A Case for Evangelism

beach beaconI woke up this morning and my first thought was, I just don’t get it. I don’t get any reluctance to evangelize our faith. Remember proselytizing is different from evangelizing. Proselytizing is trying to get someone from another faith to change theirs to yours, evangelizing is just spreading the word about your faith so others are informed and can know. The world is at such a perilous place.

 

We have come so far in so many ways but unless we take great strides in making bigger advances to help the planet and unless we all can somehow turn the tide of fundamentalism and fear, we are in danger of the future that not only faces seven generations but maybe even ours.

 

That is why I don’t get it. If we truly believe in the power of this faith to change lives, if we truly try to practice the principles listed on our hymnals and websites, if we truly feel that our historical and theological lineage of love infused with reason, deeds over creeds and a desire for a just, kinder and more compassionate world, why is there anyone not wanting to grow and sing Unitarian Universalism from the highest mountains and the tallest peaks.

 

I say this in part those in our congregations struggling with growth. People who in their lives are clearly working for a better world but in their congregation don’t want to lose that “feeling of community.” That comment always sounds the same way to me, “now that I have found it, and it works for me, I want it to keep working for me the way that I like it.” This comment always strikes me the same way, well if you have found it and it is so important to you, how could you not want that for others who need it too?

beacon

 

And others need it. Others need to feel a part of a community that stands up, on the side of love, against the forces of marginalization and oppression of otherness. Others need to feel a part of a community that examines their own tendencies toward privilege and oppression as difficult as that can be. Others need to stop being others and belong to a community that encourages wholeness and bringing your full self to the table even when that challenges our own liberal understandings of tolerance, acceptance and unconditional love.

 

So that is what I woke up and just couldn’t understand this morning as I face this start of another congregational year. If your congregation is starting your year this week, next week or you will be starting soon, I wish you the best as we all navigate these tensions and as we work together, constantly and sometimes it seems, endlessly, to balance our own desires for the community that wraps us in the comforting blanket of familiarity, verses the loud, visible and vital proclamation of what this faith does and can do to help us all build a better world.

 

__________________________

David Miller for blogThe Reverend David A. Miller is the minster of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito in Solana Beach, California.  Reverend Miller is a graduate of the Claremont School of Theology receiving a Master of Divinity degree with an emphasis in Social Transformation.

 

He participated in one of the Innovative Learning Circles this past year, exploring Congregations & Beyond experiments.

General Assembly: making it contagious

UUA General Assembly  2014Right about now <insert a glance at my wrist watch here> is when those of us who attended General Assembly finally catch up on our sleep and look up from our GA-Induced stupor.  Can I get an amen?  A week of intense, amazing worship services and new-idea-packed workshops and networking that even exhausts extroverts will do that to a person.  It takes us a good rest to re-acclimate.

 

And now it is time to strategize how to bring this GA awesome-goodness to our congregations and to keep those connections, energy, and sparky ideas going.  It’s time to make all that goodness contagious to your siblings-in-faith in your home congregation who did not attend.

 

Look through your notes.  Who could you invite for coffee to share what you learned and experienced?   Who did you network with that you could make a video-conference appointment with to keep the learning and support going?

 

What parts of General Assembly on-line could you share on your congregation’s FB page?  The UUWorld coverage could easily be shared via FB pages.  Perhaps there are pieces of GA that are so provocative and timely for your community that you want to gather folks to watch highlights together and then strategize how to use the message where you are.  Here are some of the highlights:

 

