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.

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

 

Study Guide for UUWorld Article: Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County (Media, PA)

www.flickr.com/photos/uuworld

Congratulations to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County (Media, PA), for being the newest UUA Breakthrough Congregation! Each year the UUA’s Congregational Life Office recognizes a handful of congregations that have “broken through” barriers to achieve exemplary goals.

The UU Church of Delaware County is highlighted in the current 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 congregation. We hope that this enables lively discussions for your congregational leaders.

Picture from www.flickr.com/photos/uuworld

 

Questions for Discussion and Deeper Study

 

The UU Church of Delaware County has a culture of saying “yes” and is described as a “congregation that puts themselves on the edge” in bold ways.

Questions for Discussion

  • In what ways does your congregation says “yes?”
  • How might a culture that encourages innovative thinking help leaders and members deepen their own spiritual growth?
  • What is the boldest action your congregation has taken in support of its mission? How did it feel to take a bold step forward and what did you have to “leave behind” to move forward?

www.flickr.com/photos/uuworld

Delaware County has an innovative “Growth through Service” program that integrates volunteer service opportunities with faith development. Congregants develop individual goals for spiritual growth and are matched with volunteer opportunities to help them meet those goals.

Questions for Discussion 

  • What are some of the ways that your congregation connects volunteers to service opportunities?
  • Is there a process by which congregants can articulate individual spiritual goals and do you see a connection to service within your context?
  • How might such a program help your congregation reimagine the way in which leaders are trained and developed?

 24349250654_65e2527438_o

At UUCDC, several volunteers identified a target group, young families, and sought permission from the leadership to develop social opportunities for connection that evolved into several small ministry groups.

Questions for Discussion 

  • As you think about your congregation, are there groups or ministry areas that are ripe for connection through small group ministry?
  • Is this something you can imagine happening in your congregation? Why or why not?

 24684335740_26a7c62f96_o

UUCDC has raised its expectations for members in a number of ways including asking for an increased financial commitment, the Growth through Service program and an overall culture that values “showing up.”

Questions for Discussion 

  • What areas can you think of where higher expectations could help your congregation live its mission more fully?
  • How receptive is your congregation to change and how might leaders prepare the congregation for this work? What might be a first step to raising expectations?

 

24861853192_377e2eb4df_o

 

Photos from the UUWorld pages on Flickr.

_____________________________

pinfanteThis Study Guide creator is Patricia Infante, Congregational Life Staff with the Central East Regional Group. CERG offers many excellent growth resources. Please check them out! Thank you, Pat, for so generously serving our faith.

Faith Forward

Spiritual Practice class photoNewcomers to First Unitarian Church of Dallas arrive at our doors seeking a path. The Unitarian Universalist tendency to tell people they can believe whatever they want and get involved in whatever they want is both overwhelming and insufficient. Visitors from other religious traditions as well as the unchurched want to know how to become part of the congregation, both as members and as leaders. This led us to examine the state of our existing adult membership and ask these questions:

  • Can our adult membership explain what it means to be a church member?
  • Do they have a deep understanding of our church and its role in the community?
  • Are they involved, connected, and excited about church leadership and service?

We learned that we had work to do on how we integrate new people into our church community, and how we develop and deepen the connection of our existing members.

To address this need, we developed the Inquirers Series, 8 rotating sessions about our church and Unitarian Universalist history and practices. Designed for visitors and newcomers looking for a general introduction, these sessions are also appealing to current members who just want to learn more about our church.

Inquirers participants also build connections with each other. They learn that they are not alone in their questions, and many are moved with the realization of all that Unitarian Universalism embodies. It is the first small group a visitor encounters, and serves as a bridge to deeper small-group involvement later. Sharon Thompson, our Director of Membership & Hospitality, says: “I have seen the time between first visit and joining decrease, and our new members are more firmly grounded in the faith, in their convictions and in their support. Prior to Inquirers, we would have 30+ individuals that had indicated they wanted to join, remaining on the list of declared members for over a year without completing the process and joining. Now the membership process is generally complete in 30-60 days.”

Growth in numbers isn’t everything, however, and “signing the book” is not the end of the membership process. We’ve seen these new members connect more quickly and easily at church, becoming engaged within our walls and in the wider community. They understand what it means to be a member of a community. And many find their first service opportunity as a greeter, offering a friendly face for other newcomers.

