General Assembly Growth Opportunities

For those of you getting ready for General Assembly 2012 by pouring over the program and plotting out your educational experience, we’d like to point out some workshops that might give you some tools and/or paradigm shifts to aid congregational growth.

UU World will provide timely reports and articles on their GA Blog, illustrated by some striking selections from their Photostream on Flickr. Follow UU Worldon Twitter for up-to-the-minute news during major GA events.

We also recommend downloading the GA Mobile Ap. And for those of you staying at home who would like to participate virtually, there are events being live-streamed.


Organizational Maturity

How to Build Meaning-Full Social Justice Ministry Teams

Thursday, 5:00 pm – 6:15 pm, Phoenix Convention Center – 224 B

It takes more than passion to save the world. Learn how to build sustainable, theologically ground ed, strategically based Social Justice ministry teams that will engage your whole congregation. Explore a method for developing or focusing your concerns about immigration, ARAOM, peace, poverty, the environment and more.  Rev. Joan Montagnes


Organizing 101: Recruitment & Leadership Development

Saturday, 9:00 am – 10:15 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 125

In this interactive workshop, we’ll focus on why people must be central in justice work and learn a framework for assessing who’s in your activist crew to help you do effective and spiritually grounded recruitment and leadership development, two key and often-neglected pieces of our justice work in congregations.  Rev. Cathy Rion

Spiritual Vibrancy


Beloved Conversations: Transforming Church Culture on Race & Ethnicity

Thursday, 10:30 am – 11:45 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 232 AB

Race and cultural identity continue to be determining factors in our society. Even so, there exists a sense of “stuckness” and fatigue around the work of building Beloved Community—especially for people of color. Come experience an alternative approach that engages the arts, deepens compassion and strengthens multicultural competency.  Rev. Kate Lore, Dr. Mark A. Hicks, Rev. Bill Sinkford


Getting Unstuck: New Directions for Congregational Life: Theology

Thursday, 10:30 am – 11:45 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 120 D

Congregations play a crucial role in shaping a just world. William Schulz will explore the theologies that inspire us to take up the soul expanding work of social justice and sustain us through the challenges. Provost Sharon Welch and Meadville Lombard students will respond.  Rev. Dr. William F. Schulz, Dr. Sharon Welch, Debbie Cole, Nathan Hollister


Building Beloved Community as Radical Practice

Thursday, 3:15 pm – 4:30 pm, Phoenix Convention Center – 124

Beloved Community as envisioned by people of faith such as Dr. King is bold, transformative and inspirational for justice ministry. Join us to consider justice making as the practice of love and explore how this powerful vision can integrate our desire for spiritual integrity with our hope for social transformation.  Rev. Deborah Holder, Meck Groot


Getting Unstuck: New Directions in Cross-Cultural Partnerships

Friday, 3:15 pm – 4:30 pm, Phoenix Convention Center – 226

Mark Hicks, Lee Barker and Shawna Foster will lead in a celebration and exploration with congregations that are creating authentic, transformative cross- cultural ministries. We will explore both the joys and challenges that accompany living at the frontlines of our multi-racial, multicultural and theologically diverse world.  Dr. Mark A. Hicks, Rev. Dr. Lee C. Barker, Shawna Foster


Understanding & Developing Multicultural Competencies in Congregations

Saturday, 9:00 am – 10:15 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 222 BC

Learn how identity work is essential for building our capacities to create a fair and just world! Through panel presentation, resources and experiential learning, participants will engage with six identities— class, ethnicity/languages other than English, race, gender identities, abilities, affectional orientation. For religious professionals and lay leaders. LREDA Integrity Team  Rev. Natalie Fenimore,  Jennifer McAdoo,  Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles, Janice Marie Johnson


