Future of (Our) Faith

Future of Faith picCarey McDonald is one of those innovators and collaborators growing our faith beyond silos and traditional boundaries who I love to dream with. Whenever I’m in Boston we set aside a chunk of time to play into the following questions:

1. “If we were in charge …”  and then we excitedly spill out possibilities with no regard to our current authority or resources at our disposal. Note that the “what” of our charge shifts at our creative whim. Sometimes we’re in charge of the UUA. Sometimes we’re in charge of the world.

Sometimes the imagination playground is inspired by a book we’ve both read.  Last year Carey turned me on to American Grace by Robert Putnam, and that still makes appearances in our conversation.

2. “However, we aren’t in charge.  And we still can …” is the second, perhaps most important part of our exploration. We get real with what is our current authority and responsibility and “our work.”  Accessible resources magically sparkly with new and variant possibilities. Partners within and outside our system become apparent.  Strategies begin to take form.  We both come away feeling energized and inspired by our partnership.

I encourage you to seek out a partner to try these questions within the context of your leadership.  Don’t go to the most obvious partner in your system. But do find someone who is also passionate about growing our faith and is clear in the mission of your community.

Sometimes Carey and I try ideas out with each other that aren’t quite word-ripe, or we show each other pieces that we’re just putting the finishing touches on.  Future of Faith: Unitarian Universalism and the Millennial Generation is a presentation that is stunning and smart and right on. Carey’s been thinking about the Future of (Our) Faith for a long time.  This presentation brings it all together!  (Note: there is no sound and you move the presentation along with the arrows at the bottom.)

Please tell us what jumps out at you in the comments. What excites you? Gives you frown lines? And feel free to share the presentation.  I think this would be a great piece to show at a board meeting or staff retreat.


cmcdonald_headshotCarey McDonald is the mind behind Future of our Faith.  Carey joined the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in the summer of 2011. He most recently worked as the staff director for a statewide advisory body, the Ohio School Funding Advisory Council, where he has focused on education reform, educational equity and “closing the achievement gap.” He has also worked as a budget analyst, policy advisor and legislative aide, and has considerable experience in political campaigns and organizing. Throughout his varied career, Carey has focused on creating a world more just through a community more loving, and is excited to bring that inclusive approach to the helm of the Youth and Young Adult Ministries Office.

Carey is a seventh-generation Unitarian Universalist who was active as a youth with Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU). He is formerly a member of the Ohio-Meadville District Youth/Adult Council, was active as a youth in Diverse & Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM), and served three times as a delegate to General Assembly. Before moving to Boston, he was an active young adult in his congregation in Columbus, Ohio, as a member of the Young Adult Covenant Group and chair of the church’s Annual Budget Drive. He also has served in recent years as a lay member of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. Carey has a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Economics from Pomona College in Claremont, CA. He lives in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston with his wife, Sarah.

Running (and Playing and Dancing) the Church

DREs rule pict bigIt all started with a Facebook message from my board president.  He thought I might find an article interesting.  Boy, did I. Written by Rev. Erik Wikstrom, the title alone was pretty provocative: “What If the Director of Religious Education Ran the Church?” He explained his purpose like this: “I’m hoping that others might stop for a minute…and say to themselves (and anyone who happens to be around them. Huh. I never thought about it like that. I wonder . . .”


I knew beyond a doubt that neither I nor my board president wanted me “in charge”, but the question led my mind into other areas, as the author intended.  How might the unique competencies of faith development professionals, given free reign and responsibility on Sunday morning, change how we do church?


