Xmas CTA: Engaging visitors during the holidays

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It’s hard to believe it’s already December, after what’s been a grueling November for many of us.  And yet, time marches on.  The holiday season calls to us, asking us to lean in and integrate our current circumstances with the joy and abundance that usually highlight this season.  Your congregation will also see an increase in visitors, especially for special holiday services that appeal our neighbors who aren’t regular churchgoers.  They come to you because you help them bridge the gap between tradition, cultural expectations, and a liberal worldview.

An outreach mindset asks us to open ourselves to the experience of meeting people where they are.  Especially now as people are looking for groups which will uphold hope and love for diversity in beliefs, culture, and identities, we as Unitarian Universalists can meet that need.  But an outreach mindset also asks us to risk our own comfort, to show that we’re interested in their welfare beyond just a holiday encounter.  We have to invite them into a mutually transformative relationship.  That’s where an XMAS CTA comes into action!

Use this and other UUA-branded backgrounds for your messaging and event announcements. Click the picture to download from Google Drive.

A Call to Action (CTA) is anything that invites someone to deepen their engagement and relationship with you.  And they’re essential for you to plan thoughtfully ahead of time.  When someone’s looking for a faith community to celebrate the holidays with, we want them to have an open and clear invitation to your congregation.  When they’ve come to visit, you want them to walk away knowing a little bit about who you are and what you offer that fits their ongoing needs.  After they visited, they need to know that you’re looking forward to seeing them again – that they’re wanted and welcome.

 

Before…

  • Social Media Engagement.  Whether people decide to attend a holiday service, you can engage your members, their friends, and your wider community through your congregation’s social media presence.  Being a strong voice for liberal values in your community this December will help sow goodwill and merriment in your community, while also building awareness about your congregation.  You can use these ideas and adapt them to other holidays or specific to the types of services or events your congregation has planned.
  • Schedule Your Posts.  Make a Facebook event.  Use our free holiday graphics to post a visually appealing invitation to your service or event with clear information.  Schedule them or make sure to post several times… a few weeks, a week, and the day before.  Engage your members and ask for commitments from some of them to share and invite their friends on social media or personally.

During…

  • Have a Specific Ask or Invitation.  Don’t overwhelm your guests with a lot of announcements or tell them all about your committees.  Decide with greeters, staff, and other lay leaders to make one specific call to action.  If it’s relevant, you can highlight any new sermon series or themes you’ll be exploring in January.  Be consistent in your messaging.  Fewer choices often help people feel comfortable with a clear path to engagement.
  • Plan a Specific Event for Holiday Visitors.  If you can, plan an entry point event in the near future that will meet the needs of your holiday visitors.  Although inviting them to a specific church function is better than nothing, you want your visitors to feel that you’re there for them.  The more barriers they feel in learning the UU lingo or having to get comfortable in a sea of strangers, the less likely they are to come back.  Think about if you were visiting your congregation for the first time during the holidays, what would you be most inclined to come back for?  Your congregation may already be engaging in post-election actions for justice, so that’s a great place to start. Or what about a newcomers or Intro to UU group starting in January?  A coffee  and tea gathering with the minister?  A new parent group with childcare?  Find where your unique offerings and ministry can provide, and match it with the people you’re most likely to meet during the holidays.
  • Invitation to Reflect and Connect.  Perhaps during the service, or through visitor cards, ask people what their needs are.  Acknowledge that the holidays sometimes ask a lot of us, and that we’re here to listen and find ways to meet those needs.  During the December holidays, many people are looking for warmth.  If you’re providing a New Year’s related service, you may also have them reflect on their skills and strengths, and how they want to contribute to the world around them.  In January, people are often ready to be transformed and develop healthy and life-giving habits.

After…

  • Offer a Gift.  Buy or ask volunteers to donate some baked goods, candies, cards, UU CDs, books, or any other small, inexpensive gift.  The Principles and Sources bookmark or the new UU World Seeker Issue may be good choices if you don’t have something available locally.  Attach a card with your congregation’s service times or invitation to a specific event for visitors.  This lets people know that you consider it a privilege that they chose your congregation to visit.  It’s a way to thank them for sharing themselves with you, even for a short visit.
  • Follow Up.  Setting up a series of 2 or 3 short automated email follow-ups lets visitors know that you’re still thinking of them and would like to connect again.  It’s also helpful for staff, who may be taking time off for the holidays and won’t be able to follow up until January.  Include a specific invitation in these emails, as well.