Building Cultural Competence in Congregations

Saturday,  10:45 am – 12:00 pm, Phoenix Convention Center – 229

For many, “cultural competency” is a theory or a hope. In this workshop, clergy from three congregations share examples of the steps members took toward establishing multicultural ministries. Lessons learned, challenges met, and the resulting surprises and rewards as their congregations continue to grow and deepen in cultural competence and spirit.  Rev. Jacqueline Duhart, Rev. Kathy Huff, Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones, Rev. Dr. Arvid Straube

Faith in Action


Congregational Based Community Organizing: Raising Our Prophetic Voices

Friday, 3:15 pm – 4:30 pm, Phoenix Convention Center – 222 BC

Congregation-based community organizations (CBCOs) are organizing the interfaith community and partners, and making gains for migrant, racial, and economic justice across the country. Current campaigns include stopping mass deportations and incarceration, austerity policies, and corporate control of our democracy. Learn about how these organizations work and how to get involved.  Rev. Lydia Ferrante-Roseberry, Rev. Linda Olson Peebles, Rev. David Carl Olson, Audra Friend


Effective Congregational Immigration Ministries

Friday, 9:00 am – 10:15 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 227 AB

Congregational leaders from Iowa, California and Georgia share experiences with developing and sustaining effective immigration justice ministries. Presenters discuss strategies for public witness, partnering with community organizations, justice immersion trips, engaging youth, and more. An NDLON organizer addresses how these partnerships have strengthened the immigrant rights movement.  Rev. Anthony David, Sally Hartman, Bob Lane, Amy Moses-Lagos 

Associational/ Partnership


Crossing the Faith Border

Thursday, 10:30 am – 11:45 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 222 BC

Our justice work takes us out into the world where we often are working with people of different faiths. How are we called, as UUs, to celebrate this religiously pluralistic world? How can we work interfaithfully more effectively? What tools do we possess for building interfaith leadership across the generations?  Abhimanyu Janamanchi,  Janice Marie Johnson, Jessica York


Partnering Congregations and Community Organizations

Saturday, 9:00 am – 10:15 am, Phoenix Convention Center – 231

How do I connect my congregation with community groups leading campaigns for justice? What are the steps to building meaningful relation- ships between congregants and partner groups for  B. Loewe, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, Rev. Carlton Elliott Smith, Felipe Findley








Article Review: “Will Churches Go the Way of Bookstores?”

By Guest Blogger, Rev. Amanda Aikman

“Will Churches Go the Way of Bookstores?” (this is a live link to the article referred to in this post)

This fascinating essay speaks for itself, but be sure to read all the way down into the comments section, where one reader, a pastor, talks about the difficulties she has had in organizing her congregants to attend a regular Bible-study group:

“We have managed one small group … that meets … at Starbucks (we call it The Dialogue at St. Arbucks) and we have group-led discussions around faith/life issues. It’s proven to be popular, enjoyable, generation-crossing and enlightening. This Sunday we’re tackling what we’ve called ‘The Divide and Conquer Project’ — dividing up a stack of books the preacher doesn’t have time to read (that would be me) and conquering the issue of church shrinkage / church growth and media / marketing. I love that this group of adults will be (mostly) voluntarily doing book reports over supper!” (more…)

Seven-Year Itch: A Breakthrough for Breakthrough Congregations

This past year, Director of Growth Strategies Stefan Jonasson analyzed past growth initiatives of the Unitarian Universalist Association.  He was looking for patterns: what things worked in their time and what may not have worked then but could work now.  What he saw over and over again was a tendency for initiatives and programs to reach their peak effectiveness by their seventh year and then plateau or decline after that. Many, many initiatives have a natural life cycle of seven years.  Where have we seen this pattern before?
In human romantic, committed relationships. Wright State University psychology professor Dr. Lawrence Kurdek, confirms that our lexicon is accurate: many committed relationships take a dip around year seven.  He suggests fighting this inclination by tempering high expectations with a does of reality, being more open to change, paying attention, remembering what brought you together in the first place, and trying new things together. (Are you seeing how we might apply those to religious community, too?)

