Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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 much larger group of people we would reach IF they could see that we would directly connect them to the transformation that they are anxious to see in the world.

It means that our congregations must be more clearly purposeful. I recently wrote a series of posts on alternative growth strategies to the present "community building" strategy. Each proposal I floated was a variation on the theme of creating more purposeful congregations.

A lot of the recent conference of ministers in the MidAmerica Region (a name that sounds like a chain of tire stores) focused on multisite ministry and new start ministry. Those methods do not address the question of purpose. Multisite, especially, is a vision of stretching our resources by eliminating duplicate expenditures. It makes us more efficient; it doesn't help us grow.

Can we imagine a multi-site church which contains satellites with very different purposes and appeals? A parent church where one satellite is a young adult oriented new start? One satellite is an Earth Church? One satellite is a Co-Op Children's Church? One satellite is an activist church? One a missional project in a particular neighborhood? All robust network connecting them? A single back office, performing all the financial and database functions



?

2 comments:

Michelle Walsh said...

Complete love button on this thinking outside of the box about becoming more of a missional church, Tom! This type of thinking helps to erode the traditional boundaries of parish and community ministries too. How are we truly about bringing our faith out into the larger world in purposeful ways, while supporting each other with love in our ongoing spiritual development and needs. Thank you!

BParke said...

Great post, Tom. Your focus on purpose is exactly right. Here is my take on it:

- What is our purpose? To make our Unitarian Universalist beliefs and values real in this world.

- How do we do that? Find those places and situations in the world where our beliefs and values can best find expression.

- Where are those places? Well, there are many. In my experience, they have been: as a church leader, to work with Habitat for Humanity, help refugees, share the best parts of our UU history, facilitate UU youth on service learning trips. I now have an emerging area of interest that may bring me closer to the very best situation I can imagine for sharing my UU values and beliefs with those who are best able to receive them and need them. And that is exciting! If/when that happens, I will share it with others in my church, and we can strengthen our UU bond. And stronger commitment to and belonging in the church will follow.

Purpose-Driven = Meaning Discovered