Xmas CTA: Engaging visitors during the holidays

This post (and its customizable social media graphics!) is offered through the monthly Outreach Updates. Sign up here to get your outreach virtual care package each month. 

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.

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.

Growing in Spirit

One of the most exciting areas of growth I’ve seen in our tradition has been in spirituality. When I first became involved with Unitarian Universalism in the mid-90s, spirituality was a somewhat unfamiliar concept to many of the people in our congregations. But toward the end of the twentieth century, more and more resources became available to help familiarize UUs with the idea spiritual growth.

One book in particular was enormously influential for me and many others: Everyday Spiritual Practice: Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life, edited by Scott W. Alexander and published by Skinner House Books. It’s still in print today and is available online at inSpirit: the UU book and gift shop.

In its pages, you’ll find a wide variety of approaches to spirituality, which is only fitting given our tradition’s long appreciation of the many spiritual paths offered by the world’s religions. What really interests me, though, is that a number of the essays in the book were written by UU ministers who are also trained spiritual directors.

Two of those authors, Erik Walker Wikstrom and Christine Robinson, have gone on to create a number of resources that have helped move personal and communal spiritual growth into the forefront of our movement.

One of my favorite resources from Rev. Wikstrom is Spirit in Practice, a ten-session Tapestry of Faith Program for adults which “was created to help Unitarian Universalists develop regular disciplines, or practices, of the spirit—practices that help them connect with the sacred ground of their being, however they understand it.” And as with most Tapestry of Faith resources, it’s available free and online!

Rev. Robinson and her co-author Alicia Hawkins have “reimagined…small group ministry” by developing a small group format which “offers readings, journaling suggestions, and thought-provoking exercises to help participants prepare for the spiritual practice of sharing in community.”

There are three books in this Deeper Connection Series, each with fourteen gatherings: Heart to Heart, Soul to Soul, and Listening Hearts. All three are available from inSpirit.

Back in the nineties, it was sometimes difficult to explain to people who had never explored their spirituality just what that might entail. Now with resources like Spirit in Practice and the Deeper Connection Series, our congregations can be places were everyone—newcomer and longtime members alike—can experience spiritual growth together.

 

Phil Lund


Religious educator, minister, spiritual director, and wannabe geek dad, Phillip Lund is a congregational life consultant with the MidAmerica Region of the UUA and co-creator of the Clergy Seminar Series in Congregation-Based Spiritual Direction.

How I Made My Congregation’s Website in 90 Minutes

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 11.39.13 AM

Websites are the front doors to our faith communities, so it’s important to have an attractive, helpful and welcoming one! As someone who makes this point to congregations all the time, I thought I should take my own advice and try out the UUA WordPress theme, which I helped create through my UUA job, and use it for my home congregation. I made my UU congregation’s website using the UUA WordPress Theme, and rescued it from certain death, all in an afternoon.

Our story today is in four acts.

Introduction

Think of your website like your building (or physical space). It’s absolutely as important as your building for interacting with the wider community. It requires land to sit on; that’s your hosting service. The WordPress platform works as your building’s foundation, and the UUA WordPress theme creates outside walls, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, all the structural stuff. Once you’ve got your building/site up, you still have to decorate and arrange it with furniture, paint, lighting, etc. That’s your site’s content (and we give you a recommended setup and some furnishing examples with the draft content). The menu operates like internal walls that are really easy to move around and reshape your rooms depending on your furniture/content.

The UUA WordPress theme is like a prefab website house for our congregations, one built using best practices and great design. But to use that prefab house you still have to get the land (hosting), and, like any construction project, you still have to know how to wield a hammer.

I would say I can use a hammer, though I’m definitely not an architect or a general contractor. I’m not a tech guy. But I’ve been working on this website theme project for months, so I wanted to test it out and see if a guy who does some home improvement/website work on the side can pull this off.

Prologue

My home congregation in Malden has an ok website, but it isn’t responsive, isn’t screen-reader accessible, and it’s hard to get multiple accounts to edit it. Plus, we are paying a lot for hosting, and not even using the full range of services we are paying for (e.g. a custom social network). We decided to switch to the cheaper, easier, more flexible, more accessible and generally more awesome UUA theme. I set aside some time, and rolled up my sleeves to get started.