It was right about the same time that Stefan noticed the seven-year cycle in program effectiveness that there was talk about letting the Breakthrough Congregations (BTC) program quietly go away.  BTC started in 2005.  It was a growth initiative that annually lifted up the good work of 4 congregations and encouraged other congregations to learn directly from then.  The videos of each congregation through the years can be found here.


Asking Friends To Worship, Oh My!

By guest blogger, Mark Bernstein, Regional Consultant for Growth Development with the Central Eastern Regional Group

Friendship Sunday

Let’s start with some statistics:

  • 70 to 90% of people who join a congregation have a friend or relative already in the congregation.
  •  75 to 90% visit because someone invited them.
  •  We know that the most frequent way in which people hear about us is through word of mouth.

However, the average Unitarian Universalist only invites a person to church once every 26 years.

So what’s up with that?  Why are we so hesitant to invite people to our congregation? (more…)

Study Guide for UUWorld Article: Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden, UT

Congratulations to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden (UUCO), Utah, for being the newest Breakthrough Congregation! Each year the UUA’s Office of Growth Strategies recognizes a handful of congregations that have “broken through” barriers to achieve exemplary goals. UUCO’s embrace of multigenerational worship and religious education for all ages has drawn attention from across the UUA. UUCO has also become a sanctuary for LGBT youth and a community hub for social justice work.

UUCO is highlighted in the summer 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 Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden, Utah.  We hope that this enables lively discussions for your congregational leaders.

Cora Webb passes a collection basket at UUCO.

UUCO prides itself on having truly multigenerational worship, with children and youth participating in multiple roles throughout the entire worship service. (more…)

Living into the Change

By guest blogger Sue Sinnamon

Everyday we see the numbers that point to the change taking place in our religious communities and the lives of our members.  Attendance is declining; RE enrollment is declining; families are changing; the young adults do not find our congregations relevant; youth are not retained and there are new life stages like emerging adulthood. It may seem as if we make some changes and another pops up needing attention. What does post modern mean anyway? Is the world moving too fast or are we moving too slowly? Multi Generational, multi cultural, racial diversity, mission driven, life span, congregations and beyond…. all new vocabulary for change. (more…)



Reflections on the Leading Edge Conference: Igniting Social Justice through Worship and the Arts (Middle Collegiate Church, April 21 – 24, 2012)  

By guest blogger Taquiena Boston, Director of Multicultural Growth and Witness 

Middle Collegiate Church in New York’s East Village is an intentionally multiracial/multicultural and LGBTQI inclusive congregation committed to equipping leaders for a world of radical welcome and inclusion of all people.  This past April I joined about 30 of my fellow Unitarian Universalists at Middle’s sixth annual Leading Edge Conference – “Igniting Social Justice Through Worship and the Arts” — where many of us got “ignited” to bring our learning and experience back to our UU congregations. (more…)

The Youth Are Voting

Ask  the youth in your congregation about this process! Who are they voting for and why? How is youth leadership developed, decided, and utilized in your congregation? Do you have a Youth Observer on your board?  For more information about youth on boards and committees click here.

All our youth have an opportunity to vote! This Sunday ask the youth in your congregation about the all-congregation, Association-wide, virtual voting process going on for a national youth position.  Every year prior to General Assembly, the Youth Observer (YO) to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board of Trustees is elected. The Youth Observer to the Board is an important, national leadership position held by a UU youth who is appointed by Unitarian Universalist (UU) youth in a national election. (more…)

Mosaic Makers: Vital Multicultural Congregations


The following is an excerpt from the full and dynamic report which can be found here.

Mosaic Makers: Leading Vital Multicultural Congregations conference (February 17-19, 2012) was exhilarating, energizing, meaningful, and deeply informative. The event grew out of the Multicultural Growth Consultation (March 2011) and was a by-invitation gathering for congregations that are deeply engaged in the work of building intentional multicultural community. (more…)