We’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.
- Road 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!
Rev. 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.
Please report back after your road trip and let us know what you learned about your congregation!