Act I – Hosting

First, I signed up with Blue Host. I picked BlueHost because they are cheap, reliable, have a solid reputation, and do good work with nonprofits. They also offer easy integration with webmail as part of their hosting package, something we don’t currently have in Malden (that means you can get accounts like minister@yourchurch.org or office@yourchurch.org). Plus, using a third party hosting company and setting up a new site meant it was easier to meet the technical requirements for using the theme.

BlueHost requires payment for hosting up front, but I got a year of hosting for $60 (side note – be careful what you subscribe for! I actually picked the $4/month option first, which turned out to be a 3-year package, and had to call them to switch my plan). This is WAY cheaper than our current hosting fees.

As part of signing up for Blue Host, I had to pick a domain name. We decided to change our domain name as part of the process, but you can transfer an existing domain name. If you want to use your current domain name, you will probably want to create a sub-domain to use as your staging/development site (maybe www.dev.yourchurch.org), which you do through your “domains” section of the control panel. From there, you can also add a new registered domain name to your BlueHost account later and transfer your original URL.

Act II – Installation

Bluehost control panelNow that I was logged in to my BlueHost account with a domain set up, I went to the “hosting” section of the control panel and clicked “install WordPress” and then followed the instructions to install on my domain (no need for any of the paid options to help install).

Perfect! Now I had my WordPress site set up. I’m familiar with WordPress from other blogs and sites I mentioned, but if you don’t know WordPress then I recommend the WordPress Support site: https://en.support.wordpress.com/.

I logged in with my BlueHost account (login at yourchurch.org/wp-admin) and went to the Appearance > Themes section of the Dashboard. I had already gone to uuatheme.org and downloaded the theme, which comes as a ZIP file (don’t do anything to it, just let it be zipped!). I clicked “Add New” and uploaded my zip file and BOOM! I was in business. I followed the prompts and installed all the recommended widgets.

Act II – Setup

WP dashboard theme installThe theme requires some setup, especially for the custom options. So I followed the guidance on uuatheme.org and adjusted the theme options (colors, header, etc.), available once you click into the UUA Theme. I followed all the steps listed the initial setup instructions.

Next I installed the Demo Content to get started (I declined to import all the images, since they weren’t specific to my congregation). But the demo content gave me enough to work with to start managing and organizing the site.

I then set up the homepage by going to the Appearance > Widgets menu and added the widgets to the appropriate Homepage boxes (the homepage uses a couple of different widgets to make all those fun options work). This was the trickiest part so far, just keeping track of which widgets go where. But it’s all laid out on the theme documentation site.

I looked at my site. It was beautiful! I stepped back to admire my work, and I was all ready to get started working on my content. But no one’s perfect, eh? Everyone makes mistakes. I’ll tell you about my mistake here so you don’t make the same one, but there are plenty of other mistakes out there for you to explore :). That’s why we’re building up a community of users to help each other.

INTERMISSION 

I got a third cup of coffee for the day.

Act IV – Climactic Disaster

My misstep started when I noticed that the domain was not directing to the actual homepage, it was just giving me the most recent blog posts. Then I thought what all non-techies who are on a roll with tech stuff think, which is “I can figure this out on my own!” I proceeded to poke around and try to fix this by changing the Site URL on the Settings > General menu, which actually means I redirected the site’s directory. Bad move, bro. Suddenly, all the formatting was stripped out of my site, and I couldn’t log in or access any page but the homepage. I had put the site in an endless self-referential loop, like looking into a set of facing mirrors.

Undoing this, or even figuring out what the problem was, involved an hour-long detour through WordPress help forums across the internet. Eventually, magically, I discovered I could log into the PHPMyAdmin listing through my hosting service and replace the directory link with the correct address. Phew! I had made it through the Mines of Moria and out the other side. Then I found the true answer to my question, which (for some reason I don’t understand) involves going to Settings > Reading and changing your “Front page displays.”

Act IV – Denouement
Yes, I set up the site in 90 minutes. And then it took me another 90 minutes to totally break it and fix it again. I should be clear, though, that populating the content took much longer, because truly there’s always more content development to do. I didn’t try to import anything from our old site, I just copied and pasted by hand (we only had 20 or so pages). I spent a solid afternoon just uploading photos, rewriting pages, and adding previous Sunday services through the fantastic custom services plug-in.