 

As always, practice empathy and make adjustments based on a visitor’s individual needs.  Understand that you’re holding space for complex needs.  Some are there to celebrate.  Some are hopeful.  Some are weary, tired, or at wit’s end.  And most are likely holding some combination of these at once.  We’re here to walk alongside, listen, and work toward a dream of what we want our lives and communities to look like in the future.  Next year, you’ll have an even better idea of who your congregation attracts during the holidays.

Six Key Mistakes for Recruiting Volunteers in Your Congregation

Volunteering-SVG-800pxThe following article was translated from an article from Thom S. Rainer, a Christian growth strategist called Six Terrible Ways to Recruit Ministry Volunteers in Your Church.

The following are examples of what NOT to do:

  • Make a general announcement that you need someone: You will likely get the folks who already do too much, or folks who have no skills in the area where you need the help.
  • Wait until the last minute: When folks are asked without proper lead-time, it makes the project seem unimportant. Your volunteers can feel overwhelmed, undervalued, or even feel like asking them was an afterthought. We want to show how we value the work and the volunteers.
  • Ignore unique gifts and abilities: People have different schedules, skills, and interests. If someone is put in a position that doesn’t work for who they are, no one wins. Your volunteer might quit because they can’t actually follow through or they might just do a terrible job.
  • Pour on the guilt: Doing the work of our faith can bring people fulfillment and joy! But if they are only doing it because they felt guilty about turning you down, they will likely feel angry, frustrated, and burned-out.
  • Don’t follow up: Not checking in later can make it seem like you were just filling spots on chore chart. Mark your calendar to check in after the first month, and then again at three and six months. Ask how they are doing and what they need? Your volunteers will feel so appreciated and valued!
  • Forget the spiritual: As religious leaders, we don’t want to leave out the spiritual discernment involved with filling our volunteer positions. Take some time to pray or meditate about your people and your programs. It can really help you with clarity.

___________________

red door sarah2 (1)The Rev. Sarah Schurr serves the Pacific Western Region of the UUA as Congregational Life Staff.  Sarah has years of experience working with small congregations who rely heavily on volunteers. In addition to her small church expertise, she works closely with ministerial transitions in the region.

Commissioning: Called to Care

 

At First Church in Sterling, we trained 18 folks to be members of our “Called to Care” team (a training created by the UCC). When their training was completed, I had a private ceremony for the team, touching them each on the forehead with water to use their gifts for blessing the world. In our public worship service, I used the following words to commission them, and anointed their hands with oil.

Commissioning

 

Commissioning of Call to Care Team

 

 

Robin: I ask the members of the Called to Care Team to come forward and stand at the front of the church.

 

There are many ways that together we provide pastoral care here, because as just one person, I can’t do it all. And so we must always widen our circle of caring, if we are to make it possible to care for our over 300 members and friends with focused pastoral attention. We are called to love one another, and so the pastoral ministry of this church is not in my hands, but in ALL of our hands.

 

And so we have Debbie Gline Allen, our minister for children, youth and families. We have the diaconate who have monthly caregivers on duty headed up by Carol Hoffman, and our meals ministry headed up by Paula Fogerty. All of these groups are a part of the Diaconate, which is chaired by Head Deacon Roy Lane. We have small groups like Aging Gracefully, and our young adult group, and our women’s fellowship, and our youth fellowship. We have a welcoming team for our newest members and visitors. We have a knitting group that makes prayer shawls. And so much more.

 

And today we commission our new Called to Care Team, also a ministry of the Diaconate, and an extension of the pastoral ministry of your professional ministry team.

 

Along with myself, Sherri Direda and Dave Russo are the leaders and trainers of the Call to Care team. The team consists of: Vicki Gaw, who coordinates our activities, Judy Doherty, Judy Conway, Barb Dumont, Clyde Hager, Vern Gaw, Marianne Powers, Jan Patten, Robin Harper, Liz Salo, Carol Hoffman, Cathie Martin, Heather Cline, (Ronna Davis) and Toby O’Reilly.