I linked to the article on my Facebook wall, and the wondering conversation Wikstrom desired was off to an exciting start there. Many weighed in, and the ensuing conversation was inspiring: religious educators went into rapid-fire-dialectical/stream-of-consciousness mode about the Sunday experience of their dreams. I was asked to facilitate a graffiti wall at the LREDA Fall Conference–the annual gathering of the Religious Educator tribe– so the conversation could continue there. The “wall of appreciative inquiry” I installed there attracted many replies. The responses were fascinating:


What if DREs were in Charge


Trained as a sociologist, I tend to organize replies into broad categories that help me understand raw data better. I see a desire for more fun and creative process in responses like “increase glitter budget line” and “pipe cleaners and play-doh at board meetings”.  I see a desire for radical hospitality in responses that mention adults “taking joy” in children’s normal behavior, even during worship.  I see a prophetic vision of a church renewed and inspired, alive and responsive to its congregants, where dance and play and stories are no longer seen as appropriate pedagogical strategies for children only, but the birthright of humans across generations, a profound, dynamic way of doing and being that opens us up and kindles the divine spark we each carry within. I see a call for church as a sacred place to come together, to be strengthened and emboldened, a kind of spiritual medicine, vaccinating us with joy and compassion before sending us back out to our greater mission–the work we are called by our faith to do,  in a broken, beautiful world outside the church walls.


I think that what religious educators might know better than anyone  is that “religious education” means “to bind up and send out”–that church is a waystation where we are fortified and connected, made ready for our shared journey in the world, as a people of faith.


But as a DRE, I might be biased.  I wonder…what do you see in the replies?  How might they spur a conversation by those responsible for “doing church” where you are?  How might we be changed by our willingness to wonder, share ideas, and keep this conversation going?



JoyJoy Berry is a religious educator from the rural South who has somehow landed in a big suburban church outside Philadelphia. A proponent of Missional UUism, she has a passion for engaging, hands-on faith development in and outside the church, believing Forrest Church was right: ““(O)ur hands will not be clean until we get them dirty… until we roll up our sleeves and match our words with deeds.” Her personal faith practices include vermiculture, mandala-coloring during long meetings, baby-snuggling, and belly-laughing.

How to Yelp, Foursquare, Rate, and Be Mayor

Foursquare-and-YelpMy friends, today we are going to Yelp and Foursquare. I know, it sounds like a loud, folksy dance, doesn’t it?  These are two mobile app (with website) guides to cool things going on in communities. Through Yelp and Foursquare (and others, but I’m focusing on these two with a bonus at the end of this post) you can find places to eat, shop, get things fixed, play, and yes, worship.

Yelp is like a 21st century Yellow Pages. And it has reviews. You can become a fan of a place. You can “check-in” on Yelp. Yelp has an average of approximately 108 million monthly unique visitors. Yelpers have written over 42 million local reviews.

Foursquare let’s you publicly “check-in” to a place. And based on your personalized profile and social network preferences, it will give recommendations of places to go in your community.  Over 40 million people worldwide use Foursquare.  Over 4.5 billion check-ins every day. 1.5 billion businesses leverage Foursquare.

Ready to jump in ?

How to Yelp

Chances are, your congregation is already listed on Yelp.  If the information is wrong there is a link to claim the business and edit your profile. Yelp works on reviews, so it’s good to have members and friends of your congregation rate it (star system) and give reviews.

How to Foursquare

Again, you probably already have a listing. Whether it is correct or full and snazzy, is another thing. You may contact Foursquare to claim your listing.  You may add your website, hours of services (operation), social media links, and a description. The description is important.  Be honest and creative and catchy here. Do not use insider language or acronyms.  And once you claim your listing you may give updates (like you do on your Facebook page.)  Foursquare does offer a tutorial of how to engage seekers if you really want to get into it.

Being Mayor

On Foursquare you can be named Mayor if you’ve had the most check-ins at a place in the past 60s days.  Only one check-in per day counts. If you’re thinking “what on earth? why would anyone want to be Mayor?” There’s a whole body of literature on Gaming Culture. It’s a very real way to engage people.  I want to be Mayor! Don’t you want to be Mayor?

There’s also Badges, but I don’t understand them yet.  If you do, and your congregations uses them effectively, and you’d like to blog about them, please contact me.


