Monday, May 10, 2010

Blogging the UUA Growth Consultation

From May 5 to May 7 I attended the UUA Growth Consultation held at a retreat center about 75 miles North of Denver, right at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Growth Consultation brought together 17 individuals and we were charged with developing a growth plan for the Unitarian Universalist Association.

More specifically we were charged with imagining initiatives that:
1) Are congregationally based: The approach cannot be "top down" but rather must depend on congregations working together collaboratively to grow.
2) Have a low cost: Even if the money were there, growing Unitarian Universalism is not a problem that can be solved by throwing money at it. Money can be raised for specific initiatives, but we were instructed to develop plans with a modest cost.
3) Produce results quickly: There was prevailing sense of urgency (in John Kotter's sense of the word) and an understanding that action needed to come quickly.
4) Focus on the attraction and retention of members in our congregations.
Above all, we shared a sense that the challenge of growing Unitarian Universalism could not be solved with "technical solutions." The challenges we face are cultural and relational.

The group of 17 included 9 parish ministers:
Kaaren Anderson, Co-Senior Minister, First Unitarian Church, Rochester, NY
Ken Beldon, Lead Minister, Wellsprings Congregation, Exton, PA
Thom Belote, Minister, Shawnee Mission UU Church, Overland Park, KS
Helen Carroll, Minister, UU Fellowship of San Luis Obispo County, CA
John Crestwell, Associate Minister, UU Church of Annapolis, MD
Howard Dana, Minister, Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, PA
Rob Hardies, Senior Minister, All Souls Unitarian Church, Washington, DC
Christine Robinson, Senior Minister, First Unitarian Church, Albuquerque, NM
Michael Schuler, Senior Minister, First Unitarian Society, Madison, WI
UUA Staff attending included:
Peter Morales, UUA President
Harlan Limpert, Vice President of Ministries and Congregational Support
Taquiena Boston, UUA Director of Multicultural Growth & Witness
Terasa Cooley, UUA Director for Congregational Life (effective June, 2010)
Dea Brayden, Special Assistant to the President
Special Guests included:
Anne Bancroft, President of the Liberal Religious Educators Association
Jim Wind, President of the Alban Institute
Our meeting was facilitated by Jon Hassinger, President of CI International.

Towards the end of our meeting I asked Peter Morales if he would mind if I blogged about it. He responded encouragingly; the more openness and transparency, the better. Over the next several weeks I will recreate and document as much of the Growth Consultation as I can. I will also offer my own commentary, thoughts, and observations. Finally, throughout my posts I will include questions that you may wish to consider.

Here are the links to materials from the UUA Growth Consulation:
Click here to find out about the pre-work assigned to the participants.
Click here to find out what will cause Unitarian Universalism not to grow in the next 5 years.
Click here to read about the "Seven Principles of Vital Congregations."
Click here for a reflection on the extent to which external factors impact growth.
Click here for a list of solutions that we created. [Check back for this post.]
I'd love to hear your responses. Email me at minister [at] smuuchurch [dot] org