Curtain Call

Gee whiz, it’s amazing what we can do with technology these days! I hope my story helps inspire you to give the theme a try. If you feel comfortable working on websites, and want to get some practice in with that hammer, I believe you can do it too. Huge thanks to Chris Wulff, the developer who made this project happen, and thanks to all the work of my colleagues at the UUA, especially Sarah Gibb Millspaugh, who helped shepherd it through. Appreciation for the congregations who beta-tested the theme and provided supporting documentation last summer, the theme was made better by your efforts. And a big high-five to all the congregations who are already using the theme, your sites are fabulous!

 

_________________________

cmcdonald_headshotCarey McDonald is the UUA Director of Outreach, total data geek and trend-spotter, as seen in his presentation Future of Faith.

 

 

 

 

 

Wanna see First Parish Malden’s new site?

http://www.fpmalden.org

 

UUA/Regional Staff Dedicated to Emerging Ministries

emerging_ministries_logoHave you caught the Emerging Ministries buzz?  Did you pass on the links to the most recent blog posts on to your congregational leadership teammates?  You know the posts —  the announcement Emerging Ministries support and the other blog post of the Emerging Ministries website overview. And now are you wondering “What’s next?!”

 

It may be time to call your Regional Emerging Ministries Coach.  These are Congregational Life staff dedicated helping coach, connect, and co-learn with you and your teammates. They meet regularly as their own learning community in order to better serve you, and they facilitate Innovative Learning Circles with leaders pioneering these powerful and emerging forms of innovative impact and community. Additionally they are available to help you discern your community’s path and help connect you to other resources, including other congregations.

 

Co-Coordinators

 

GonzalezMilliken_AnnieRev. Annie Gonzalez Milliken is a lifelong UU from the midwest and serves our faith as Young Adult and Campus Ministry Associate for the Unitarian Universalist Association.  She has lived in 7 different states and been part of 8 different UU communities throughout her life. A firm believer in both established and new ministries, she is a member of First Parish Dorchester, founded in 1630, and The Sanctuary Boston, created a few years ago.  Supporting the emerging ministries initiative at the UUA has already been one of the best learning experiences of her life and she is so thrilled to be working with our people all over the country to help spread, grow and deepen our faith through new groups and projects. agonzalez@uua.org 

 

Rev Tandi clappingRev. Tandi Rogers currently serves as the Innovation and Network Specialist.  Prior to that she was the Growth Specialist and before that the Program Specialist serving congregations in the Pacific Northwest. She finds congregations and UU groups collaborating together very exciting and promising (that was a covenant pun, get it?) Helping leaders see abundance and possibilities is what gets her up in the morning. trogers@uua.org

 

New England Region

 

HilaryAllen-newHilary Allen’s focus on the New England Regional Staff is Innovation & Growth. She’s continuously fascinated by the way emergent ministries in Unitarian Universalism tend to organize around ancient needs for community. She brings patience and awe to emergence and innovation work, and is also glad to think strategically with folks about their structures and systems – and their funding! hallen@uua.org

 

neil-barron_seanSean Neil-Barron is the Ministerial Intern at the New England Region of the UUA. Sean loves emerging ministries because they reflect our faith adapting to our context and sowing seeds of love. SNeil-Barron@uua.org

 

 

 

Central East Regional Group

 

Raziq-BrownRaziq Brown newly joined the CERG team to support the youth ministry portfolio and in addition emerging with young adult ministries. He hasn’t even started work yet, so we’ll hold off on publishing contact information.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

EvinThe Rev. Evin Carvill-Ziemer is the Congregational Life Consultant for the St. Lawrence District and part-time program coordinator for the Ohio-Meadville District. She is well-known for her passion around youth and young adult ministries, especially GoldMine Leadership School. eziemer@uua.org

 

 

Southern Region

 

Kathy this oneKathy McGowan, Congregational Life Staff, is one of seven field staff on the Southern Region team. She lives in the triangle area of North Carolina with her son and two cats. She has been a Unitarian Universalist since the mid-eighties and has a deep love of this faith tradition. In addition to her work with new and emerging congregations, she focuses on intercultural sensitivity and is the primary contact for the congregations in Virginia and North Carolina in the Southern Region of the UUA. She is excited to be coaching groups on how to live out their Unitarian Universalist faith in a deep and covenantal way. KMcGowan@uua.org

 

MidAmerica Region

 