Yet we found that once people completed the 8 sessions, they wanted more. “What’s next?” they asked. Our answer is “Faith Forward: From Visitor to Leader.” Faith Forward is a comprehensive program for member integration, faith development, and leadership development which helps congregants strengthen their Unitarian Universalist identity, deepen commitment to the church, encourages spiritual growth, and develops church leaders. It is not adult religious education, nor is it a curriculum. It is a path of modular sessions designed for faith development and connection-building and is facilitated by lay leaders with staff support.

One facilitator, church member Rev. Lyssa Jenkens, says: “Faith Forward provides a very intentional and well-developed process of faith development for any member or friend. It fills a yawning gap in UU adult religious education where we often provide a beautiful buffet of classes and activities with little or no guidance regarding what constitutes a healthy meal as opposed to one that is tasty but has rather limited spiritual-nutritional value.”

In addition to the Inquirers Series, we now offer:

  • Inquirers Series (8 weeks)
  • Roots (1 class)
  • Beyond Inquirers (5 weeks)
  • Spiritual Practice (13 weeks)
  • UU History 101 (5 weeks)
  • UU Theology 101 (5 weeks)
  • UU Elevator Speech (3 weeks)

More sessions will be developed around UU history and theology, leadership, polity, and evangelism (sharing the good news of our faith!).

Do these issues around adult faith development and connection sound familiar? At the same time that our members were looking for more, other congregations began contacting us about sharing our membership process, so we decided to pilot the program with a few of them during the 2015-2016 church year. We look forward to learning how Faith Forward works in other Unitarian Universalist congregations, and adapting it for wider use in the coming years.

If you’d like to receive updates about Faith Forward—to find out what we learn from the pilot, gather tips on faith development and hospitality, and stay updated on how to get program materials for your congregation—visit this site, where you can share your interest and contact information.

____________________

headshot cropped largeRev. Beth Dana is the Minister of Congregational Life at First Unitarian Church of Dallas, TX, where she works with a great team of ministers, staff and lay leaders on this exciting new path for adult faith development and membership. She is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist, originally from Albany, NY. After bouncing from coast to coast, she landed in the middle! She has crossed the thresholds of many UU congregations over the years, learning lots about welcome and hospitality in the process.

Gingerbread and Engaging Space

Boston Towers Gingerbread Boston Society of Architechture Imagine No traffic Boston Small

On my way to work in Boston I walk past the Boston Society of Architecture.  Its storefront is attractive, but hasn’t been overtly noticeable to me until this holiday season.  I do see people through their big windows meeting or gathering on their ground floor during mornings or evenings. They make this room available for free for use by the public. And people seem to take them up on their offer. And in the process learn a bit about the Boston Society of Architecture.

 

One night on my way home, I noticed a line forming down the block to get in to an event there. The event was the 4th Annual Gingerbread House Design Competition.

 

Every year the Boston Society of Architecture develops a theme, a competition, a reception, opportunity for positive press, and new traffic through their public space on the ground floor. Do you see where I’m going with this?… What if your congregation opened up your public space during the holiday season–

 

Oh, what?  You don’t have a space made available to the public to drop in?  Let’s start there. What if your congregation had a public space where people could drop in for quiet sanctuary from the bustling world?  You know, like other traditions do. Especially in these violent times, people crave a designated holy place to go and light a candle and just “be” in a space where other people of faith gather. I just ask that you consider this. If this makes you nervous, I encourage you to engage your local Catholic church and ask them how they do it.

 

Back to gingerbread competitions. The connection to architecture and gingerbread is playful and relevant. What could that be for your UU community? And maybe it’s not for winter holidays. Perhaps a celebration featuring Peeps sculptures in spring is your thing.

  • Playful, idea-connecting, values-promoting competition
  • Reception for the public
  • Press releases that weave in the mission of your UU community
  • Intentional community engagement

Bottom line, reimagine space you have access to and how it can be in proactive, relevant engagement with your wider community while promoting your values and mission.  Be playful, playful is so attractive! If you need a thought partner for this kind of adventure, count me in!

 

________________________

Tandi red shinglesRev. Tandi Rogers is the Innovative & Network Specialist for the UUA. Exploring the streets of Boston during the winter holiday season has been an unexpected joy.