 

The Called to Care team works very closely with me. They went through several hours of training and mentoring this year by me, Dave Russo, a pastoral psychotherapist and deacon, and Sherri Direda, a licensed social worker and clinician, to learn how to provide one-on-one, confidential pastoral and spiritual care. They will continue to meet monthly with their training team for advising and continuing education. They take this commitment seriously.

 

Dave: There are many reasons why you might want to talk to a lay minister from our Called to Care team. Some reasons include major life transitions like the death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, financial strain, and chronic or terminal illness. Other reasons might be that you are seeking someone to have conversations about spirituality, or that you are continuing to struggle with a longstanding circumstance, or maybe you just want a soul friend, a friend who can listen, ask meaningful questions, and care for your spirit in a unique and gentle way.

 

Lay ministers provide a listening, caring space for reflection about your emotional and spiritual journey. Each of these people were chosen or recommended because of their long-term commitment to our ministries, and their particular ability to listen and to be present. This is their ministry.

 

Let us now commission the Called to Care team in their role as spiritual leaders and listeners.

 

We ask,

 

Friends, are you committed to offering and encouraging pastoral care within this congregation?

 

Will you lead by example in your actions and in your words, in your pastoral prayers and in your personal spiritual life?

 

Will you reach out to those in need, with open minds and open hearts, seeking always to be a healing presence: God’s hands and feet in the world?

 

If so, please say “I will, with the help of God.”

 

Robin: Congregation, will you place your trust in these people?

 

Will you allow yourself, even push yourself, to ask for their care, and to receive their care?

 

Will you honor them with the role and responsibilities of lay ministry?

If so, please answer, “We will.”

 

Robin: In response to, and as a sign of, this affirmation of your call to service I follow the ancient tradition of anointing you with oil that has been blessed in the name of God: in the name of all that is beautiful, true, and good. As this oil absorbs into your skin, may you absorb into your soul all the love and good wishes which surround you in this moment. Let it be an outward reminder of God, who calls you to this work.

 

“May you remember that your hands are God’s hands to those who need your care.”

 

Amen.

 

Called to Care team: We thank you for your faith in us, and vow to do our best to live up to the charge you have given us. We promise, also, to remember that the ultimate responsibility for our church lies with all of us, for this is our home, our community. May we all do what we can to make this a community where we are gathered in the spirit of Jesus, and where we endeavor to create heaven here on earth.

 

Amen.

 

Photo credit: Linda M. Davis.
Photo credit: Linda M. Davis.

 

Robin preaching
Photo credit: Linda M. Davis.

Robin Bartlett is the pastor of a progressive Universalist Christian multi-denominational church that includes, but is not limited to, the UUA in Sterling, MA. She was born, raised and ordained UU and has dual standing in the UCC. Robin firmly believes that every thing, every one and every event deserves a blessing.

Starting a RACI Conversation

Photo used and cropped with permission: http://tinyurl.com/j4ygsuh
Photo used and cropped with permission: http://tinyurl.com/j4ygsuh

At first glance, it seemed like the evening news did a good job of covering this year’s Pride Parade. After all, the Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Anytown was given a ten second sound bite (they even spelled her name right!). However, no one watching was really able to identify the involvement of the rest of the congregation because they were marching and waving behind the Grand Marshall and the camera eventually zoomed in on a Chihuahua sporting a rainbow-colored vest. There was nothing that indicated who they were or where they were from.

What happened? Earlier that morning, Fred left the banners and signs at the church, thinking Norma (chair of the Social Action Committee) was going to pick them up. Norma, however, thought Mary (chair of the Communications Committee) was going to bring it directly to the parade after working on the messaging to make sure everything is consistent. Thus, 40 people from the congregation became anonymous marchers and blended right in with the rest of the crowd.

Unfortunately, this comedy of errors plays itself out quite often in congregations where there’s confusion as to who’s in charge. Sometimes, the allergy to authority gets itchy enough that it can even paralyze the entire organization. How do we prevent such a dysfunction from happening while still empowering everyone to do their jobs well?

One way to clearly assign roles is to come up with a RACI chart.