Phil LundThe Rev. Phil Lund is a Congregational Life Consultant working with new and emerging ministries in the MidAmerica Region of the UUA. He’s excited about engaging with UUs who are exploring creative and innovative ways of being in religious community. In addition to focusing on digital ministry, he’s also interested in is helping groups bring a spiritual formation focus to the work they do. PLund@uua.org

 

DoriDori Thexton has been serving Unitarian Universalism for over 30 years – in two congregations before becoming part of the field staff team. She is passionate about growing our faith and anything that will help congregations do that.  dthexton@uua.org

 

 

 

Pacific West Region

 

JeanelyseThe Rev. Jeanelyse Doran Adams serves the Pacific Western Region as Congregational Life Staff.  Jeanelyse believes new expressions of Unitarian Universalist emerging ministries offer hope in a fractured world, provide opportunities to liberate our faith, and invite shared ministry at its best. JAdams@uua.org

 

 

jonipher thisThe Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong just joined the Congregational Life staff team in the Pacific Western Region. He brings with him a wealth of experience from planting a new congregation for the Metropolitan Community Churches and new UU religious communities that turned into a multi-site partnership. He is an innovative entrepreneur and we’re grateful to have his spark on our team. JKwong@uua.org

 

Call them early, and call them often.  This team is here for you, wherever you are on your Emerging Ministry journey!

Emerging Ministries Quick Map

emerging_ministries_logoQuick, where can you go to find a glossary of terms for all different kinds of Unitarian Universalist ministries, a “Buzzfeed” style quiz about which kind of emerging ministry you should create and a fascinating report put out by a Methodist organization on what real change looks like?

 

If you answered www.uua.org/emerging, you’re correct!

 

As you may have heard, the Unitarian Universalist Association is rolling out a new support system for emerging ministries. Maybe you’ve been reading up on how this support relates to the new Covenanting Communities designation or seen how this initiative can support our outreach to millennials. You’ve probably seen this video that highlights some different styles of emerging ministries.

 

 

Emerging Ministries final

 

But have you taken the time to explore our homepage on the UUA website?

 

Here are the Top 6 Reasons you should go check out www.uua.org/emerging.

 

6. Take a fun quiz
. Come on, admit it, you’ve totally clicked on one of those “Which Harry Potter character will you be during the zombie apocalypse?” quizzes your friend posted on Facebook, haven’t you? On the right-hand sidebar of our webpage you can find a fun quiz that let’s you know which lane of the road to covenanted UU living is right for you! Of course the quiz is partially silly, but it was also designed to be useful and informative. The results might surprise you…

 

5. Read some serious case studies
. On the other hand, maybe you’re wanting to delve deep and get serious about the nitty gritty details of starting an emerging ministry. Scroll down to the “Learn more” section of our webpage and check out our case studies. Right now we have profiled three groups and we will be expanding with additional groups as we go. You can learn about their discernment processes, their financial strategies, how their ministries got off the ground or why they didn’t make it.

 

4. Get perspectives beyond Unitarian Universalism. 
Learning from our fellow UUs is crucial, but so is learning from both secular and non-UU religious groups. After all, UUs are certainly not the only ones looking at our changing religious landscape and trying to figure out how to respond faithfully. Right now we have pieces written by Methodists, a United Church of Christ minister and some Harvard Divinity School students focusing on secular groups. It’s all under “Learn more” and we’ll keep adding to the resources, keeping you up to date on how other folks are thinking about new religious and/or spiritual projects.

 

3. Figure out what we’re talking about.  Confused by “Covenanting Communities”? Mystified by “multisite ministry?” Wondering what it even means to be a member congregation? We use a lot of specific terms when we talk about emerging ministries, and while we try to avoid jargon and speak clearly, it can be difficult to follow along. Check out the glossary page that supplements our emerging ministries page, and you’ll be in the know in no time!

 

2. Start receiving support
. So you’ve got an idea or you’ve been working on a project for awhile and you want to get plugged into this support you keep hearing about. Well look no further. Scroll all the way down on our webpage and you’ll find the Emerging Ministries Inquiry Form. Fill it out and we’ll be in touch with you. We get to know more about who’s working on what in the emerging ministries field and you get regular check ins from national and regional staff and the opportunity to apply for project grants and join learning communities. It’s a win, win!