Event ID Event Title Smallscreen Video Library Page Page on UUA.org
107 Opening Celebration and General Session I http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-107-opening-ceremony http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/295401.shtml
107 Banner Parade http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/banner-parade
107 General Session I http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-107-business-session http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/295401.shtml
107 Opening Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/295401.shtml
202 Thursday AM Worship http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-202-worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/295424.shtml
202 General Session II http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-202-general-session–2 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/295402.shtml
273 Synergy Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/295425.shtml
302 General Session III and Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iii/index.shtml
302w Friday Morning Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/296057.shtml
302a President’s Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-302-presidents-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iii/296120.shtml
302b Moderator’s Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-302-moderators-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iii/296122.shtml
302c Board of Trustees’ Report http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-302-trustees-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iii/296123.shtml
302d Budget Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-302-budget-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iii/296121.shtml
338 General Session IV http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iv/index.shtml
338a Debate and vote on Congregational Study/Action Issues http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-338-general-session-iv–2 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iv/296128.shtml
338b GA Talk – Fossil Fuel Divestment http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-338-general-session-iv http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iv/296130.shtml
338c Beacon Press Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-338-general-session-iv–4 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iv/296131.shtml
338d Journey Towards Wholeness Transformation Team report http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-338-general-sessioin-iv http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iv/296129.shtml
338e Financial Advisor Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-338-general-session-iv–3 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iv/296127.shtml
357 SLT http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-357-service-of-the-living-tradition http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/295426.shtml
402 General Session V and Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/v/index.shtml
402w Saturday Morning Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/296069.shtml
402b Statements and voting to admit potential Actions of Immediate Witness to the Agenda https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-402-immediate-witness http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/v/296135.shtml
402d Introduction: Coalition of UU International Organizations https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-402-coalition-of-international-organizations http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/v/296139.shtml
402e Celebration: Holdeen india Program’s 30th Anniversary https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014 (must sign in to see it)
402f Presentation: Distinguished Service Award http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-402-distinguished-service-award http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/v/296138.shtml
434 General Session VI http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vi/index.shtml
434a Debate and vote on business Resolution on fossil fuel divestment https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-434-debate-vote-on-fossil-fuel-divestment http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vi/296143.shtml
434c GA Talk – Humanism and Theism in Conversation http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-434-ga-talk-on-humanism-and-theism http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vi/296182.shtml
434d Presentation: Angus Mclean Award https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-434-angus-mclean-award http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vi/296183.shtml
434e UU Women’s Federation Report http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-434-uu-womens-federation-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vi/296184.shtml
434f GA Talk – Living our witness@Waterfire https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-434-ga-talk-living-our-witness http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vi/296186.shtml
435 Ware Lecture http://www.uua.org/economic/ga/295423.shtml
436 Worship b4 Waterfire http://www.uua.org/love/ga/295863.shtml
436 WaterFire – live streaming http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-waterfire-live-coverage
503 General Session VII http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/
503b UU Service Committee Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-503-uu-service-committee-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296198.shtml
503c UU College of social Justice Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-503-uu-college-of-social-justice-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296197.shtml
503d Debate and vote on Actions of immediate witness https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-503-debate-and-vote-on-actions-of-immediate-witness http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296201.shtml
503e Presentation: Presidential Award for volunteer service http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-503-presidential-award-for-volunteer-service http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296200.shtml
503f Debate and vote on proposed amendments to C-2.3 regarding inclusion http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2013-event-503-debate-and-vote-on-proposed-amendments-to-c-2-3 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296147.shtml
503g GA Talk – YA@GA https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-503-ga-talk-ya-ga http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296199.shtml
503h GA Talk – Gathering for Purpose: The Future of GA http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-503-gathering-for-purpose-and-future-of-ga http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296202.shtml
504 Sunday Morning Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/295428.shtml
505 General Session VIII http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/viii/index.shtml
505a Debate and vote on proposed amendments to C-10.6 and C-10.7 regarding provisions concerning investments http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-505-proposed-amendments-to-c-10-6-and-c-10-7 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/viii/296204.shtml
505b Debate and vote on proposed amendments to C-3.6 to enable regions http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-505-debate-and-vote-on-proposed-amendments-to-c-3-6-to-enable-regions http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/viii/296205.shtml
505c Congratulations to the Current Delegate by Former Moderators https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-505-congratulations-to-current-moderator http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/viii/296152.shtml
505d Invitation to GA 2015 in Portland https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-505-invitation-to-ga-2015 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/viii/296203.shtml
506 Closing Ceremony http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/295429.shtml

 

Audio recordings of General Assembly (GA) programs are available for purchase as CDs or downloadable files at the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Events CenterAnd for those of us who are very visual and want to relive the energy, the UUWorld captured beautiful pictures.