  • Responsible: Who is the person/group/committee responsible to get the task done and carry out the process they committed to?
  • Accountable: Where does the buck stop? Who is ultimately accountable and whose job and reputation is on the line if stuff doesn’t get done? The Rs are accountable to the A and the A can delegate responsibilities to the R or the A can be the R as well.
  • Consulted: Who is consulted before a decision is made? Perhaps not every decision on every single thing, but ones that are complex enough that warrant extra thought and consideration. The Cs may have some kind of skin in the game or may be an expert on the matter at hand.
  • Informed: How is the communication loop closed and who is informed after the decision is made? These are the ones who may be impacted by decision, so to some degree, they are a stakeholder.

In our example above, what might an RACI chart look like?

RACI grid

There are obviously others involved and other tasks performed in order to make something as seemingly simple as a Pride Parade go off without a hitch. In smaller organizations, less people have more responsibilities and in larger ones, it is even more important to come up with this chart.

Some may argue that as UUs, we don’t need such a hierarchical system because it’s antithetical to our the(x)logy. I would argue that RACI works very well with our fifth principle because the democratic process is used to determine who has which job and includes more people in the implementation of the tasks. It also ensures no wheels need to be reinvented and no volunteer is burned out in the process.

The collaborative process is still in play here because the A doesn’t and couldn’t possibly carry out all the functions alone. What is implicit is the ultimate A is the mission of the congregation and our faith writ large. Everything we do is in service to our religious mission.

Why not try this out yourself? The Pride story is just a fun example. RACI charts are usually done on a higher level, such as Staff, Worship, Religious Education, or Pastoral Care–where the real power struggles take place. In these circumstances, make sure you’re clear about the process, especially the part about which body gets to have “final” say—whether it’s the Board, Executive Team, or Council of Leaders. Yet be flexible enough to revisit it a year or two later. Who knows, next time Pride rolls around, you may actually steal the camera away from the Chihuahua.* Or not.

*No animal was harmed in the writing of this blog.

 

__________________________

JonipherRev. Dr. Jonipher Kūpono Kwong proudly serves as a Congregational Life Staff for the Pacific Western Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Part of his key area of ministry (though by no means is he an expert) is to be a coach (or more like a cheerleader with pom-poms on) for innovative, experimental ministries. He is an entrepreneur by heart and an out-and-proud Unitarian Universalist Evangelist.

Sophia Fahs Sunday 2016

SFS meme 1[1]So many of us are longing to be a part of an authentic multigenerational community. A place where children, youth, adults, and elders share, learn, worship and grow together. We believe one of the most important ways to build multigenerational community is through worship.

Sophia Fahs Sunday 2016 Here Together: Developing Multigenerational Communities Through Worship is a resource that is free online for you and your community. It is a video course on all the aspects of planning, creating, and celebrating worship to include everyone!

The Fahs Collaborative brought together a team of musicians, ministers,and religious educators to create a “best practices” learning course, to help you create great, multigenerational worship. This includes videos, resources, reflection questions, and music. Sophia Fahs Sunday highlights multicultural diversity, multiple learning styles, and the best of what we know about faith development.

Watch the videos on your own, or invite your team of planners to watch the videos together and discuss them together. It’s all about Collaboration!

Find Sophia Fahs Sunday 2016 Here Together: Developing Multigenerational Communities Through Worship and information on other Fahs Collaborative projects here.

SFS meme 2

Tops Picks for Growth at General Assembly

uua_ga2016_logoAre you looking for new ideas to grow your congregation? General Assembly is just around the corner, and there are a dozen workshops on growth to choose from.

Here’s a list, sorted by topic for you to mark in your Program Book or Mobile App.