This is a site that was started by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper who wrote Jim and Casper Go To Church: Frank Conversation about Faith, Churches, and Well-Meaning Christians. (It’s an interesting read.)  Here you can add churches, search for churches, and rate/ review churches. The ChurchRater site tends to be leaning in favor of fundamental-evangelicals. And you know what? Go there anyway!   Let’s lean it the other way and make people wonder what just happened in the religious world, shall we? Wouldn’t that be fun?

And there you have it folks. Some more tools for you to stretch out to seekers who are trying to find you. And people, they really, really are.  Welcome them with open arms when they walk in your doors.


As an aside: This blog post is a follow-up to an earlier rant.  As a public service, please be sure that your congregational information (include leaders and their contact data) is up to date with the Unitarian Universalist Association. Chances are, you’re not the one who does this. But someone in your congregation does.  Find out who it is, bring them chocolate, and make sure your congregation is up to date. It’s just good congregational-polity-hygiene 


Rev Tandi clappingTandi’s would like to change her professional goals to include “becoming the Mayor of some Unitarian Universalist establishment before the end of the year.”  And she really wants to earn a chalice badge. Does anyone have a chalice badge for her?






This Is Your Assignment…

yelp-395One should probably not blog when one’s pet peeves are barking and pulling on their leashes.  I just sent over a hundred emails to congregational leaders based on the contact information given to the UUA by the congregation at the time of certification, and guess what?  A huge portion of those emails bounced back to me with all sorts of excuses. “You are not subscribed to this email list.” “I no longer use this email address. Please redirect your email to <this one>.” “User is over quota.” “I have retired and am no longer at this email address.”


Really?  So I checked (I was watching the Emmys at the same time) and sure enough, most of those malfunctioning emails listed with the UUA are also listed on the corresponding congregational websites.  And no, I couldn’t stop there.  Yes, you guessed it.  I checked out their membership growth numbers.  I didn’t have to.  I knew already. These congregations are not growing.  How could they be?  People can’t get ahold of leaders. And as I poked around these websites, I found they are predominantly out of date, with places and times of worship services hidden or missing altogether.


Oh, my dogs are barking! And my heart is breaking. Our communities of faith save and transform lives and we’re hiding.  People are looking for us and we’re failing them.


Don’t make me glare at you. Please check the following:


  • Front page of your website: full name of your congregation, meeting address (with directions preferably) including city and state, phone (including area code), and the name and contact information of someone people can call with questions.
  • Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines. Do they have your information correct? What comes up when you search “Unitarian + Universalism + <your town>”?  Is that what you want to come up?
  • Does your Chamber of Commerce list you in their materials that list religious communities?  Area motels and hotels?  Your local ecumenical or interfaith group?
  • Does Yelp?  If your congregation is already listed, what are reviewers saying about you?  More and more people are reading Yelp reviews of religious communities to make their choices before they ever grace your doorway.


People are trying to find you. Please make it as easy as possible for them. And your Growth Specialist is trying to work with you.  Double check the information you send to the UUA to be sure it’s up to date.


Thank you.  <insert singing “When I breathe in… I breathe in peace… When I breathe out… I breathe out love…” here>



Tandi Feb 2012It really takes a lot to get Tandi in a rage. Obstacles to full access to Beloved Community is near the top of the list.  And able-bodied people parking in Handicap Parking Zones. And littering.  Don’t do those, please.

Inheriting the Farm

Harvest timeI come from five generations of farmers who settled on Lake Erie in northern Ohio. I am a product of their stories and ethos and extended family norms.  I learned Universalism from their example. We are all related, laterally and horizontally.  When I left for college my Grampa told me he was delighted in my choice of vocations (teacher) as there are three especially noble paths:  teaching, ministry, and farming.  Two out of three, Grampa.  I can see you smiling in the Cloud of Witnesses.


