Showing posts from April, 2015

The Entrepreneurial Church: Weddings by Cindy Landrum

Our narrative is often that our churches are strapped for resources.  We can't do more, reach out more,
because we have limited staff time and energy and dwindling membership.

But there's a resource we have that truly has a lot of unused potential: our buildings.  They sit empty most of the week in most of their rooms.  Our sanctuaries, social halls, and RE classrooms largely, across the country, sit empty.  Of course most of us are happy to take in more renters, but renters needing the kind of spaces we have are hard to find.  We'd be happy to use this resource more if we knew how.

Another thing I think we could be doing more of: Weddings.  Many churches, particularly our large and beautiful ones, get more wedding requests than their ministers want to handle.  Maybe they turn people away, maybe they have a list of clergy they refer to.  But we're not out there seeking out more business, even though there's business to be had.  We're not marketing ourselves as…

The Entrepreneurial UUA

The UUA created a successful, self-sustaining, surplus-creating health insurance company.

I don't know all the details of the story, but I have heard it recounted by Jim Sargent and others who are close to the history. The UUA risked a portion of its endowment, sought out top-quality experts in the health care insurance business, devised a sound business plan, hired competent and professional staff and sold it aggressively to UU congregations.  It has been successful, even though the health insurance business is notoriously difficult.  It falls short of a national single-payer health plan, but it works.

The work solved a problem that posed a significant risk to our ministry, congregational staffs, and many of our local congregations.

Today, there is much talk about other needs of local congregations that could be more efficiently met. My colleague, Cindy Landrum, calls for a "relentlessly useful UUA." She and others talk about the UUA providing back office services to co…

The Cause is Not Enough

The cause of Unitarian Universalism, as we now understand it, is not sufficiently compelling to generate the resources to continue itself.

There are not enough people sufficiently motivated to give the time and money needed to sustain our liberal religious institutions, as we now think of them.  Stuck in survival mode, we cannot gather the capacity to grow. The evidence is the declining pledge levels in many congregations.

Our cause is too small and too safe to ignite sufficient passionate engagement, the kind of commitment that we need. On the one hand, our cause is too big: all things to all people. And on the other hand, it is too small: this particular little organization in your town, this building, this minister, these people in all their particular ways.

To put in terms of our survival, the only thing that can make the difference is the passionate engagement of more people. 

We have to look beyond the people who are presently passionate about Unitarian Universalism. There is a …


We may be entering a divisive time for the Unitarian Universalist movement. UU ministers are responding to the great issues of the day: racism, climate change, reproductive justice, the religious counter-attack against GLBTQ people now that marriage equality seems inevitable. 
But then there is "congregational pushback."
I think it makes a difference that we are in a different historical era than the era that most of our experiences have come from.
Most of our thinking about congregational life was shaped during the period of conservative hegemony in US Culture.  Now, I think that we are living in new era as the more liberal and optimistic Obama era evolves into an era of more radical and militant social movements.

If we are truly the early stages of a major social movement, we face an inevitable time of shedding and growth in UU congregations. I hope that we are able to see that the soul of our denomination depends on gaining those who are most truly aligned with our values…

Rev. Dawn Cooley's Four Challenges

Rev. Dawn Cooley, who serves the UU congregation in Louisville, KY, has written a series on "removing barriers to congregational participation." She challenges the conventional wisdom in four areas:

1. Congregations need multiple worship services with different styles and at different times to make it more possible for more people to worship with them.
2. Congregations need to provide more avenues for participation in the work of the church; attendance in worship should not be the only path to membership.
3. Congregations need to extend their reach with technology and social media.
4. Congregations need to develop more ways to ask for money than the annual pledge campaign.

Any of these would be a tall order for many congregations. Unitarian Universalists stick pretty close to one model of organized religious life: Building + Minister + 1 Liturgy + Congregation that does many small projects and programs.

Implied in Dawn's 4 challenges is a vision of a different kind of li…