Small Congregations

  • LEGACY OR RENAISSANCE: SMALL CONGREGATIONS ON THE EDGE
    #210 Thursday, 10:45am – 12:00pm E160
    Some small congregations are realizing that the way they’ve been operating is no longer sustainable. What’s next? Is it time to move towards a holy death? Or are you ready to make a vibrant new start with radical re-envisioning? How can you decide which choice is your congregation’s? This workshop will provide a framework and examples for both paths.
    Megan Foley & Rev. Mary Grigolia
  • SUCCESS IN SMALL CHURCHES: HOPE IN UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM’S HEARTLAND
    #410 Saturday 3:00pm – 4:15pm CC C226
    Small churches, the heartbeat of our faith, are uniquely positioned to innovate and experiment with new ways of being healthy, vibrant, and relevant – if they put mission and covenant first. Learn to identify your small congregation’s gifts and plan strategically for innovations to grow new possibilities for our faith.
    Rev. Megan Foley & Karen Bellavance-Grace

Hospitality

  • THE SPIRITUAL PRACTICE OF WELCOMING ALL
    #228 Thursday 1:15pm – 2:30pm CC E162
    Many congregations have mastered the process involved in opening their doors for newcomers but are they opening their hearts? What would that welcome look like in our greeting, programs, and emerging ministries? We will consider together how our spiritual baggage could be preventing us from truly being welcoming to all.
    Marie Blohowiak, Rev. Tandi Rogers & Tina Lewis
  • BRINGING ACCESSIBILITY AND INCLUSION MINISTRY TO YOUR CONGREGATION
    #330 Friday 3:00pm – 4:15pm CC C223-225
    Heard the buzz about the Accessibility & Inclusion Ministry (AIM) Program for congregations? Wondering how to bring this new ministry to your congregation? Learn how to form an AIM Team to widen the welcome to people with disabilities. Become an AIM Congregation – moving ever closer to the beloved community.
    Michelle Avery Ferguson, Rev. Barbara Meyers, Michael Sallwasser & Suzanne Fast
  • WE MET ONLINE! GREAT VISITOR EXPERIENCES START WITH GOOGLE
    #432 Saturday 4:45pm – 6:00pm CC Union Station Ballroom A
    From the first online search to an in-person visit, emotions are a key part of what makes a visitor stay or go. User Experience (UX) approaches uncover the emotions we’re evoking to create positive and integrated experiences. Learn how to apply UX to your congregation to improve the visitor experience.
    Sarah Gibb Millspaugh & Carey McDonald

 Outreach

  • OUTREACH 101: JOIN OUR CAUSE, NOT OUR CLUB
    #317 Friday 1:15pm – 2:30pm CC C223-225
    Religion is changing, and just preaching to the choir ain’t gonna cut it. Learn how to reach out to your community as an extension of your congregation’s mission, get the tools you need to move forward, and hear inspiring outreach stories from congregations like yours.
    Carey McDonald
  • INNOVATING IN COVENANT: EMERGING MINISTRIES REACH OUT
    #422 4:45pm – 6:00pm CC E161
    Emerging ministries are new endeavors that are grounded in our faith and formed by covenant.
    How do some of these innovative ministries fulfill our UU mission in the world? Come learn
    from the stories of a new campus ministry, a network of interdependent communities and a forming congregation.
    Kevin Lowry, Rev. Nathan Hollister &Lori Stone Sirtosky

Innovative Ministries

  • UU MODELS OF PARTNERSHIP AND MULTI-SITE MINISTRIES
    #328 Friday 3:00pm – 4:15pm HR Union E
    We’ve featured various models of congregational Partnership & Multi-site over the years: branches, yoked, mergers, etc. This year we’re highlighting Clusters and Partnerships just starting their covenantal relationships, at the beginning of the continuum of collaboration. Especially useful for lay leaders discerning deeply partnering with other UU communities.
    Joan Van Becelaere & Rev. David Pyle
  • LIVING THE PRINCIPLES: THEME-BASED PROGRAMMING FOR ALL AGES
    #352 Friday 4:45pm – 6:00pm CC Hall E
    Many of us are seeking new ways to support multigenerational faith formation in our congregations. Living the Principles is an engaging full-year, theme-based program for congregation-wide exploration of the Unitarian Universalist Principles. This workshop equips professional and lay leaders to use this program, with free online materials, in your congregation.
    Ellen Quaadgras, Ann Kadlecek & Halcyon Westall
  • INNOVATION AND INSPIRATION FOR UU STEWARDSHIP
    #358 Friday 4:45pm – 6:00pm HR Delaware CD
    This workshop will equip lay and ordained leadership for effective stewardship in our congregations and our Association. This will be a “flash” presentation of the most innovative and successful fundraising ideas. We will close with an inspiring word from Peter Morales.
    Mary Katherine Morn
  • ANNUAL GIVING: THE BACKBONE OF CONGREGATIONAL STEWARDSHIP
    #420 Saturday 3:00pm – 4:15pm HR Delaware CD
    This workshop will equip lay and ordained leadership for effective stewardship in our congregations and our Association. This panel of on-the-ground congregational staff and volunteers will discuss their greatest successes in annual fundraising.
    Dr. Marlin Lavanhar, Rev. Trisha Hart & Rev. Peter Friedrichs

