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.
One by one these ministers got up in worship and prayer and discussion throughout our time together and declared their congregation’s saving message. They each avowed a bold theology without apology and a spirited imperative to heal the world beyond their congregation’s walls. In a very simple nutshell, these ministers acted as if they knew with ever cell of their being that Unitarian Universalism is a religion with the power to transform lives.
And siblings in faith, no slick strategic plan or clever billboard or innovative social media outreach tool is going to work until our congregations and everything we do within that context (worship, pastoral care, governance, justice making, faith development – all of it) is saturated in Unitarian Universalism.
So let us start with discernment as the beginning strategic plan before we jump into specific strategies for growth. And I promise, we will offer specific strategies both at the Associational level and at the ground level in the coming posts.
- What is the purpose of religion? What is the purpose of Unitarian Universalism? What is the purpose of our congregation?
- What is the saving message of our faith? Of our specific religious community? How do we reveal and extend that message in everything we do?
- What is our story that we tell ourselves? Is it true? Who are we called to be as a religious community? What do we want our story to be that they will be telling a generation from now? What do we need to let go to get there? What do we need to learn to get there?
- What kind of leaders/ disciples of Unitarian Universalism do we need to fulfill our purpose and call? How are we identifying, differentiating, forming, sustaining, and giving permission?
- How can this congregation help individuals grow and deepen in their own personal Unitarian Universalist faith?
- To make our part of the world a better place, what can our surrounding towns and and our congregation offer one another during the next 3-5 years?
- At the end of the day/ week how will they have known we were Unitarian Universalists?
We are building something larger than our selves and beyond this time. That magnitude deserves faithful patience and reflection. Please take the time to make discernment part of your growth strategy.
*Suggestions for how to use the Listening to Experience DVD as a learning tool in your congregation may be found here.