 

 

 

I’m Lost, But I’m Making Record Time

I heard the quote in the title of this blog as a young pilot many years ago. A World War II pilot radioed that report in –he had no idea StewDev Blogwhere he was, but he was making great progress somewhere. As a stewardship consultant working with our congregations, I sometimes feel as though that quote is with us. Numbers can seem dry, but they can tell important stories about our our communities. It’s hard to know where you are going if you don’t know where you are.

 

There are statistics that I believe leaders should know if they are to understand their congregations. 18 data points and 1 more to ignore. I know what you are thinking “18! Is he nuts? Who has all that data and what would we do with it, anyway?” Bear with me – this is a conversation worth having.

 

The first 10 of these data points almost every congregation has readily accessible. Not enough leaders and members consult them sometimes, but they are easy to generate. The next 7 take a little effort to generate, but the returns can be impressive for congregations of just about every size.

 

In the interest of brevity, this blog will only list the 19 – you can read the expanded version on the Stewardship for Us blog that provides key aspects on each data point, for those interested in knowing more and seeing how these work to make a whole picture. The only data point discussed here is one to be ignored.

 

  1. Membership
  2. Sunday attendance, RE Attendance (Adult and children’s RE).
  3. Percentage of budget provided by pledges.
  4. “Average cost per household” to run your church.
  5. Percentage of members pledging, if your bylaws do not ask that of all members.
  6. Mean (average) and Median (1/2 of pledges are larger, ½ are less) pledge.
  7. Number of households that have a pledge/contribution waiver.
  8. Percentage of households/members that are not pledging, only making a Contribution of Record (COR); mean and median COR.
  9. Percentage of pledging friends; mean and median of these commitments
  10. Pledges that have not increased or have decreased over the past 2 years
  11. Number of pledging units self-declared as Fair Share donors
  12. What is the Quartile distribution (see last month’s Stewardship for Us blog)
  13. How many are new pledgers (first 2 years)? Mean and median of new pledges?
  14. Families active in RE and their distribution among pledges and COR population?
  15. Where is your Board in Fair Share Giving and quartile distribution?
  16. Percentage increase/decrease in total pledges/mean/median on last 3-5 years?
  17. When was the last time you employed Visiting Stewards, with good training?
  18. NO-How much of a pledge goes to “UUA dues?” This pops up often, and its harmful. We do not pay “dues;” clubs and fraternities do that. We make contributions to resource the work the Regions and the UUA do in our name. Congregations sometimes ask that a pledge be at least at the level of their per member contribution to the UUA. This makes our contributions to the UUA into an outside burden. Being a member of this association is an integral part of being a UU – don’t treat it as something outside our community. Encouraging pledges at this low level also assures that whatever funds are contributed do not support the congregation locally in any way.

 

_______________________________

BillBill Clontz, Stewardship Consultant with the Stewardship for Us Team. has been a stewardship consultant supporting the UUA for over five years. He brings over forty years in leadership development and coaching, organizational effectiveness, and strategic planning to this work. He has over 25 years of active participation in UU church leadership and stewardship and 15 years of business development and portfolio management as a corporate officer, including working with nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations. Bill has served in his own congregation in a wide range of positions and he is a regular presenter at UU Regional conferences and the UUA Annual General Assembly. His focus as a stewardship consultant over the last five years has been empowering congregations to have successful stewardship environments, leadership development, and the growth of our movement.

By The Numbers: Religious Education Growth Trends

Last week we looked at the numbers reported in February 2015, a snap shot of this past year. “Who are we now?”

Our UU congregations are created by 180,617 adult members and 56,429 enrolled children and youth across the United States for a total of 237,046 UU people. 23.8% of our communities are children and youth.

This week we look at growth trends in Religious Education Enrollment.  I’ve also included Public School trends from the National Center for Education Statistics.  They currently have statistics publicly published through 2012.

Tip: If you have trouble seeing the numbers, try clicking on the graph/picture and enlarge it on your screen.

RE uua 2005-2015

 

 

public school 05-12

 

And now a look at our regions (note that UUA and US Public School regions are different)…

RE by region 2005-2015

 

 

public school 05-12 by region

 

Next week we’ll go deeper into the growth by region and size of congregation.