I have to admit, that I do feel some guilt having left the farm, which I love so much.  I feel I have somehow betrayed my beloved ancestors.  And at the same time, I know they are cheering me on, right there when I need them. Once I moved to the Pacific NW (in the 1990s) I got involved in the movement to save family farms in our region and to connect those farms to local restaurants.  My Grampa was pleased. It was my annual Christmas gift to him.


I spent most of last week in my family in the land of my origin.  My favorite Uncle just died.  I spent time on the farm cleaning and organizing with my cousin, which was really a method of creating space to talk and collectively grieve. It was good.


While sweeping out the barn, long void of animals, now full of abandoned equipment and a fishing boat, I meditated on what might come.  My brother and I moved across country in early adulthood.  My cousin stayed.  We are the only ones in our generation of this lineage. And I am the only one to have children.


My generation is stepping into leadership and decisions once held by my parents’ generation.  My own children, our ancestors’ progenies, may one day inherit this farm.  And by that, I don’t mean just the land. I also mean the stories, the ethos, and the extended family norms, as I did. These will guide them in their life choices and inheritance decisions.  I feel confident that I’ve handed these on properly and strongly.  But what about the practical and technical means of farm stewardship?  I am not currently prepared. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to prepare both myself and my children.


My aunt chose to turn the fertile piece of property handed down to her into a land trust, specifically a sanctuary for ducks.  Absolutely in line with the family values in which it was given. She was prepared to honor the gift in a way that respects both the ancestors and who she uniquely is in the world. I want that ability for my children.  I want that for all of us, whatever we are inheriting from our relations who went before.


In the face of unknowns, how are we preparing our children (of all ages) to inherit our family farms, our family inheritance?   Who owned the land before my people settled there? What is our relationship now? What could it be? What were the challenges and blessings of each generation that tilled the soil? How did they choose the produce and animals to grow? How did they make their living and build community? Who lives in the community now and what is needed for the common good? What will my children need to know of land use management, land trusts, conservancies, savvy reality business options, philanthropy, and investment?


And yes, the family farm is also a metaphor for congregations. I kept my children at arm’s (continent’s) length of their family farm and regret it.  I see many of our congregations keeping our older children and youth at arms length of the actual workings of our institutions, and I think that is a big mistake.  If we truly believe that the youth and young adults will inherit our faith, how are we using the precious time we have with them to create savvy religious and community leaders? What skills, stories, and experiences will they need to pick up where we left off and run? How are we integrating our youngers and leveraging mentors for cross learning and engagement? If you believe your congregation does a solid job in preparing our youth and young adults for their inheritance, please email me.  I’d like to highlight success stories here this year.



Rev Tandi clappingTandi believes that every congregation should offer full membership to youth who go through Coming of Age.  At the very least, explicitly and ceremoniously offer membership to bridging seniors with great enthusiasm and welcome.

Announcing the 2013-14 Innovative Learning Circles!

Innovative Learning CircleAnnouncing the 2013-14 Innovative Learning Circles!  Perhaps you or someone you know might be interested in being a part of a year-long, virtual learning community with other leaders in one of the groups listed below. If this is you, please pop me an email: trogers@uua.org.

All groups follow a 7-8 month, virtual, hybrid model of small group ministryShalem, and case-studies.


  • Campus Ministry Coordinators: How can campus ministry programs reach beyond their identified UU group and make an impact? How can Campus Ministry impact area congregations?
  • Community Ministries:  What impact does a learning cohort make on the impact of community ministries?
  • Congregations & Beyond: What experiments might be replicable in other Unitarian Universalist settings?
  • Emerging Congregations: How can leaders navigate challenges to plant Unitarian Universalist communities that meet the needs of the 21st century?
  • Faith Formation 2020: (prerequisite: taking John Roberto’s training and reading Steinke) How can leaders adaptively shift congregational systems to break open and make way for FF2020
  • Presidents of Congregations: (61-160) How can small congregation focus on health and lower their walls for bigger impact in the world?
  • Presidents of Congregations: (301-400) Using some of Alice Mann’s work, how can leaders help their congregations break through this awkward size?
  • Prison Ministry: How can prison ministry programs reach beyond their identified UU group and make an impact? How can prison ministry impact area congregations?
  • Worship: How can leaders use worship to shift congregational systems to meet the needs of the 21st century?