 

ReneeRev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) has served as a Congregational Life Consultant in the Central East Region since September of 2010. As program manager for Leadership Development, she is responsible for providing consultation, programming and training material (including webinars and videos) on various aspects of congregational growth, leadership and congregational dynamics. She writes for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Blog Growing Vital Leaders and tweets at @Vitalleaders.

4 Things Crowdfunding Can Teach The Church

e-book coverI became a Unitarian Universalist for one reason, and one reason only. You might have many reasons why you became a Unitarian Universalist, or remained one if you grew up within the faith. I have only one reason and her name is Gaby.

 

I became a Unitarian Universalist because my high school friend Gaby invited me to church one springing Sunday morning. It truly is that simple.

 

According to Dr. Thom Rainer, 82% of people who don’t attend church would probably try it out if they were invited by a friend. But only 2% of churchgoers actually invite ANYONE to church.

 

I can’t really remember what Gaby said that convinced me to venture to church for the first time in my life, beyond the odd funeral or wedding. But if I am to be honest, I am the type of person who doesn’t turn down the opportunity to try something new, so it probably was a pretty easy sell.

 

What I never expected was how Unitarian Universalist would change my life. How it connected me to some of the most fabulously creative, intellectually challenging, and compassionate people I have ever met. How I would have my heartbroken by the numerous moments when we fell short of our lofty values and ambitions. How I would fall so in love with our movement that I would go to divinity school and become a minister so I could devote my entire life’s work to our faith.

 

None of this would have occurred, if Gaby had not extended an invitation for that first encounter, and for that I am profoundly grateful.

 

Currently I have the priviledge of working for FAITHIFY.org – our Unitarian Universalist crowdfunding website. Every day I get to help to support individual UUs and congregations to crowdfund their dreams – and each day I am reminded of Gaby.

 

Why? Because the success or failure of crowdfunding campaigns relies on one simple thing: Did You Invite People In?

 

The stats are staggering: successful campaigns on FAITHIFY have been shared an average of 300 times on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. (Unsuccessful campaigns are shared  less than twenty times).

 

People don’t come to church, or to your crowdfunding campaign, if you don’t invite them in. That’s the hard truth.

 

In the last one and a half years FAITHIFY has learned some important lessons that could help our congregations thrive in the 21st century world in which we find ourselves. We decided that we shouldn’t keep our learnings quiet…so we wrote a book (well an e-book!).

 

Four Things Crowdfunding Can Teach the Church explores four practical lessons that can help congregational leaders, like yourself, amplify their impact. Each lesson is accompanied by a set of exercises or questions that can help you implement the lesson in your local context. Better yet, the book is free! Want to get your free copy?

 

Claim your free copy of Four Things Crowdfunding Can Teach the Church here. 
______________________________

neil-barron_seanSean Neil-Barron is the project manager of FAITHIFY, who loves the crowd so much he is contemplating spending an entire day crowdsourcing his every movement.

Road Trip! We’re better together!

road-trip-sign-285x190We’re better together.  You’ve heard this before. And often it is in the context of pooling resources to create something larger than we could offer as a separate entity.

I’m hear to tell you that we’re better together also in the opening of imagination that happens when we experience other religious communities.  I was working with a stuck congregation years ago.  Let’s call them UU Society of East Cupcake. Every suggestion I had was met with “we’ve already tried that” or “that just won’t work here.”  Those are signs that people need to get out of their heads and into new experiences, out of their congregation and into the streets.  I gave East Cupcake an assignment to visit a congregation 3 hours away to freshen their views.  I will cut to the chase — they came back fresher and bonded and ready to try some new ideas.