 

Keep General Assembly going. Make it contagious!

_________________________________________

Tandi smilingRev. Tandi Rogers is keeping General Assembly going by “Follow, Share, Funding” innovative ministries through Faithify, which debuted at GA.

Flipped: Hybrid Leadership Training

H-UULTI GRAPHIC with new uua logo and colorsLay leadership in a UU congregation can be a lonely journey.  Often leaders have to find their own way through the maze of challenges and obstacles that confront those who are out front and in charge.  But leaders don’t have to go it alone.  Both regionally and nationally, UUA staff are developing innovative ways to get leaders the information, inspiration and skill building they need to be successful in their roles.

One such effort in the Central East Region is H-UULTI, a year round community for leaders.  A brainchild of the Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Leadership Development Consultant for CERG (Central East Regional Group), this comprehensive program includes online seminars, on-demand resources, virtual peer learning groups (called Process Circles) and local on-site in-person get-togethers (known as Communities of Practice.)  This combination of virtual and in person experiential learning results in a “flipped classroom” experience where participants learn online and then share their learning in person with other Unitarian Universalist leaders.

2014-02-08 10.22.11

This fall, H-UULTI (which stands for Hybrid – Unitarian Universalist Leadership Training Institute) will offer a variety of courses facilitated by experienced regional staff.  Courses include Healthy Leadership, Leading Change, Trends in American Religion, UU Identity, Theological Plurality and Marketing and Communication, among others.  The goal of H-UULTI is to help liberal religious leaders deepen connections, grow innovations and enhance their communities’ impact on the world.  And, with H-UULTI, leaders don’t have to do this alone.

For more information about H-UULTI, and to register, follow this link: http://www.cerguua.org/HUULTI/

_____________________________

mark bernsteinMark Bernstein is the Regional Consultant for Growth Development with the Central East Regional Group. He never likes to go it alone and believes that the H-UULTI Leadership School will transform the world as we currently know it.  He is also not prone to exaggeration.

CERG offers many excellent growth resources. Please check them out! Thank you, Mark, for so generously serving our faith.

Possible Implications of Pathways to Membership

New memberWas there a correlation between adult numerical growth and pathways to membership? I was curious. I surveyed Unitarian Universalist congregations in the Pacific Northwest back in 2007 to find out.

 

Methodology

I emailed the following question to either the minister or president of each congregation: “What is your pathway to membership?” When I did not receive an email back, I picked up the phone.  Reponses fell into three easy categories:

  1. People sign the book.
  2. People meet with either the minister or a committee, sign the book, make a pledge.
  3. People go through a class process, sign a book, make a pledge, participate in a ceremony and more.

I color-coded their adult membership growth trends:  green (growing), pale yellow (no change within past five years*), gray (declining.) I laid those colors over the pathway to membership.

Findings

What I found was crystal clear. There was no wiggle room. There was no stray congregation.  The gray congregations in decline merely had people sign a book.  The congregations who had plateaued maintained the quick process of a meeting, a pledge card, and a book signing.  The congregations who were growing were the ones with a clear pathway to membership. There was a class. Often an inventory of gifts and/or needs. Official or covert mentorship. A retreat with a class cohort.  Keeping in mind that correlation is not causation; I believe the trend was clear enough to surmise that organizational maturity is attractive, plain and simple.   And organizational maturity often goes hand in hand with spiritual maturity, which is also magnetic.

More Observations

Of course there are other variables. If I tagged the congregations by size, they were well represented in all categories and colors.  If I tagged them by the number of professional staff, they were also balanced in each color and category.

Implications

What I came away with back in 2007 is that the pathway to membership matters.  Being clear about what it means to be a member matters.  How you welcome new comers in, invite them into meaningful community, and equip them to thrive in your community matters.

Resources

Five years after I explored my assumption, we have some great resources available to you incase your congregation is pale yellow or gray.