These groups are already filled:

  • UU Membership Professionals: How do membership professionals impact the health and vitality of congregations and beyond? What is the role of Membership Professionals in the 21st century?
  • UU Funding Program: What impact does a learning cohort make on the impact and fulfillment of strategic plans?

Each month, starting in November, we will report back some of the “gold nuggets” of learning from the various groups.  So stay tuned for some rich, community learning!


Laughing Tandi for DialogTandi Rogers is a former enthusiastic school teacher and has simply switched classroom venues.

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.



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.


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.


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.


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.

Dog Poop and Congregational Adaptive Change


compost and poopMy city composts.  I love it.  I have the big compost bin out on the side of my house so the neighbors and area lawn care people can also use it. It’s great!


Except the people walking their dogs put their little plastic bags of doo-doo in the compost bin as well.  This is a problem.


So I think, maybe the Dog People don’t understand that this is a compost.  I will educate them!  And so I make a nice laminated sign explaining that this is not a garbage can, but a compost bin.  My sign had “No Dog Poop Allowed!” in big, bolded letters.  I felt proud of my sign and was sure the problem was solved.


But nooooo. Little plastic bags of dog doo-doo showed up in my compost bin the very next day.  The offender even had to look at my sign while opening up the lid!  I was filled with resentment and righteous anger and even hostility.


I did not like how I was feeling about my neighbors one bit. I looked at someone walking their dog and glared, wondering if they were the one defiling the compost. Not good energy at all.


I took it to prayerful meditation to surrender the anger.  I knew rationally the Dog People were not out to get me.  I’ve had the privilege of being owned by a dog before… remember back… So I walked around my neighborhood trying to get in the mindset Dog People.  I learned that only garbage-like receptacle within a three-block radius was my compost.  Just as the neighborhood needed a compost bin, we also need a Dog Poop Receptacle!


Off I went to a home improvement store where I bought a modest-sized bin that has one of those lids where you step on the lever and it pops up. After all, if you’re walking a dog, you most likely have a dog leash in one hand and a plastic baggy in the other hand.  I Poop containerno longer felt resentful of the Dog People.  I felt a joyful love of them. I wanted to help them.  I took the new receptacle home and decorated it with the words “Complimentary Dog Poop Baggy Container.” And I placed it right next to the compost.


Yes, I sat by the window and watched to see what happened.  The very first Dog Person, stopped, read the container, chuckled and then put their plastic baggy in the desired container.  Joy! Success!


I am happy to report that there have been no instances of plastic baggies in the compost.  I have received a thank you card and a sweet post-it note on the Complimentary Dog Poop Baggy Container.  I’ve seen people stop, look at the container and either laugh or scratch their head. At first the neighbors seems curious about me every time we crossed paths. Now there is a sweetness between me and the Dog People.  I take care of them.


And here’s where the Adaptive Change comes in.  My poorly placed Technical Fix was putting a sign on the compost.  “If only they knew better, their behavior with change.” That honestly rarely works.  I knew it was an Adaptive Challenge when the plastic bags continued to show up in the compost.  When the problem continues even after you think you’ve fixed it, then you know it’s an Adaptive Challenge.  I needed to learn something and change something about my response to challenge.  I got creative.  My Adaptive Response was a fancy container with imaginative, playful signage. (I find playful, creative joy helps tremendously with Adaptive Challenges.)


Now it’s your turn.  What is the “dog poop” in your congregation?  The problem that doesn’t seem to go away even when you put a detailed, explanatory sign on your compost?  How can you reframe the issue? What do you need to learn? What do you need to change in your own behavior? What is your equivalent to walking around your neighbor to get see what’s really going on? And finally what is your Complimentary Dog Poop Baggy Container?