 

________________________

Tandi Feb 2012Rev. Tandi Rogers loves numbers because they help us see ourselves more clearly and break down assumptions.

 

 

By the Numbers: Religious Education Snap Shot

Happy Friday! It’s time for some numbers. This is the beginning of a series on Religious Education Enrollment. These are self-reporting numbers by UU congregations in the United States representing the number of children and youth enrolled in their religious education programs.

 

This week we’re looking the numbers reported in February 2015, a snap shot of this past year. “Who are we now?”

 

Our UU congregations are created by 180,617 adult members and 56,429 enrolled children and youth across the United States for a total of 237,046 UU people. 23.8% of our communities are children and youth.

RE by size 2015

I break down the congregations by 7 different sizes, because I primarily prepare analysis for Congregational Life. I’m a practitioner supporting the work of other practitioners. We recognize that each size category has special needs and characteristics.

 

RE by region 2015

 

Next week I will dig deeper into the size differences by region.  This is where similarities and differences are teased out. And after that I’ll begin to shed light on growth trends of Religious Education Enrollment. Stay tuned…

 

________________________

Tandi Feb 2012Rev. Tandi Rogers loves numbers because they help us see ourselves more clearly and break down assumptions.

By the Numbers: where’s the growth?

Last week I posted the global growth numbers. This week let’s look at UU membership growth trends by congregational size breakdown…

 

(Edited to explain size catagories)  In the following graphs I use 7 different catagories instead of the traditional 4 or 5. The reason is that congregations behave differently and have different needs depending on their size (and other variables.)  The primary audience I prepare data analysis for are practitioners in the field, mostly Congregational Life staff.  And those front-line growth experts that serve and support our congregations use the following size catagories:

 

Fellowship/Tiny (0-60)
Small Pastoral Congregations (61-160)
Midsize Pastoral Congregations (161-300)
Awkward/Transition Congregations (301-400)
Program Congregations (401-600)
Large Program Congregations (601-800)
Corporate Congregations (800+)

 

Yes, you read that correctly. There is a category I call “Awkward” — it’s the hardest size to breakthrough. A couple years ago I asked leaders of congregation in that 301-400 bracket if the name was offensive. Most laughed and said, “no, it’s actually pretty accurate.”  There is a Facebook group for the two smallest categories called “Small & Mighty.”  There are just somethings that only congregational leaders in your size category will understand.  It’s good to compare notes, share ideas, learn from the challenges and celebrate the blessings.

UUA Growth Trends ten years

This is a ten year span we’re looking at.  Here’s the raw data:

Fellowship/Tiny: -12.6% (13,991-12,223)

Small Pastoral Congregations: -2% (36,729-36,007)

Midsize Pastoral Congregations: -3.3% (43,894-42,451)

Awkward/Transition Congregations: -6.5% (19,907-18,609)

Program Congregations: 4% (17,578-18,286)

Large Program Congregations: 11.3% (11,205-12,471)

Corporate Congregations: 20.7% (13,726-16,565)

 

Now watch what happens when we look at a three year span:

UUA Growth Trends three years

Here’s the raw data:

Fellowship/Tiny: Small Pastoral Congregations: (13,170 – 12,223)

Midsize Pastoral Congregations: (43,059 – 42,451)

Awkward/Transition Congregations: (19,188 -18,609)

Program Congregations: (17,855 – 18,286)

Large Program Congregations: (12,241 – 12,471)

Corporate Congregations: (18,283 – 16,565)

Don’t panic about our largest congregations.  The majority of them got real about what it means to be a member of their congregation and “cleaned the membership books.”  I see this as a strong sign of organizational maturity.

 

These two graphs really hit home what a difference the time span you’re looking at can make.

 

______________________________

Tandi Feb 2012Rev. Tandi Rogers spends about an eighth of her job researching and analyzing data on behalf of the UUA Board, Leadership Council, and Congregational Life staff.  She also serves on the Faith Communities Today interfaith consortium of religious data geeks.

What if membership was a spectrum?