 

1. Be inspired. Do you ever feel disillusioned about our world and the future of our faith? This webpage is a great place to find hope and maybe even the spark of your own creative idea. In the sidebar you’ll find videos including “GA Talks” (short TED Talks style presentations from our UUA General Assembly) that explore new forms of ministry. Under “Learn more” you’ll find blogposts from the BlueBoat “Spotlight Series” that highlight how emerging ministries are working with young adults. And throughout the page you’ll see our bold life-giving faith reflected back in words, pictures and videos. The possibilities are endless!

 

Of course as this endeavor develops over time our webpage will change and grow. Check back regularly to see what’s new at www.uua.org/emerging and you can have fun, get serious, learn from others, clear up confusion, find support and be inspired all at once.

 

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GonzalezMilliken_AnnieRev. Annie Gonzalez Milliken is a lifelong UU from the midwest and serves our faith as Young Adult and Campus Ministry Associate for the Unitarian Universalist Association.  She has lived in 7 different states and been part of 8 different UU communities throughout her life.  She currently lives in Boston with her partner Lucas and some lovely housemates.  A firm believer in both established and new ministries, she is a member of First Parish Dorchester, founded in 1630, and The Sanctuary Boston, created a few years ago

 

Covenanting Communities

cropped-lucy-stone-0077-copy
Lucy Stone welcome table, a Covenanting Community

 

During the last year, the UUA Board of Trustees and UUA staff have been up to something pretty cool. Though historically the only way to become an official part of the UUA is through a congregation, we’ve been working on a new way for independent groups of Unitarian Universalists to be in relationship with the wider movement. In March, the Board created a flexible new status for those groups called “covenanting communities.”

What is a “covenanting community?” It’s a community that claims and is claimed by Unitarian Universalism, borrowing a turn of phrase from our friends at Faithify. A covenanting community is NOT a member congregation of the UUA, nor is it an interest or affinity group of UUs who are already members of congregations. Covenanting communities are the primary ways that their members or participants connect to Unitarian Universalism.

Covenanting communities can look and feel very different. That’s actually the point. We want people to imagine new ways of living out their UU faith and values, and to feel like they can do that while still being a recognized part of the UU family. Covenanting communities may look like Sacred Path, which used to be an emerging congregation before deciding that the covenanting community status suited them better.  Or they could look like Lucy Stone Cooperative, an intentional living community grounded in UU values that is exploring the covenanting community status to see if it fits with their mission.

The development of the covenanting community status started out with a pilot project last fall. This pilot project reached out to UU groups who might be interested in the covenanting communities status see what might be a good way of structuring this relationship. Through those conversations, we learned what’s really important to uphold (connection to UU principles and the wider movement) and what’s ok to leave to full-fledged congregations (bylaws, voting at General Assembly, size requirements).

It also turned out that, even though some of the groups we approached about the covenanting communities status weren’t interested, just having a conversation with local leaders about their goals and their UU identity was valuable. Some even decided to restart the process to become full member congregations. This just highlights the need for supportive, ongoing relationship between all levels of the UU faith movement.

The best part about the covenanting communities status is that it is a part of an entire system of support for emerging ministries. Not every group connected to Unitarian Universalism will want to become a covenanting community, and that’s ok. What’s important is that there are now more ways than ever for people to express their faith in covenant with the wider UU movement.

The first round of covenanting communities will hopefully be recognized at General Assembly this year, so stay tuned! And check out other articles on emerging ministries on this blog.

 

 Application and more information: Covenanting Communities Fact Sheet.

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cmcdonald_headshotCarey McDonald is the UUA Director of Outreach and has been working closely with the UU Board on the development of this new status. He is also known as the Future of Faith Guy.

Announcing (new and improved!) UUA Support for Emerging Ministries

emerging_ministries_logoThere are so many ways to be a Unitarian Universalist religious community today! And these diverse communities provide more possibilities than ever to live our faith in the world.

 

Emerging Ministries are any new group or project that is grounded in Unitarian Universalism and brings people together in covenanted and intentional ways.  New congregations are emerging ministries and so are campus ministries, multi-site ministries, intentional housing cooperatives, missional communities, prison ministries, military ministries and more.  They are emerging within congregations, beyond congregations and in between congregations.

 

These new ministries are all moving in the same direction: toward covenanted UU living. These groups and projects are like diverse vehicles – cars, bikes, scooters, vans, and skateboards – moving in different lanes depending on the form and function of their ministry.