Tandi Feb 2012Tandi Rogers compulsively sees connections between religious community and wider world everywhere she goes. Her quirks are working for you.


2013 Growth Kit

Growth kitStefan Jonasson and I handed out Growth Kits at this General Assembly.   Little envelopes that said:

2013 Growth Kit

Change your script,

change your story.


A growing congregation is a learning congregation. Nothing dampens innovation more than “We’ve always done it that way.”

Try instead to say, “I tried that before and this is what I learned. Perhaps it will work this time. How can I be supportive?” It is better for everyone’s spirit, including your own.  Be kind and encouraging with each other!  Hold hands when taking leaps of faith!

On the inside of the envelope is a button.


And on the back of the envelope is a warning:

Warning: enclosed is a pin that could cause revolution within your community.

May you take the spirit of the Growth Kit into your congregational leadership and lead a revolution of spiritual generosity, making way for innovation and experimentation!



Tandi Feb 2012Tandi Rogers will admit that she used to say, “But we’ve always done it that (my) way.”  And she wants you to know that there is hope for learning a new way and surrendering to new leadership styles and visions.


Innovative Learning Circles

Innovative Learning CircleWhat would happen if we gathered some of our religion’s best, innovative leaders together from around the Association to spark, inspire, and cross-pollinate each other?  This was the question behind the experiment Innovative Learning Circles.  The break down of the experiment was this:  5-6 leaders gather virtually for a monthly hour-and-a-half-long meeting over a span of nine months starting in September.

Similarly to small group ministry there was a group agreement as to how to be together and what could be shared outside of the group. Most participants were familiar with the model and very little adaptation was needed.

We experimented with various kinds of videoconference software to see what served our purposes best. I am eternally grateful for the patience (and humor) of the groups, as some of the early products were disastrous. Most of the groups settled into (free) Google Hangout or a paid-for version of Skype.

Two flavors of Innovative Learning Circles emerged:

  • Think Tank Groups wrestled with questions I would bring from the UUA Leadership Council or around a specific and timely issue. These groups developed respect and affection for each other, and I watched them reach out to one another outside the groups.  These groups were quick to share resources and problem solve.
  • Case Study Groups took turns each telling their story, a specific incident, or issue they were working on. These groups went deep with each other, risked vulnerability, and helped keep each other accountable in a way that humbled me.  Before someone shared I would ask what kind of feedback they would like to receive, further deepening the trust and allowing us to practice showing up effectively and lovingly.

I sent out questions or articles ahead of time, but the format for all the groups was very similar:

Chalice Lighting


Question or Case Study

Reflection and/or feedback

Take-Away (What nugget of wisdom or observation are you taking away)


A couple things we learned:

  • The more time zones involved, the more complicated it is to find a common day and time.
  • Closed FaceBook groups keep each circle in contact throughout the month and was used to varying degree.
  • Don’t under-estimate basic introductions and sharing descriptions of ministry settings. The cultural differences between geography, size, and setting were fascinating and enlightening – and often assumed until we stumbled over them.
  • Asking each individual what his or her “Take Away” is was key to over-all learning and often unveiled another layer to group dynamics. I kept a notebook of “Take Aways” for each group and highly recommend that practice.  Going back over the year not only recorded growth, but we sometimes would go back to a concept or quote that was gold.
  • There seems to be a corollary between structure and depth of sharing. A set time and a set agenda provide the safety and predictability for a group to focus on the intimate relationship between themselves.


I believe this initiative is replicable, and I encourage you to borrow as you are so inspired! Please consider starting a version of Innovative Learning Circles in your congregation, geographic area or virtually by affinity/ leadership role.

I will share some of the Take Aways in coming blogs…



Tandi Feb 2012Tandi Rogers is a Credentialed Religious Educator and former classroom teacher. She cherishes how the teaching and the learning never stop, the classroom just keeps expanding.