Community Garden with Black man teaching a group of black, brown and white children
Community Garden with Black man teaching a group of black, brown and white children
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This training is our first post-lockdown “growth and vitality” resource, in collaboration with the UU Association of Membership Professionals (UUAMP).  Instead of focusing on growth for its own sake, we focus on the transformative power that Unitarian Universalism has in people’s lives and how our congregations can be provide a welcoming and inclusive experience for everyone who comes through our doors. 

People come to Unitarian Universalist congregations seeking connection and authentic community in a wider culture that is filled with patterns of individualism, transactionalism, exploitation, extraction and other patterns of white supremacy culture.

This training is designed for application across your ministry teams. Learn to work together to reinforce life-affirming and creative frameworks and use practical tools for welcoming and inclusion, connection and belonging, all as foundational to a membership journey in your congregation grounded in mutuality and consent.

Spiral with the words Curious, Invited, Visitor, Welcomed, Regular, Connected, Friend, Engaged, Steward, Integrated, Leader, Elder

Developed by UUA Congregational Life Regional Staff in partnership with the UU Association of Membership Professionals (UUAMP), this training is grounded in experiences and stories of UU congregations throughout the Association.

Presenters Include:

This training is organized into modules and topics, but you can access the materials in any order (i.e. “free form”), and mark them as complete to help you keep track of your progress. We recommend that everyone complete Module 1.

Module 1 – Four Frameworks for Understanding Congregational Life (90 minutes)

A. Spiral of Faithful Relationship

In this training we are adding more complexity into our mental model by thinking of the membership journey as a spiral where we go deeper in to faith development and relationship, but where we might also revisit different stages with more complexity. Includes discussion questions.

B. Basics of Congregational Life: UU Roux

Like a pot of gumbo, UU congregations have have a lot of different ingredients, but they all need a similar foundation, i.e. the roux. If you get the three basics in right (UU Identity, Spiritual Depth, and Generosity) you’ll have a great congregational life. Includes discussion questions.

C. The Congregation is the Curriculum

In her essay Faith Development Is All We Do, Connie Goodbread reminds us that the faith development doesn’t just happen in Sunday School or in an Adult Religious Education Class. It also happens in how we make decisions in board meetings, how we advocate for justice, and how welcoming and inclusive we are on Sunday mornings. It’s all faith development. These are all opportunities to live into the promise of Unitarian Universalism. The congregation is the curriculum. 

D. Map of Community Building

Wisdom that we have been using about building community in youth groups can be applied to the church community as a whole. This map provides a non-linear mental model of community building. Includes a map-making activity.

Module 2 – Communication for Inclusion (60 minutes)

Tips for communication about upcoming programs and events. Includes discussion questions.

A. Marketing Your Congregation’s Essence

Application of the seven functions of marketing to congregational life. Includes discussion questions.

B. Your Congregational “Brand” in the Community

When your congregation’s brand is a part of your presence in the community, people will associate your congregation with the feelings and values of the events you participate in. Includes an activity where you review your website and social media.

C. The Power of Story

D. Internal Communications

Your website can serve many functions. The home page should be designed for the curious, the invited, the visitor, and the welcomed. But your website can also be a repository of key documents, such as your bylaws, policies and procedures. Includes activity of getting feedback on how your members and friends learn about church events.

Module 3 – Be Curious With the Curious Visitor (60 minutes)

It’s helpful to think carefully and discuss with one another what language and methods is going to be welcoming and inclusive, rather than relying on old habits that may not be inclusive. Includes a practice activity.

A. Make a “Warm Welcome” a Group Spiritual Practice

Our ministry is to share hospitality and welcome at all connection points, spaces, and places. People are hungry for our values and message. Take the time to engage, listen, and grow. Includes a workshop activity.

B. Mistakes, Microaggressions, and Repair

Microaggressions are intentional or unintentional slights, questions, comments, or actions that define a person as being different, or other, and not a part of, or within, or acceptable to the person that they’re speaking to. Includes a workshop on Trans Etiquette.

C. Navigating a Changing, Multiplatform Community As You Grow

We need to build up social skills that were lost during the lock-down, and to develop new skills for a multi-platform community. Includes an activity where your team participates virtually for a couple of weeks.

D. Tracking Newcomers With a Light Touch

Participation in our congregations should feel countercultural: Pastoral rather than “we want something from you;” Centered on their experience and needs rather than what we already have to offer; Grounded in your mission, vision, and covenant, rather than anxiety around your budget. 

Module 4 – Provide Low-Risk Opportunities for Connections (90 minutes)

If your leaders are feeling anxious about “growing,” that anxiety can result in a feeling of urgency or neediness that can be off-putting.

A. Gathering with Purpose

Don’t assume that the purpose of a gathering is obvious, be intentional about why you are gathering or offering a program.  Includes discussion questions and an activity where you practice planning a church event.

B. Making Connections: Low Risk Opportunities & Intergenerational Tips

Practical suggestions from actual congregations of low commitment events and projects, and ways to build intergenerational community. Includes an activity where you reflect on the engagement of newcomers in your congregation.

C. Small Groups as Centers of Engagement

Newcomers often join small groups before engaging with the larger community, to learn about the congregation and its culture. Small groups offer a space for interaction and connection, helping newer folks establish their initial relationships within the community. Includes discussion questions.

D. Membership Databases

An overview of the benefits of membership software for your membership committee/professional and as a tool for members and friends to connect with one another. We touch on privacy issues, software options, and benefits for smaller congregations.

Module 5 – Provide Deeper Opportunities for Transformation (90 minutes)

We revisit the frameworks from Module 1.

A. Spectrum of Engagement

This pathway of engagement can include strategies for attracting and involving individuals at various stages. We then focus on the ‘how’ of engagement, where the importance of building relationships is emphasized.

B. Mapping Relationships / Leveraging Connections

Communities require connectedness and mapping networks — including the connections between people — can help us have some insight into the kinds of connections make up our communities.

C. Transformative Gatherings

We can create more meaningful everyday gatherings by shifting our focus away from getting the things right, and toward meaningful interactions between people. Design your gathering (which can be coffee hour, a congregational meeting, a parent class) from the ground up, creatively, with purpose. Includes a planning activity for a future event.

D. The Transformative Power of Small Group Ministry

Small Group Ministry fills a need for connection, builds relationship, appreciation, and trust with one another, and can be a key part of organic leadership development.

E. Stewardship as a Spiritual Practice

We need ongoing adaptations within our congregations around financial support, emphasizing inclusivity, participation, and rethinking traditional financial models.

Module 6 – Additional Resources for Your Membership Team and/or Professional

Bonus material that you can access as you are interested in the topics.


Training Content

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