Responses to the troubling trends in professional leadership.
My recent post has gotten an interesting mix of responses, especially in the area of creating “super-congregational’ hiring bodies for religious professionals. (Again, using the word “super” in its meaning of “above” rather than “better” or “greater”.)
Several satellite church experiments were reported. One model is that the flagship congregation plants the satellites. My questions: are the people in the satellite members of the flagship congregation? What are the local staff requirements, beyond the ministers? How does the money flow? How do they get started -- do locals approach the flagship? Or vice-versa? Somebody enlighten me.
I am interested in First Houston’s creation of satellites by merging smaller congregations into the flagship. I am pleasantly surprised by this happening. I would have thought that smaller congregations would resist merger. In some cases, isn’t their reason for being exactly their desire to be different than the “big church downtown.” ? Understanding how to successfully merge churches of different sizes would be key to moving UUism in New England forward.
I am also interested in Jeanne Pupke’s thoughts about district/regional hiring bodies. Could we imagine a situation where a district/regional or even UUA level body would directly support ministers to do church planting? Hasn’t that kind of “extension” work been done through congregations in the past? I, for one, am more optimistic about creating new “beyond-congregations” by subsidizing entrepreneurial minister/planters than by supporting a mini-congregation that is trying to form.
New Word Alert: A group of people who are gathering on Sunday morning for a worship service are a New Congregation. They might have a minister or not. A new “Beyond-Congregation” is a organized network of UU’s and other religious liberals who are joined by some religious purpose -- study group, small group ministry circles that meet in homes, or restaurants, collective living groups. They might be organized by a minister or not.
Community Ministry: I think I hear Scot Giles suggesting that UU Community Ministers might represent some solution. As I read his comment, I thought of a small church led by a bi-vocational minister who was, in part, a Community minister and generating income from that work and a part-time parish minister, who was presumably generating income from that source. There must a thousand variations possible of this arrangement, depending on the potential for non-UU income and the interest in performing as a parish minister on a part-time basis.
But where I started in exploring this was the realization that as we go to more part-time ministries and part-time employment in all positions, we end up excluding more and more of our professionals from the benefit programs that the UUA has worked on creating and providing. Combining part-time jobs may make a decent living, but often without good benefits.
And lastly, Paul Beedle seems to suggest we will have to rely more and more on lay and volunteer and part-time staffing. Maybe, we need to give up is the idea that Unitarian Universalism will be a religious movement led by middle-class professionals who work full-time, have offices and good benefit packages. That style may still prevail in the Capitol but out in the Districts, not so much. (Hunger Game reference.)