interfaith families
  • Parents of young children
  • Single
  • Going through rough times and needing support
  • Not experienced participants in any religious community

Two cautions in using personas: one, beware of stereotypes and pigeonholing. Just because you changed your site to work well for your persona who’s a lesbian in an interfaith family, it doesn’t mean that all lesbians in interfaith families are going to like what they see on your website! Every person is unique. Two, don’t use personas heavy-handedly. For example, let your atheist persona help you find places in the site that are unconsciously marginalizing people who don’t believe in God. But don’t let your atheist persona demand removal of references to the sacred in order to be welcoming to her! We want our personas to help us clearly communicate who we are: an inclusive and spiritually-diverse movement that is seeking to grow our love and broaden our welcome.

In addition, real people come with a range of abilities, disabilities, and educational levels. Some users may be having a very difficult experience of the site because of the color contrast, the reliance on un-transcribed video content, or the highfalutin language. The UUA’s Web Team offers guidance and tools for building accessible sites. You don’t even need personas to work on making your site work for people of all abilities.

May personas prove to be a fun, creative way to build a more effective web presence for Unitarian Universalism. I would love to hear your stories of what you learn!

 

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SarahRev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh, the UUA’s Outreach Associate for Digital Ministries, will be blogging regularly on Growing Unitarian Universalism about the connections between outreach, growth, websites, and social media.

MultiSite Ministries: the promise of partnership

We want to extend the reach of love in Northern Colorado.

Dana and Gretchen IVRev. Gretchen Haley and Diana McLean kicked off the partnership between Greeley and Foothill churches and explored the theology of a good partnership. I highly recommend their podcast, The Promise of Partnership.

 

“This ministry partnership is not just a partnership between ministers and staff, but also the people of two congregations.. What does this mean? What kind of relationship is it? .. The goal for us (Greeley) is to have excellence in worship every Sunday, and consistency in ministerial presence. The goal for Foothills is to help spread the Universalist faith. We will both benefit from economies of scale, as three ministers will be in relationship with one another and with both churches. This will leave more time for ministers to be with congregants and performing other ministries.” ~ from their podcasted sermon

 

As we began our year together, the lay and clergy leaders gathered to create a covenant to document what we each understood as the promises we were making in their partnership.  To do this, we went around a circle, with each person getting a chance to say one response to the question “What do you think we are doing together?” Responses were invited without comment or dialogue until everyone felt they had said everything they could think of.  Then, we talked through what we each meant by those statements, and fleshed out precisely what we hoped for in the coming year.  From these hopes, we created the following covenant.  As you can see, it includes both practical and visionary promises.  It is understood as an evolving document that we will return to again and again throughout this experimental year.

 

Covenant of Partnership – Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley and the Foothills Unitarian Church

We the congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley and the Foothills Unitarian Church, united in our shared commitment to Unitarian Universalism and the Spirit of Life and Love, and as religious communities each with our unique missions, vision, values and histories, covenant with one another:

  • To grow the Unitarian Universalist faith and strengthen each of our congregations and our impact, growing in openness to new possibilities and claiming a broader vision.
  • To utilize and contribute to the resources of the Unitarian Universalist Association, including providing input about our experiences so that we may learn from and benefit others who are engaging in similar experiments.
  • To form heart-to-heart connections between the ministerial team and congregants as well as across our congregations, creating opportunities for the congregations’ members, lay leaders and staff teams to see one another and build relationship.
  • To share three professional ministers who serve as a team in both of our congregations.
  • To roll out our partnership in partnership – respecting the need to build buy-in in each of our congregations before moving forward on initiatives while also discerning when we need to lead our congregations towards leaping ahead to the next opportunity.
    • We will not merge our congregations, but rather we will act as partners, thinking like a “we” on decisions that affect both congregations.
    • We will work from the assumption that our congregations are equal in faith if not in size or in budget.
    • We will acknowledge and value the different gifts and skill sets each of our congregations bring.
    • And we will “date” so that we might see if we “fall in love” – which means we will pace ourselves.
  • To remain flexible and to keep a mindset of “experimentation,” assuming good intent and bringing up issues before they become problems, and to create a Partnership Task Force who will help facilitate this communication.
  • To leverage economies of scale across both churches, sharing administrative resources especially in the realm of bookkeeping and membership administration, and professional knowledge, including across our religious education and music ministries.
  • To create patterns of interaction that create in both congregations a sense of relief rather than overwhelm – with the value being that this is a mutually beneficial relationship for both communities in both impact and efficiencies.