  • I highly recommend the Commission on Appraisal Report, Belonging: The Meaning of Memership, which includes a study guide within the report. The report states: “Membership is not just a technical or legal state or a numerical measurement. It is a process that engages human beings and takes us from a starting place to a new place. (We) hope that congregations will take seriously the possibility of making membership more meaningful by paying careful attention to the paths they provide for this journey.”  The Study Guide can
  • The New UU – The New UU program provides important tools to help congregations welcome, orient, and integrate newcomers into their faith communities. The program addresses the needs of newcomers who want to know more about who we are and what we believe. It provides opportunities for members of your congregation to share with newcomers what it means to them to be a Unitarian Universalist. It gives newcomers a chance to examine their own personal stories in the light of our Unitarian Universalist tradition and heritage. It provides a chance for newcomers to the congregation and long-timers to connect. It provides an explicit invitation to become a member.

If you have a pathway to membership that especially feeds your mission, we want to know about it!  Please comment in this blog or send us an email.

 

*Some congregations turn in the same certification numbers over and over, year after year.  It is hard to determine if this a true representation of Adult Membership (or Religious Education Enrollment) or an indication of a reporting issue.

_____________________________________________

Laughing Tandi for DialogTandi Rogers is still friends with the people who were in her New Member cohort back in 1990. And she remembers fondly being interviewed by elders from the church about what she was looking for and how she wanted to get involved.  They became her go-to mentor and advocates.

Getting the Most Out of General Assembly

GA Closing WorshipHaving had the privilege to attend over ten General Assemblies, I like to think I’m getting the hang of it.  Here are some tips and resources to help you get the most out of your General Assembly experiences.

UU World will provide timely reports and articles on their GA Blog, illustrated by some striking selections from their Photostream on Flickr. Follow UUWorld on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news during major GA events.  General Assembly also has an official Twitter hashtag: #UUAGA.

I 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. Some congregations organize GA viewing parties complete with popcorn.

Stefan Jonasson and I will be holding “office hours” at the Congregational Life booth in the Exhibition Hall. Sign up for a time slot at the booth.  I will be especially delighted to have a “Sweet Spot” consultation with you or help you create your own Innovative Learning Circle.

 

Tandi’s Tips: 

  • Pack comfortable shoes, ear-plugs, and a re-usable water bottle. Bring a bag or backpack with room for snacks to keep you going. I’m always surprised with how packed the schedule is.  Stay physically fueled and try to get good sleep. Do pay close attention to self care!
  • Attend your regional ingathering Wednesday evening to connect with people from your area. Find congregations that are similar in size, and make a list.  At the General Assembly, seek out people from those congregations who are in similar leadership roles as you and compare notes.  What is working well?  What are challenges?  What are possible solutions?  Swap contact information and keep in touch.
  • If you are going with members of your congregation arrange regular meetings (breakfasts?) to debrief the experience and start plotting collaboration and support once we’re back home.
  • Be extra-friendly to the folks working the General Assembly – they are all volunteers and our UU siblings.
  • Sing out at the Opening Worship and let the rush of celebrating with thousands of Unitarian Universalists from all over our continent sink into your bones. Let our collective energy feed your spirit. After each worship service ask what you liked best and how you can bring that nugget home to your own worship.
  • Seek out district board members and your Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations trustee and tell them what your greatest hopes are for our religion and your congregation.  Our boards set the vision for our collective ministry with long range dreaming. Tell them what your priorities are.
  • Seek out UUA staff with your questions.  Tell us your joys and challenges of building a vibrant, thriving religious community. During Plenary staff sit in a block to the front-left when facing the stage. Feel free to find us there!
  • Go to a workshop that speaks to a need in your congregation. Before you leave General Assembly, create a plan for how you will apply what you learned back in your home congregation.
  • Go to a workshop that speaks to a personal passion or interest.  Before you leave General Assembly, create a plan for how you will apply what you’ve learned back in your home congregation and/or your personal life.
  • Keep some extra room in your suitcase for the wonderful Unitarian Universalist clothing and jewelry available in the Exhibition Hall.  Everyone should have at least one piece of UU jewelry to wear.
  • Keep the energy going! When you return to your congregation, schedule some coffee time with key folks to share what you learned. Give them copies of the hand-outs and your notes.  Write an article for your congregation’s newsletter.  Make yourself available at coffee hour for people who are interested. Seek out the next group of leaders who should go to General Assembly 2014 to represent your congregation and bring back inspiration, perspective, connections, and ideas to help your religious community be all that it can be.

