There is a large-scale church start being planned in Philadelphia.
Peter Morales talks about growth through better growth and member retention in the already existing congregations.
And then there is small-scale church-planting, which I would define as minister-initiated, congregational formation. Some would call it "entepreneurial ministry", or even "apostolic ministry." This is largely unexplored territory for the Unitarian Universalist Association which tends to work with the idea that church planting starts with a congregation that someday calls a minister, and not with a minister who someday gathers a congregation. In fact, there is a tendency to view that minister who is out trying to start a new congregation from scratch with some suspicion, a somewhat shady character engaged in self-promotion and opportunism.
Small-scale church planting is how most new churches get formed, and Unitarian Universalists don't know how to do it. I don't know how to do it either, and in some ways, I am at the opposite end of the spectrum, serving a well-established and handsomely endowed church.
But I think that all of us ought to do what we can to make the Unitarian Universalist Association a more nurturing environment for potential church-planters, whether they be either ordained or lay.
1. We should identify "church-planting" as a specialized type of ministry -- not community ministry, not parish ministry but something else. Let seminarians and ministers identify themselves by that aspiration, if they are called to it. Right now, it is "the love that dare not speak its name."
2. shake up the MFC so that the time spent in unpaid, or very poorly paid, church-planting ministry counts toward final fellowship.
3. Let's start talking about "UU Outreach Activists", or "UU Embeds", or "UU Missionaries." These would be lay people who are willing to devote some serious time and energy into grass roots congregational formation. Giving this a name might help some people realize that this what they are called to do. Whether and How this becomes a path into seminary and the ordained ministry are questions for later.
4. Let's be patient with what is being formed -- a minister starts to cohere a small network and community (a micro-congregation) around him or her -- it could be a UU congregation, it might be a generic Spirituality group, it might be a "religious left activist political group." It might be connected with a UU church or not.
5. Finally, we need to develop an institutional structure for this, which distributes denominational resources for church-planting, without succumbing to denominational control and sectarianism. Some portion of the money that is being raised and spent on growth needs to be gotten into the hands of church-planters, while maintaining enough accountability and covenantal relationships to keep the money coming.