Thursday, June 30, 2011

Growing Our UU Churches

On Friday at General Assembly (GA) I went to a session called: Church of the New Millennium: Scenario for Success by Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich, Senior Minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City. Dr. Guengerich told us that according to surveys 92% of the people in the USA believed in God (or a higher power). Thus if we, as UUs want to grow our churches we need to find a way to bring God into our UU group/church/society etc as 8% is not a large enough group for  us to pull from and grow.  Something to think about.

This does not bother me as I have always believed in one God or higher power or the force or what ever you want to call it. I have witnesses miracles and I was with my dad when he died and I felt his spirit or soul leave his body.  

I went to the Ware Lecture with Karen Armstrong and she is a great speaker, but I was a little disappointed in that she had asked us to read her book, 12 Steps to a More Compassionate Life (paperback or kindle), and I was expecting more or an addition to the book. Her speech was great, but more for those that had not read her book. Oh well, I did enjoy her book and for the most part really agreed with it, but I think we do have a soul or a spirit.*

Then I read a posting about how DREs (Director of Religious Education for UU churches) are just staff. Really?!

And so I have been thinking for the last few days about: Why are we not growing? In the 1800's if we had merged we would have been the largest religious group in the USA. What has happened?

Maybe it is because I was a DRE and now I am not, but I think we need to look at ourselves first. 

When I was the DRE I had some people that were great supporters and some that just took Religious Education for the children for granted and some that just treated me as staff others as a gopher and some that never thought about it. But this is not about me {but I do wonder about the experiences of other DREs} it's about what is happening in our UU group/church/society etc. 

Have you looked at the qualifications of your DRE (or LDRE or DCRE or whatever the title) lately? They no longer are women or men that are just parents or adults. They are professionals with degrees. Some have BA or BS in Education or Religion; others have MAs or MSs in Education or Religion, and some even have doctorate degrees in Education or Religion. Many are over qualified for their jobs and have great ideas. But sometimes they lack support and personpower to implement them. 
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  • So how does a UU group/church/society etc. grow? 
  • Is with the older members of our group? 
  • Is it with our families? 
  • Is it our minister?
  • Is it whether we believe in God or not?
  • Is it our Principles?
  • Is it us?
  • We need our older members to help us remember the past and to help us not redo the mistakes of the past. But not to tell us that "we don't do that here" or "that is not the way we do it."
  • We need to have good programs for our children and youth starting with our nurseries. 
  • We need to get families to come into the building and then we need to keep them. 
So I have been thinking and researching (this will continue) and have come up with the following:
  • According to the American Religious Identification Survey, religious belief varies considerably across the country: 59% of Americans living in Western states (the "Unchurched Belt") report a belief in God, yet in the South (the "Bible Belt") the figure is as high as 86%. **
  • On paper Unitarian Universalism looks wonderful.  
  • But are we giving people what they need?
  • So we need to ask them "What do you want?" 
  • Would it threaten you or the governing board of your UU group/church/society etc to send out a survey asking what people want?
  • So what do you need out of your UU group/church/society etc.? And are you getting it?
  • And maybe we should think about doing something about upping the status of our DREs. A start could be with the UUA/GA fees. Give them the same consideration that you give retired ministers.

* And to my friends that questioned why I was reading the book, my answer is that no one can be compassionate enough, even I sometimes forget that we are all human and need compassion.
** Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar (2009). "AMERICAN RELIGIOUS IDENTIFICATION SURVEY (ARIS) 2008" (PDF). Hartford, Connecticut, USA: Trinity College. Retrieved June 30, 2011. & Newport, Frank (2008-07-28). "Belief in God Far Lower in Western U.S.". The Gallup Organization. Retrieved 2011-06-30.

1 comment:

  1. I think we need to do more to draw in the kind of people who identify as "spiritual, but not religious". It would be good to have more UU forums available to the public. We also need to get into the heart out of our minds (no pun intended, lol).

    I think we need to do more out in the public. Have more blood drives, spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, more videos posted on Youtube, food drives, work with social workers to help families in need in our communities. We need to go out and sing Christmas carols and create more unity. How are pagans and humanists alike? How can they interact together in a UU fellowship? Have Rumi readings and workshops on learning how to meditate.

    As for minority groups who never seem to come through our doors, why don't we ask them what needs to be there? We go out of our way to include the lgbt community. We need to do the same for other minority groups.