 

However, there is no magic road map or GPS that can chart the perfect path for these groups. The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) knows we need versatile responsive support systems to get these new endeavors ready for the journey.  A cross-department, cross-regional team of UUA staff is ready to maintain this multi-lane highway toward UU living and is set to staff the tune up stations and rest areas along the way. We can help vehicles figure out which lane is right for them, connect them with experts who have made similar journeys before, and support them in raising the money they need to make this trip.  We’re also working on making it easier to get on this road by adding on-ramps such as contacting your regional staff or checking out our Emerging Ministries webpage.

 

For example, a skateboard might ramp on through the Church of the Larger Fellowship and get into the Meeting Group lane and then through experience with an on-line group coaching webinar realize they want to switch lanes to explore MultiSite options. The highway is about resourcing projects and groups in their early development and getting them the connections, perspective, community of pioneers (convoys, if you will,) and tools the need to realize their vision and answer the call of their wider community.  An integrated, dynamic support system will make it easier for innovators to get what they need. We will live into a refreshed expression of our congregational polity and covenant in the way these ministries will be connected through learning communities and peer support.

 

In the short term, the Congregational Life, Outreach, and Ministries & Faith Development staff groups of the UUA have joined together to inspire, support and sustain emerging ministry efforts.  By mid-fall of 2015, this comprehensive network of support will include programming such as: Innovative Learning Circles, online material sharing systems, a centralized online “hub” for UU emerging ministry efforts, and a Congregational Life Emerging Ministries Coaching Team. In the initiative’s second year a Mentor Program will connect established ministries to emerging ministries to amplify synergistic learning, connection, and sustainability. We will also add lanes to the highway and improve capacity.  In the third year our attention turns to a proactive ministry-planting strategy for the UUA.

 

Over the course of the next couple weeks we will feature different aspects of Emerging Ministries Highway on this blog: overview of preliminary UUA.org resources, introduction to the Emerging Ministries Regional Coaches, preview of the General Assembly Emerging Ministries Laboratory.

 

Support for Emerging Ministries is made possible through generous gifts from UUA President’s Council members and friends like you. Thank you!

Emerging Ministries final
Video about UU Emerging Ministries by Rev. Erik Martinez Resly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multicultural Leadership School

HitchhikingOnce, I hitchhiked to the UU Fellowship of Falmouth. I was 20, living in Woods Hole, MA for a winter where I fell in love with snow-covered beaches in January and I learned that a hankering to go to worship can land you in a stranger’s car, mug of tea balanced on your knees, speeding toward church.

 

When I walk into UU congregations, whether it’s First Parish in Cambridge where I am the Affiliate Community Minister or the UU Fellowship of Falmouth on that random, cold, Sunday morning, I feel instantly at home and also almost as instantly, alone. I’m at home because this is the faith that raised me – I know the hymns and rituals and the rhythms. I know that whether I’m a second grader in floral bike shorts and matching socks or a twenty-something hitchhiker, I am welcome.

 

I also felt alone because I hold identities that are minorities within our movement – I’m a young adult, a millennial and I’m a person of color. When I sit in churches, I feel the gift and weight of those identities – the blessings of my ancestors, the strength and resilience of my heritage, and also the expectation that I might help our faith move be transformed and transformative. It can feel like an honor and a loneliness, a charge and a burden.

 

This year summer, for the fifth year, the UUA will host Multicultural Leadership School, a gathering for UU youth and young adults of color from July 10th-July 14th, 2015 at the Walker Center outside of Boston. MLS is place for UU youth and young adults of African Descent, Caribbean, Native/American Indian, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latina/o and Hispanic, Middle Eastern/Arab, Multiracial and Multiethnic to deepen our faith, lift our spirits, and build critical skills for leadership in the face of our uncertain, broken and beautiful world.

 MCLS

Because we are so often alone, even when we are at home, we must find ways to be together. To grow our vibrant Unitarian Universalist faith, we must carve out communities of support and connection for those of us who so often hold identities alone.

Help spread the word to UU youth and young adults of color in your community! Application deadline is April 15th. Registration is $275 and includes transportation, housing, meals and all materials – no need to hitchhike to this one 🙂

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ElizabethRev. Elizabeth Nguyen is the UUA Leadership Development Associate for Youth and Young Adults of Color and in this picture her socks match her bike shorts.