We acknowledge that we are each new to this partnership and so we assume we will stumble at times and encounter challenges that test the well-intended explicit and implicit promises of this covenant. When these challenges arise, we promise to come together in conversation, and seek help from outside resources as we may need, to seek and offer forgiveness generously, to learn well from our experiences, and to begin again.

 

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Gretchen

Rev. Gretchen Haley is entering her 4th year as the Associate Minister for the Foothills Unitarian Church and as of August, serves as part of the ministry team serving the UU Church of Greeley.   She finds great inspiration from Alice Blair Wesley’s 2000 Minns Lectures, The Lay and Liberal Doctrine of the Church: The Spirit and the Promise of Our Covenant.

 

 

For White Activists Devastated and Feeling Defeated by Racist Violence

aCan't BreathThe following is reprinted from the Good Men Project with permission from author Chris Crass.

 

Chris Crass has a guide for fellow white anti-racism activists who are overwhelmed by recent stories about racist violence.

1. Take a moment to appreciate the fact that you are devastated by brutal racist injustice and that while your heart is broken, another alternative is that your heart has been hardened by the scarring of internalized white supremacy that has divested you from loving your own full humanity and the humanity of others.

Your devastation is the result of your heart being alive and refusing the socialized indifference, amnesia, and straightjacketing of your consciousness that post-Civil Rights movement white racialization aims for. Your internal capacity to be devastated by this murderous racist system is a source of power that serves you well and is what can help you be part of bringing this system down.

2. Focus your attention on momentum for justice, and decentralize the roadblocks and jerks. There are millions of people in motion for Black liberation at this moment, and courageous Black feminist leadership is front and center and the vision, strategy, inspiration, and guidance of the leaderful ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ movement is where our attention should be, rather then on the right wing jerks, militantly post-racial racist trolls, people in your life who just want to argue or other energy sucking dementors that can grab and hold our attention – often making it hard to see the people around us in motion or ready to move for racial justice.

Ask yourself – am I letting jerks who want to maintain supremacy systems occupy my heart and mind – which we are also socialized to do, socialized to undermine our efforts to get free. Or are we choosing to open our hearts and minds to the leaders who give us energy, who give us hope, who connect us to ancestral liberation movements and movements of liberation and humanity loving people today?

3. Be loving with yourself, supremacy systems want you to exhaust yourself by beating yourself up, for not doing enough, for letting jerks demobilize you, for “not being good enough” to be the activist you want to be. Tell these voices of supremacy systems that they cannot have you, that you are stronger then they would ever allow you to believe, and that our movement is far more effective and stronger then supremacy systems want us to understand, to feel in our bones, to feel as tears of pain and sorrow roll down our face.

4. Take time to learn about grassroots Black Lives Matter organizing happening, led by Black activist, but also what racialized as white activists are doing as well. Try to know three inspiring, life affirming stories of resistance for each story of devastating racist violence. One of the key challenges before us isn’t just awakening white racialized people to the reality of racism, but to help ourselves and others truly believe we can bring it down and build up robust, complex, living and breathing Beloved Community. We are carrying on the legacies of our movement ancestors and the impact of our efforts is beyond what we often dare allow ourselves to dream.