 

Characteristics of a Better Together Road Trip

  • First things first.  Unless you are already the president or minister, pull them into this idea from the get-go. Please don’t surprise them after the fact and say, “Tandi suggested this idea.”  Really.
  • What are we searching for?  Possibilities, my friend.  How do other UU communities do stuff? What do they feel like?  How do they treat each other? How are they alive and awake outside their walls?
  • Pre-Trip Connections.  Call ahead and let your sibling congregation know you’re coming. Arrange to meet with and perhaps share a meal with their leadership. If there is a specific piece of this congregation’s ministry that captures your attention, ask to learn about that while you’re there.  Visit their website ahead of time and start crafting some questions and things to pay attention to.
  • Innovation-adoptionRoad trippers. You know that bellcurve of change? Consider that curve when choosing your road trip mates: “2 Innovators, 3 Early Adopters, and 2 Early Majority”. (This comes from the Diffusion of Innovation Theory.)  You want folks who generally see possibilities and adopt them quickly along with some who are a little slower in convincing and adapting.
  • Magic Vehicle. Borrow a 7 person van.  You want to keep people together.  That van is actually a Fresh idea Incubator on wheels.
  • Van Conversation, there.  What brought you to East Cupcake? What brought you to Unitarian Universalism/ what makes you choose to stay in Unitarian Universalism? When do you feel most Unitarian Universalist?  How does East Cupcake help grow your soul?
  • Paying Attention. Come open and curious. There are various tools from Mystery Greeters programs that may be useful to help you organize your thoughts.  Participate fully. if asked let your siblings in faith know who you are, where you’re from and why you are visiting.
    • What felt familiar?
    • What was new?
    • What was surprising?
    • What was delightful?
    • What gives you holy envy?
    • What challenged you?
    • What grew your soul?
    • What stretched you further into Unitarian Universalism?
    • What might you like to experiment with at home? And who from this congregation might be able to give you some guidance?
  • Van Conversation, back. See questions above.  Make sure someone is recording.  What was challenging? What was sparky? What might you try in your own UU community and who do you need to talk to when you return?
  • Leadership Check In. Gather again over coffee with your leadership to share what you learned.
  • Next Road Trip.  Keep heading out there. Find another congregation to visit. Rotate people so eyes and conversations stay fresh.  Pass around the fun.

My last advice.  Wear your seat belts.  Literally and metaphorically.  Happy travels!

 

_________________________________

Tandi Feb 2012Rev. Tandi Rogers is the Congregational Life’s Innovation & Network Specialist and loves most everything about road trips and visiting new congregations.  She’s usually in charge of games and bad road trip food.

 

Reflection on Moving, Wisdom, Humility, and Reaching Out

Last week I took a quick trip to Boston to attend Terasa Cooley’s good-bye party and to meet, in person, with several colleagues who normally are only in my zoom room on my computer screen.  The weather was beautiful – cold, clear and crisp – which prompted me to spend time doing what I love best to do in Boston, walk around the city.

One morning I walked up to our old UUA headquarters at 25 Beacon Street to see what was going on.  “25” and the other two buildings that the UUA sold on Mt. Vernon Street and the former Eliot-Pickett Houses, were covered with giant “tents” out front, with a back hoe digging dirt and many construction workers scurrying around.  I took a peek inside 25 and saw that the main staircase has been torn down and much of the ground floor, as I remembered it, had been cleared away.  As I walked across town to our new headquarters at 24 Farnsworth Street, I remembered with fondness walking up those stairs to see the MFC in 2000 and imagined all the lives that were touched and changed in the place the UUA used to call home.

24_Farnsworth

It has been less than two years since the UUA headquarters have moved.  The area has changed a lot and the many cranes and construction workers in our new neighborhood predict more change is on the way.  I love the modern feel of our new headquarters and the opportunities they provide for easier collaboration, more productive meetings and new ways to connect today while remembering our yesterdays.

“24” and 25 provide a metaphor for the work we must do as ministers in the future; a future that has virtual cranes digging up many of the practices and foundations of our past, while building up new expressions of community and spiritual practice all around us.   Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that my walk through the streets of Boston and UUA office history prompted my ponderings about the future of our work and our faith.  The weekend before my trip I was at the third intensive of our Beyond the Call – Entrepreneurial Ministry program learning new ways to finance and market innovation; and the importance, practices and “how tos” of cultivating and nurturing the eco-systems to sustain innovators and the organizations they lead.