Created by Carey McDonald, UUA Outreach Director, Lori Emison Clair, Consultant, and Marie Blohowiak, Congregational Life Coordinator and UUAMP Vice President
Created by Carey McDonald, UUA Outreach Director, Lori Emison Clair, Consultant, and Marie Blohowiak, Congregational Life Coordinator and UUAMP Vice President

 

As Unitarian Universalists, we have a traditionally operated under a model of church that doesn’t acknowledge the changing social norms about religion. Historically, we’ve only kept track of one aspect of involvement in church life, “membership”, which typically means signing a congregation’s membership book and making an annual pledge. But in reality, people interact with faith communities in dozens of different ways beyond the traditional notion of membership, often deepening and stepping back over the course of their lives. If we truly believe that everyone in our faith movement matters, whether they are official members or not, it is clear we need to re-conceive what it means to be connected to Unitarian Universalism.

We created a spectrum to help congregations see that there are distinct levels of belonging to our faith communities. Together, as leaders in the UU Association of Membership Professionals and as UUA staff working on outreach, we offered a workshop at 2015 General Assembly about how to engage the whole spectrum.

 

Curious Individual

These are the people who know us and are in sync with our values, but not involved in our programs or ministries. Some examples would include those who participate in community activities related to a UU group, follow UUs on social media, share UU content, read UU books, see and/or support UU social justice actions.

Welcomed Visitor

Those who are involved with UU programs or ministries at a basic or fluid level, and may or may not identify as UU, are at this stage. They may attend events hosted by UU congregations, go to Sunday services occasionally or participate in UU community-oriented ministries and programs (e.g. day care, lecture series). Sometimes they have a friend or family member who serves as a tie to the congregation.

Succeeding in the first two stages (outreach)
  • Pay attention to how you show up virtually (website, social media, Yelp/Google/search functions, news media), so you look as beautiful from the outside as you do from the inside.
  • Create multiple entry points that don’t revolve around Sunday morning (get creative! Get passionate!) AND pay attention to visitor experience at all of these entry points.
  • One transition between welcomed visitor and connected friend is the traditional “pathway to membership,” but support is needed for all transitions.
Connected Friend

After attending services several times, those who attend a one time or low commitment activity outside of services have become a connected individual. This gives them better opportunities to meet people and start building relationships. Having several easy opportunities, like a Circle Dinner, one time small group, helping set up at an event or serving coffee give new folks a way to meet others without making a big commitment.

Engaged Individual

When a person gets involved in a regular activity, such as an affinity group, small group ministry, religious education teacher or serving on a committee, they have engaged with the community. All of these programs require ownership in one way or another, an expectations of regular participation and, in many cases, opportunities to share spiritual journeys with each other.

Integrated Leader

At the final stage in the spectrum, individuals emerge as leaders. We have found that as someone steps into the role of a leader they are more than simply engaged with a community, but they are also integrated. And by being integrated they are changing the community. They put their own personal twist on the programs they lead and that is a deeper level in involvement then just showing up, even on a regular basis. You become an integrated leader when you are willing to put your efforts into making the community better. Some examples would be a committee chair, small group leader or religious professional.

Succeeding along the spectrum (welcoming and membership development)
  • Make sure facilitators and leaders of groups know how to welcome newcomers at each stage as people enter the spectrum at different points.
  • Have training in place for leaders to ensure they have healthy boundaries and motives consistent with the mission of your congregation.
  • Have a tracking system in place to know where people fall on the spectrum. This will be an invaluable resource for recruiting for programs and volunteer opportunities, discovering emerging leaders, as well as those who need assistance in connecting.
  • We need to understand that there will be people who move both directions on the spectrum, and even leave our path. We want to support them in their journey and leave room for them to comfortably return should their path bring them back.

 

Looking at these stages calls us to pay attention to how we help people move from one stage to another. Again, most of us will move up and down the spectrum over time, but transitions between stages will always be important for religious leaders to support (the transition of “bridging” from youth to young adulthood is a great example). We hope this model will inspire UUs to think differently about their faith, from outreach to curious individuals all the way to spiritual enrichment for our integrated leaders. It can even include non-congregational groups, conferences or ministries. Embrace the full spectrum!

Additional Resources

Notes from 2015 General Assembly Workshop

Unitarian Universalist Association of Membership Professionals

______________

Created by Carey McDonald, UUA Outreach Director, Lori Emison Clair, Consultant, and Marie Blohowiak, Congregational Life Coordinator and UUAMP Vice President