5. What you do matters. You are not alone. For every Ida B. Wells, Anne Braden, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ella Baker, Elizabeth ‘Betita’ Martinez, and Alicia Garza, there are millions of people whose names we don’t know, but threw down and are throwing down, in many different ways, giving what they could with the talents, capacities, and other responsibilities they had/have, and united by vision, strategy, culture, and love and rage, this is what makes movements move. What you do matters. You are not alone. Let courageous liberation leadership move you, and protect yourself from the forces that seek to demobilize, defeat and undermine you and forces for collective liberation.

6. Reach out to others, as you are, and generate mutual support, as many are having or have had these same struggles. Refuse the isolation supremacy systems seek for you. Accept the interdependence liberation calls us into, even when supremacy systems tell us we aren’t good enough to experience it.  Love is on our side.  We will get free, all of us.

 

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Chris CrassChris Crass is a longtime social justice educator and organizer who writes and speaks widely about anti-racist organizing, feminism for men, lessons and strategies to build visionary movements, and spiritual leadership for social justice. He is the author of Towards Collective Liberation and is a Unitarian Universalist working to build up the religious left.

Analysis of The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

2015RLSpromo640x320Religion data geeks everywhere rejoiced this month when the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released its newest study of the American religious landscape. Pew made waves a few years ago when it published a sweeping report that pointed to the rise of the “nones,” the increasing numbers of American adults who have no religious connection. This year’s study updates Pew’s massive 2007 study, and gives us valuable trend information.

So what does Pew report? Well, for starters, the “nones” are still rising. Since 2007, 19 million Americans have joined the ranks of the nonreligious. 19 million! That’s 23% of adults, trending up from 16% in 2007. And, as before, the increase of nonreligious adults comes from the losses of traditional Catholic and Mainline Protestant faiths. Pew is pretty much the gold standard for this kind of data, but for what it’s worth the decline of religious affiliation is a trend so robust that it shows up in every other similar survey.

Younger generations continue to lead the bleed away from traditional religious practices, with about 35% of Millennials claiming no affiliation. But, and this is one of my favorite parts of the new study, every generation has seen an increase in the number of unaffiliated adults since 2007! Baby Boomer unaffiliateds, for example, have gone from 14 to 17% of their peers. Friends, the waters are still churning amidst this sea change in American religion, and there’s no sign of them slowing down.

The researchers at Pew thoughtfully included a breakdown just for Unitarian Universalists (there’s actually one for every faith tradition they track, but I’m still appreciative). Compared to eight years ago, we are getting younger and less wealthy. In self-identification, or the number of people who tell researchers they are UU, we are overall holding steady at 0.3% of the adult population which, given the increases in the US population, implies we’ve grown by 54,000 in the last few years to 735,000. However, keep in mind that we’re not seeing this growth in self-identification reflected in our congregational membership reports. Maybe someone should dig into that intriguing divergence

Check out the Pew data for yourself! I’ve only made it through the summary so far, but the full report looks worth a read. Pew also says they are going to publish more detailed reports on religious affiliation soon (hopefully great stuff like this gem), and I can’t wait to see what insights emerge.

What else do you see in this research? Add your thoughts in the comments.

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cmcdonald_headshotCarey McDonald is the UUA Director of Outreach, total data geek and trend-spotter.

Mutuality Movement

Mutuality movement flowerI have been looking for ways to bridge contemplative mind and body practices, Unitarian Universalist Principles and values (especially around social justice), and find a meditation structure that would interest our youth and young adults. In my Fahs fellowship research, I conducted a survey of UU religious professionals and volunteers to understand how they are using meditation in their current setting and how they envision the role of contemplative practice (mindfulness meditation, compassion practice and etc.) in their congregations.

 

The survey results show that there is a need in our congregations for practical meditation practices, that are easy to teach, and that seamlessly integrate into the lives of participants and programs of the congregations. The results also show that there is also a need for a tool to both cope with and respond to traumatic events that arise in our communities.

