Yes, this is brought to you by April Fool’s Day. While some of these may sound far-fetched, the not-so-funny reality is that these are actual quotes overheard and reported to me by District Staffers. Please note that the congregations where these quotes took place are not growing (in most definitions of the word.) If you suspect some of these citations may have been overheard in your congregation, please contact your District Staff for an intervention. They’re here for you.
- “We’ve always done <insert most anything> this way.” Or “We tried that once.”
- “You can believe anything you want! And we’ll never ask you what you believe.”
- “We are intentionally lay led. We don’t want a minister in here telling us what to do.”
- “Oh, yes, we do outreach. We just gave (a lot) of money to National Public Radio.”
- “Spirituality, whatever that is, has no place in our congregation.” and “The word “religious” makes me very uncomfortable. We are not a religion. I wish people would stop saying that.”
- “I never wear my name tag. I don’t need to. Everyone knows who I am.”
- “Our board has young adults. Joe doesn’t have gray hair. … Joe, how old are you? 43? That’s close enough.”
- “We don’t really have a Sunday School. If you want something you’ll have to do it yourself. … Oh, and children aren’t that welcome in the worship service.”
- “Is this microphone on?” (Not one Sunday or two Sundays, but every Sunday.)
- 25 minute lecture on waste disposal and called it a sermon.
- To visitors: “Where have you been?” “Which religion did you give up on?” “Now that you’re in the building, what will it take to keep you here?” or even better, fill them in on all the problems and challenges the congregation is facing.
Horrors actually seen:
- Worship Associate wearing a t-shirt, crinkle skirt, sneakers, and no bra. I can’t make this up.
- Announcement during worship to help pay for the coffee. Sign on coffee table reminding people to pay for the coffee. The offering consists of really bad (or instant) coffee, one tea selection, powdered non-dairy creamer, and a few crackers.
- Announcements, newsletters, websites, sermons drowning in acronyms. Please stop the madness.
- A building with a Hard of Hearing Room for older folks so they won’t bother people around them in the sanctuary. This was also used for people who didn’t like children in the service. A room of their own. I think the intention was meant to be helpful… but really?
- Catering to the strongest/loudest personality in the group.
- Strategic plan based on the desire to have more members to do more of the work and pay more of the budget.
- Websites that give no time of worship, address, or way to contact someone with questions. Websites that are months out of date.
I know we’ve missed some. What would you add? Please share in the comments section!
1) Converging on new visitors who show an interest and press-ganging them onto committees.
2) This happened to my daughter: A friend invited her to the UU church nearby. My daughter immediately loved it: great music, stirring service, terrific Sunday school for her four-year-old. And that same evening, she got The Phone Call, pressing her not only to join, but pointing out that members must pledge–and quoting a pledge minimum beyond her family’s budget.
3) My own church has a large proportion of very vocal anti-“religion” non-theists, so we theists have to open our yaps every once in a while to make our voices heard.
Concerning # 1 “Converging on new visitors who show an interest and press-ganging them onto committees.”
A UU church of which I was a member for a long time (1976-2000) toward the end of my time there started actively recruiting new visitors to join so that they could be elected to the board. They’re down to about13-15 members. Their official UUA head count shows to be 30ish, but folks who I know on the inside know better. .
Concerning # 2 “…she got The Phone Call, pressing her not only to join, etc”
Clearly signs of a desperate and probably overbearing congregation, which could have been pushed to that point by behaviors that were unbecoming any church and less so a UU. So, long-time members may have voted with their feet and found the golf course on Sundays or another UU church nearby or the CLF.
Concerning # 3 “My own church has a large proportion of very vocal anti-”religion” non-theists…”
I must admit that I’m one of those non-theists, though I have little problem with being part of a religious body. I view ‘religion’ as a code of ethics and most off-the-shelf dictionaries include such a meaning. Also, religion comes from a word, etymologically speaking, which means to bind together. Finally, even though a non-theist, when I’m leading a service or speaking, I use more scripture and god-talk than most theist. (Partly because most of theist are not very well ‘versed’ (so to speak) in the Bible. I attended a rural Southern Baptist Church until I was 18, flying under their radar the vast majority of the time. I paid attention to my Baptist Sunday School lessons, I asked question and was told that I shouldn’t. That alone made me even more determined to find an answer to question(s) that I’d been told not to ask.
Thanks for these glaring examples that challenge us to see new ways of being hospitable and appealing to newcomers to our UU congregations.
I think along with this, some of our churches fail at keeping members/long time visitors/friends. I was once a very active member of my church (teaching RE, leading worship, leading a Small Group Ministry group). I stopped attending due to school and work conflicts (and bad worship), and not once did the minister or anyone else call to check on me. The only call I got was from the pledge committee. In the last few years I saw many others leave the church, most who volunteered regularly and joined classes. I wonder if they got follow up when they stopped coming. I have watched my church go from growing steadily 3 years ago, to now being lower in numbers than it was before it really started to grow.