___________________________________________

Tandi Feb 2012Tandi Rogers’s favorite part of General Assembly is putting faces and names together of all the congregational leaders she follows throughout the year.  She hopes people will run up to her to share good news from their part of world.

 

 

The Move: reading materials to go with your morning coffee

24 FarnsworthFor those of you still trying to wrap your mind around the Unitarian Universalist Association Headquarters moving off Beacon Hill and into the Seaport/ Innovative District, here is my attempt at a comprehensive curation of the related news:

and in the blogosphere:

I will attempt to address some of Tim’s questions in the next blog post…

 

________________________

Tandi Rogers is the UUA Growth Strategist. She is trying to balance change with gathering facts, listening for the unfolding story, and answering the call of new opportunities.

Social Media as Ministry

A social media picturePeter Bowden and Rev. Naomi King are each giving one of the Minns Lectures tomorrow (March 9) on the topic of social media. You can follow along via Twitter: #minnslecture.  Naomi asked me for examples of how social media can be used for faithful ministry.  Here is the list I gave her:

Community, Accountability, Interconnection

When I was on District Staff and youth ministry was in my purview I was on FaceBook one night and an adult from the Youth Con(ference) group sent me a private message.  He was concerned that a youth in his friend network was showing signs of suicide. I jumped over to the youth’s page and made an immediate call to the youth’s minister who jumped in his car and drove over to the youth’s house. I looked up the youth’s parent’s contact information and called to explain the situation and let them know their minister was on the way to their home. The suicide averted. Family got the help they needed. That is perhaps the most overt example of our interconnected web saving lives.

I have other examples of depressed youth acting out on FB, the signs picked up by either trained peers (UU youth chaplains) or adults, and interventions taking place almost immediately.

I’ve witnessed religious leaders acting out on FB, sometimes clearly out of covenant, and people on FB reaching out, holding individuals accountable. I’ve picked up the phone on numerous occasions to call youth advisors, DREs, and ministers, “I’m reading some of your FB statuses and wondering if how you’re representing yourself is how you intend to…” And I’ve thankfully had others make that same phone call to me, allowing me the opportunity to get back on track. Now that’s some faithful ministry!

Virtual Learning Space

Social Media allows for virtual learning space in either real-time or your-time. I enjoy private learning space (closed FB groups) for my Congregational Life department at the UUA. It’s fantastic for witnessing each other’s work and sharing resources and asking for help. Being able to be on-line dynamically keeps our large group more tightly knit.

I coordinate four Innovative Learning Circles that meet via videoconference every month for an hour and a half. In-between we keep connected via closed FB groups. The FB group is a place where we can safely give feedback on projects we’re working on. Every-so-often I will put out notes asking what people would like us to pray for/on. They don’t hesitate to respond in very touching ways. I have definitely noticed that the group members show up for each other publicly on each other’s FB pages. With how isolating ministry can be, I definitely consider this kind of support to be faithful ministry!

The Church of the Larger Fellowship has a couple affinity FB groups that act as both learning circle and support group.  I belong to one of their parent groups and it has been a sanity-saver.

Prayers

Every morning I read through the morning FB statuses and receive them as 
“candles of joys and concerns.” I pray down the status. And at night I do the same thing. I also pray down the newspaper. But my prayer life really took off with FB. I feel spiritually full and awake. I don’t use Twitter as much, but when I’m on Twitter, I’ve got my prayer on. There are a couple explicit FB Prayer groups I’m on.

Power of Graphics and Cross-fertilizing

Have you seen the UU Media Collaborative Works?  Their effectiveness in developing UU identity and pride has been mind-blowing! Their reach has been breath-taking. I have seen their graphics on FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and websites.