 

In the course of my research, this country was jolted into an awareness of the plight of African-American men in our all too often racist and violent country. In response, I co-created a course held currently being held in Berkeley, CA around bringing the wisdom of Buddhist practice to the issue of the African American experience of racism.  What we have found in this series of courses is that many well-meaning white people are feeling discouraged by the revelation that racism and oppression are still alive and real for Black people in this country. They want to take action but many are dissatisfied that many years of scholarship in critical race theory and years of racial justice work has, as of yet, not been able to effectively uproot racism in this country. I listened deeply to people who expressed the hope that spirituality, especially, body-mind meditation practice might offer an opportunity to non-violently and effectively respond to social ills.

 

As a results of my Fahs research and pulling from my Buddhist training; I am developing a community of youth and adult practitioners, who will simultaneously develop their own meditation practices while learning to lead meditation instruction in their communities. The project, Mutuality Movement, culminates in individuals and communities who are spiritually mature and prepared to carefully engage in the practice of solidarity activism.

 

Mutuality Movement

Mutuality Movement is a contemplative response to the Black Lives Matter movement that provides tools for youth and young adults to affect change through the practices of solidarity and meditation. Acknowledging the youth leadership in the Black Lives Matter movement, Mutuality Movement trains youth and young adults to lead public meditation sessions, focused on the development of compassion while offering a non-violent opportunity to publicly resist systems of injustice. Mutuality Movement also encourages the development of covenant groups or sanghas, whose primary practice will be to respond non-violently to the problem of racism in America.

 

Rooted in Buddhist meditation, it is compatible with Unitarian Universalism in teaching mutuality in praxis. Mutuality being that understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings and the resultant covenantal commitments to be in supportive and advocating relationships with our fellow humans. This program offers the opportunity to expand our faith beyond the walls of our congregations and into those communities in need of a sacred commitment from justice-oriented and faithful individuals.

 

If you are interested in hearing more please contact Rev. Scott through the Mutuality Movement website (scroll to the bottom of the page to submit your contact information.)

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JamilThe Rev. M. Jamil Scott serves as the Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno and is a 2014 Fahs Collaborative contemplative education research fellow in collaboration with Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary. He is completing his Divinity studies at Naropa University and is an ordained Buddhist minister by the International Order of Buddhist Ministers. Rev. Jamil is  active in faith based social justice work with the organizing group Faith in Community and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

Circle of Life

Innovative Learning Circle logoOnce a month for the last several months, six ministers and one lay leader from the states of Tennessee, New Jersey, Illinois, New York and Wisconsin have been meeting to talk about congregational collaborations. They meet virtually, of course, as part of the Multi-site Innovative Learning Circle initiative. Each participant has shared a challenge story related to their work with other congregations and listened as their colleagues offered wise and gentle thoughts and suggestions in response. The conversations have been enlightening, informative and instructional, both to the person who shared the challenge story and the people who responded. In the process, these seven Unitarian Universalist leaders from different parts of the country have bonded and formed a loving and supported community.

 

Rev. Emilie Boggis, Minister of Congregational Life at the Unitarian Church in Summit, NJ, spoke for all the participants when she wrote, “I really look forward to our time together, to hearing your stories, and grappling with the issues. And I am amazed (I don’t know why) at how much movement there is in my own “project” from hearing your stories and coming to a deeper understanding of what we are trying to do. I’m very, very grateful for you all.”

 

Are you involved in multi-site work or even just thinking about it? Sign up for the next round of Innovative Learning Circles and join us. For more information, contact Tandi Rogers, trogers@uua.org.

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mark bernsteinMark Bernstein is a member of the Congregational Life Staff of the Central East Region of the UUA. He is also a member of the Multi-Site Midwife Team and had the honor of facilitating the Innovative Learning Circle that he wrote about.

Study Guide for UUWorld Article: Lake Country Unitarian Universalist Church (Hartland, WI)

chaliceCongratulations to the Lake Country Unitarian Universalist Church (Hartland, WI), 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.

Lake Country Unitarian Universalist Church is highlighted in the current 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 Lawrence congregation. We hope that this enables lively discussions for your congregational leaders.