We’ll be sharing the highlights of our third intensive in a webinar sometime in March.  Our guest speakers inspired and challenged us in many ways but one phrase stuck with me, especially while I was walking around the streets of Boston.  Greg Jones, the former Dean of the Duke Divinity School who worked closely with Greg Dees the “father” of social entrepreneurship, talked about “traditioned innovation” (https://www.faithandleadership.com/content/traditioned-innovation) as a practice for those of us in religious leadership.  The cranes of sociological, cultural and religious change are all around us digging up the old and building the new.  We stand, hopefully, with one foot in tradition and one foot in innovation dancing back and forth as fast as we can.

In these days of change, challenge and opportunity I pray we each have the wisdom and humility to continue to learn how/when to stand in each stream knowing that our spirits and our people need both waters to thrive.  And, most importantly, we reach out to each other so we don’t need to swim in these choppy waters alone.

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DonRev. Don Southworth is the founding Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers’ Association. He lived in the corporate world before ministry where he spent ten years in parish life before joining the UUMA in 2009.  He’s a bit on the old side of life but fights through his crumedgeony ways as much as he can looking for pockets of innovation and radical change that provide the main hope for religion in the 21st century.

This Here Is Some Radical Polity

The subject of the email was:  “If we set a date, it will happen”.

 

It was sent to a small group of Canadian Young Adults who’d been talking in pockets and clusters for a while about how to “do Church differently”. This was back in 2012, when I was peripherally aware that the Top People of Unitarian Universalism had started holding big meetings talking about this stuff.

 

We knew we were not Top People of Unitarian Universalism. We were a small group that cared, meeting to hang out for a weekend in a Church basement and talk. No pre-planned agenda, no facilitators, no real plan beyond the basics of food and sleeping space. Funding would be accomplished by “do what you can”. So would cooking and dishes.

 

Friday night, we planned the weekend—we planned any topics or activities or worships that we wanted to make sure happened, and drew up a chore list.  Then, we got on with the stuff.

 

We sang a lot, and joked a lot, and prayed together and sometimes cried. We talked about a lot of things, including the question of what types of sustainable religious communities might thrive in the future. At some point that weekend, something clicked and we realized we were a sustainable religious community ourselves. We met all the criteria—deep connection, meaningful worship, fiscal responsibility (we covered our costs and had lots left over to donate to organizations we were connected with).  Some of us continued meeting by Skype for a couple of years.  There were other smaller retreats, and another larger one again last year.  This community has been a deep and profound part of my spiritual life and my formation as a UU. Connections I created there have nurtured my work and my life in profound ways, and have fed the work of UUism in Canada.

 

As a movement, we talk about thinking big. We also need to think small. We need mini-ministries. We need to encourage and equip people to create communities and experiences where they are and with what they have. We need to make sure our people understand that you don’t need to have a seminary degree or a big budget to make things that are real. The Gathering (as it became called) was sustainable but not self sufficient. It drew on connections created over decades in congregational and regional programming, and on donated church space. It also gave back to those groups in the leadership, connections, and enthusiasm it generated. Also, money. It turned out to be a reasonably effective fund raiser.

 

More than that, it interconnected us. People who were disillusioned with some aspect of their home church got a second wind. People with no home community for their UU identity had a place to explore and worship and grow. People from different groups collaborated and shared ideas. We built trust and connection and foundation. We got out of our silos.

 

This here, I found myself thinking as one group came in from a snowball fight while another sat in deep discussion and a third practiced a song for worship… is some radical polity. This here… this is something we need.

 

Communion Song
Click to hear The Communion Song, one of the many creative, spirit-filling happenings of The Gathering
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Liz jamesLiz James is a seminarian at Meadville Lombard Theological School, in training to be a Lay Leader Extraordinaire.  She believes that Unitarian Universalism in the future will need a diverse and talented group of us—lay, ordained, and other professionals—passionately serving a variety of calls.  Liz is an animated speaker, a Facebook overlord, and an expert in thinking outside the box. Way outside the box. Sometimes she forgets where she put the box.  Some of Liz’s writing can be found at www.freerangeseminarian.com.