There were a couple UU graphics that I saw popping up on the pages of other faith traditions. And UU events shared on pages connected to other traditions. I find this deeply satisfying. I don’t have any data on this, but I just know that cousins-in-faith who pick up and repost our graphics will be more likely to reach out/ reach back and partner with us. And that can only make us all stronger.

 

 

________________________

Tandi Rogers is the UUA Growth Strategist. She will be on a no-electronics-sabbath this weekend, but will catch up on the Minn’s Twitter feed on Monday while on the subway  to work.

Growing & Learning By Example

As a Growth Strategies Specialist with a religious education orientation, I encourage learning through experience and relationship.  By this I mean piling a group of leaders from your congregation into your car to go experience another Unitarian Universalist congregation and break bread with their leaders. This relational experience embodies President Peter Morales’ call to “Get Religion, Grow Leaders, and Go Beyond Borders.”

Please consider getting outside your paradigm as to what Unitarian Universalism is, as expressed within your home congregation. The very dynamic nature of Unitarian Universalism requires us to hold our faith lightly, not tightly, and be open to its diversity and ever-progression.

Even before you print out directions for your road trip, contact the comparable leaders from the congregation you are visiting.  If you’re the president and are taking a worship associate and religious educator and the newly appointed canvass coordinator, then call ahead and arrange to meet with their president, canvass chair, some worship associates and religious educators. Ask for a tour of their facilities. Ask to see their guiding documents.  What do love they about their role? What do they struggle with? Offer to take them to lunch and continue the conversation.

Start paying attention the moment you look up the website to the destination congregation in order to glean directions and contact information for leaders. Take in the whole experience of driving up to the building and then being greeted. Pay attention to the response of all your senses in worship and fellowship. How is it different than your home congregation? How is it the same? How does this inform your understanding of Unitarian Universalism? What might you like to try in your own congregation?

For those of you crying out, “But we don’t have another Unitarian Universalist congregation within reasonable driving distance!” please reach out to any liberal religious community within reasonable driving distance!  Sometimes we can learn more from other faith traditions more than our own.

Another option is to experience other congregations through the following video series. You can process the same questions while watching the videos as would on your in-person experience. And you can contact the leadership from those congregations to set up a phone or video conversation to tap into their wisdom and experience.

  • Breakthrough Congregations – These short videos highlight congregations that have achieved significant and sustained numerical growth by breaking through an obstacle in the areas of spiritual vitality, organizational maturity, faith in action, and/or associational growth.
  • A Religion For Our Time series: These short videos highlight inspiring work in congregations, including innovative projects relating to worship, religious education, social justice, membership, and fellowship.

May this be the beginning of a supportive and collaborative relationship!

Take courage friends. 
The way is often hard, the path is never clear, and the stakes are very high. 
Take courage. 
For deep down, there is another truth: 
you are not alone.  ~ Rev. Wayne Arnason

 

 

Discernment as Growth Strategy

Back in 2005 the UUA gathered ministers from some of the fastest growing and most diverse UU Congregations in America to talk about growth. The result was a DVD I recommend to you called Listening to Experience.* I was on the Growth Team at the time and got to experience that weekend unfold.  I remember being giddy with anticipation – we were finally going to know what made these innovative ministers work. We could capture the checklist of success and send it out as a memo far and wide. Congregational leaders would read the memo and growth would just start happening.  Right?  Well, I’m not too proud to admit, that I’d hoped it would be something easy. (more…)

Growth and Decline: A Numerical Snapshot

Numbers can obscure as much as they reveal, especially when it comes to measuring congregational growth, so I generally encourage congregational leaders to focus on the tangible things their congregations can do to serve people’s needs and let the numbers take care of themselves.  Nevertheless, measurement is important to get a sense of how we’re doing.  Using data from the annual certification process for congregations, which is one of our most reliable sources of information, staff at the Unitarian Universalist Association study the statistics looking for indicators of recent developments and longer-term trends. (more…)