 

Questions for Discussion and Deeper Study

Rev. Shaw states that at Lake Country you can “walk in on day one and know that is your house too.”

 

Questions for Discussion

  • What are some of the ways in which Lake Country conveys this message?”
  • In what ways does your congregation convey this message?
  • What else can your congregation be doing to state this message loud and clear?

 

The congregation is firmly committed to demonstrating its values to the surrounding community.

 

Questions for Discussion

  • What are some examples of how Lake Country does this?
  • How does your congregation reflect its values in the community beyond your walls?

 

Lake Country prides itself on its diversity, including political diversity.

 

Questions for Discussion

  • How diverse is your congregation politically?
  • In what ways can you make additional space in your congregation for people along the political spectrum?

 

One of the congregation’s charter members points out that “You never arrive. You keep changing.”

 

  • Is your congregation trying to “arrive’? What would that look like?
  • In what ways is your congregation continually changing?

 

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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.

On Wholeness and Worship

yarnSomething is shifting. Either out there or within me. I’m not quite sure. But I see babies and toddlers everywhere in UU-land. More babies and pregnant people and waiting people at UUA headquarters (in Boston) than any other time in our history. And here at the UU Ministers’ Association Institute, where I am reporting, there are glorious babies and toddlers interspersed throughout community.  I believe this is a real, measurable, sign of health. We are becoming more whole.

 

During worship I had the opportunity to sit next to someone under 5. He turned pretzels into little trains. I shared bits of thread from my crocheting and he turned them into worms. It was delightful. This little teacher gave me a reality check.

 

That’s nice, but what I really want you to know is that this new friend of mine was in worship and listening. When people applauded by putting their hands in the air and shaking them, he asked what people were doing. His mother explained the sign (language) for applause and he enthusiastically joined in.

 

I leaned into his sweet chatter to discover that he was weaving in words from the sermon into his play. Every so often he asked his mom what a particular word meant. It occurred to me that this tot was listening more closely to the sermon than I was… He was absorbing the entire experience more profoundly than I was.

 

What would the Sunday experience be like if we threw out all preconceived notions of what worship ought to be like and had permission to start over? (Not all at once, but at a pace that is tolerable.) What would our Sunday experience look and sound like if we believed ourselves responsible for the brain-heart-spirit development of our people of all ages, cradle to grave?

 

Let’s go there.

 

______________________

red glassesRev. Tandi Rogers keeps silly putty and other items to help wiggly hands during worship. She likes to share.  Look for her at worship, no matter your age.

Study Guide for UUWorld Article: The Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, Kansas

lawrence choirlawrence childrenLawrence peace polelawrence water communion

Congratulations to the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, Kansas, 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 Fellowship of Lawrence, Kansas 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 Lawrence congregation. We hope that this enables lively discussions for your congregational leaders.

 

Questions for Discussion and Deeper Study

 

Over the years, the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, Kansas has experimented with a number of alternative programs, demonstrating their willingness to change.

 

Questions for Discussion

  • What were some of the concrete ways in which the congregation showed their openness to change?
  • How open is your congregation to change?
  • In what ways can your congregation experiment with alternative or additional services in order to better meet the needs of your members?

 

Lawrence recognized that change requires leaders and has cultivated leaders through education and leadership weekends.

 

Questions for Discussion

  • In what ways does your congregation cultivate and support leaders?
  • What are some strategies your congregation can implement to better recruit, recognize and retain leaders?

 

In an effort to clarify its identity and future direction, Lawrence is currently engaged in a mission/vision/strategic planning process.

 

Questions for Discussion

  • How well does your congregation’s mission and vision impact on congregational life? How could your congregation benefit by revisiting its mission and vision?
  • Does your congregation currently have a strategic plan? If not, why not? How could your congregation benefit from creating one?

 

At their water communion and ingathering, the minister asked the congregants to decide if their waters were “waters of peace, waters of joy, waters of struggle, or waters of hope.”

 

  • As you think about your congregation, which category of waters do you carry with you? Why do you feel that way?

 

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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.