I also see some churches as being to insular, all the joys and sorrows are about the people doing the prayers and failing to look outward to our larger community. It is not that I am not happy that John and Joe are celebrating their 20th wedding aniversary or that Jane’s cat died, but there is more going on in our world besides ourselves…
Church used to mean a lot to me, and even thought of becoming a minister. It saddens me that I don’t feel cared about my church.
“Announcements, newsletters, websites, sermons drowning in acronyms. Please stop the madness.”
Wouldn’t that be PSTM?
I keep in contact with some who have left The Salvation Army. What sadneds me is that many of them came from early childhood but when it came to actually committing themselves it became all too hard. If only they had stayed, committed and found the joy that commitment brings! I pray for these people and I pray believing that one day they will return. On a positive note, just a couple of weeks ago a gentleman walked into our Meeting. He was in Melbourne for just a few days but he came because it was the place where he first found the Lord and he wanted to come back and visit for that reason. Well I remember that day. He was a business person,but alcohol had him in it’s grip. He knelt at the Mercy seat and many of us formed a prayer circle around him as He invited Christ into his life. He now lives in WA and attends another Church but is still a Christian he remembers the day and the place where he knelt when Christ entered his life. Let us continue to pray and contact these people and do all in our power to Bring them Home .
The district websites are often out of date. Information about conferences doesn’t go out in a timely manner and job postings left up that are 2 years old. I’m in the Southwest District, but I’ve seen this consistently with the job postings. I wish we could do better at that level to set more of an example.
Someone contacted me privately and was too shy to post. I am not one to tolerate anonymity, except on such personal matters… toilet paper. How many of you suffer through stingy, scratchy cheap toilet paper in your church bathroom. Go get the good stuff and a plunger in every stall.
One of our growing, sweet congregations (Evergreen UUC in Marysville, WA) not only has soothing, fluffy toilet paper, they also put out a lovely basket with feminine products. Their changing tables are stocked with diaper wipes and various sized diapers. When I asked years ago what happens if someone takes the diapers the very sweet and generous congregational leaders replied, “Oh! We can get more. We have boxes. Do you know someone who needs diapers?” Warms my heart and makes me a little misty eyed.
When we welcome people with utmost respect and care and act as if we believe it is an honor to make someone’s time in our religious community a lovely experience in every way, good things happen.
I once sat through a sermon (NOT in my home congregation) that consisted entirely of quotes of “cute things said by kids.” Even if you see deep wisdom in the words of children, it would help to flesh it out a bit, I think.
At a different congregation (again, not my home cong) the sermon consisted entirely of reading the Declaration of Independence, again with no commentary whatsoever. It was on July 4th, which I guess is the most appropriate Sunday to do that on (if it is ever appropriate). But the other thing that I remember was that it was hot and humid and, while I generally try to dress appropriately for church, my companion was dressed in a tank top, shorts and flip flops. Maybe not the best dress for church but still, the disapproving up-and-down look-over that she got from the greeter was less than welcoming.
“We don’t need the hymn book for this, we all know it.”
I once participated in a day long growth workshop. The team of leaders that I was a part of officially reported that we should be seeking “different people who are just like us.” That is very close to a direct quote. It is burned in my memory. They said that they didn’t feel that the low income people around us (many of whom where actually college students) had the sophistication to be UU’s.
“What a great day! No one here I don’t know.”
1) “We don’t need a ramp because no crippled people go here.”
2) “These are those new people I told you about with the expensive ideas” (after we suggested a ramp might be a good idea, given that one member–a Korean war veteran–had to climb the front steps backwards to accommodate an old injury.)
3) Believing that “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” means the world is your babysitter and complaining when YOUR nephew pushes YOUR child over during coffee hour and “nobody” did anything about it. (All four parents were present.)
4)Telling a new woman (not me) with a voice so gorgeous that people turned admiringly in their pews whenever she sang that she can’t join the choir because “we already have enough sopranos”.
5) Ripping a single middle aged man a new one because he asked if perhaps one of the (several) Circle Dinners might only be for grown ups as he was kind of tired of sitting next to toddlers with loaded diapers at every event.
6)Going up to the woman (this one was me) who just delivered a lay service despite the fact that she’d recently begun radiation treatment for breast cancer and suffered a herniated disk and complaining about three aspects of the presentation before you say, “But other than that, it was pretty good.”
7)Refusing to speak to people who routinely behave well outside of the norms of the community because “they might leave” never mind that you are hemorrhaging members because they’re tired of being treated like crap.
This is a topic that will always prdocue lots of chat. My wife and I have visited people around our corps here on the Copper Coast, those who have fallen away from church and you are right, the reasons are many and varied. They range from arguments to just plain losing interest, but sadly no-one decided to try to pick them up again and they sailed away to develope other interests. The thing about these people is that they once had a reason to seek Jesus. It seems to me that these folk are far easier to get back to the fold, so to speak, than people who are firmly entrenched in the world. And it is only a matter of asking the congregation who these people are, cause they know them, but may choose not to speak to them. It only needs one person in the congegation, officer even to reconnect and maybe the whole connection can once again happen. These people really are the sad cases and we who remain, we WILL be held accountable, because we choose not to do anything. Leave the organisation out of it, its made up of you and I andif we do nothing no program will fix it. We must do something.