Tips from Facebook on doing church

Congregationally-relevant articles that people like you have posted on Facebook in recent weeks include the following:

How Many Staff Do You Need, from the Ministry Matters website.

Why Worship Shouldn’t Feel Like Family, Ministry Matters

Why Are Fewer People in Church? It’s the Economy, Stupid, from the website Gestating a Church.

• Cabaret Church – On The VUU, a weekly webcast discussion sponsored by the Church of the Larger Fellowship, the Rev. Sean Parker Dennison explains his proposal for “Cabaret Church,” (Aug. 29 webcast) which would be centered around music, art, resistance, and community. He notes that cabarets were a response in the thirties to Fascism and they might well be useful tools today in bringing a religious perspective to contemporary culture and world politics. Cabaret Church also has its own page on Facebook and on Tumblr.

The Facebook page Growing Unitarian Universalism recommends the article “Are Your Church Facilities an Obstacle to Growth? about the ways first-time guests see your building.

UU Social Media Lab a place for questions

The UU Social Media Lab on Facebook has included the following discussions in recent weeks:

• Whether to make worship services available on DVD, livestreaming, or by posting the files onto websites and Facebook pages. And if posting to websites, to be mindful to omit music that is copyrighted unless permissions have been obtained.

• From a congregation that loans its folding chairs for public events: How can the chairs be creatively marked to promote the congregation’s mission?

• Locating email newsletter software that will allow creation of PDFs so it can be added later to a website.

• Reviewing and rating your congregation on Yelp as a way of attracting seekers. Try this. Go to yelp.com, put in the name of your congregation, and see what comes up.

Join the lab (registration required) for discussions about a variety of topics around how congregations can and do use social media.

Church is not for nappers

The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein has written an essay on her blog, PeaceBang, entitled Napping on the Floor of the Aerobics Studio, about encouraging and empowering leaders.

Church members, friends, newcomers and leaders should be nurtured in spiritual practice and equipped with the language of our faith traditions so that they can articulate the gifts they both give and receive from their experience with the church, the community that is gathered by God (or by the deepest yearnings of the human heart, if you’re a humanist).

The congregation should be in the regular practice of spending time discussing their spiritual experience. It should be as natural as a potluck. We should be ready to turn conversations away from petty gossip to deeper reflections. Leaders should be able to challenge people who constantly want to talk about the minister to talk about their own ministry, or about the church’s ministry.

And those leaders should be empowered to motivate the “nappers,” she adds.

If I go to the gym and people are sprawled out napping on the floor of the aerobics studio, I will think the gym management is not just remiss, but nuts. It’s no different in church. We’re all there for heart strengthening of a different kind. Leaders should be empowered to be able to say: ‘Get off the aerobics floor, please. You can nap at home. Napping on the floor of the aerobics studio is not part of our mission, so we won’t be addressing your complaints about the pillows.’

She adds, “This isn’t about not loving people. It’s about being clear what church is for.”

She writes that congregations should have a broader mission than simply “to collect the religiously wounded and enable them to stay that way. We must say, ‘We are all welcome here. There is a hospital wing here. But no one takes up permanent residence in that wing. They get better and leave the bed open for the next person.’”

 

Why your congregation needs a digital ministry

From one of our May feature stories, now available online at UUA.org:

For fifteen years, as an executive with AOL and other companies, June Herold helped create some of the digital tools and toys that the world uses today, including instant messaging, online games, mobile applications, and an online billing system. She holds six patents on her electronic work.

In 2009 she joined the UU Church of Arlington, Va., where she created a top-of-the-line interactive website for the church that includes a self-contained social network.

All of that is only a prelude to what she hopes to accomplish—bringing every UU congregation fully into the digital world. She believes strongly that without an active and engaging digital presence, congregations will not be fully present in the world.

Go to full article.

Successful share-the-plate program supports Denver nonprofits

From one of our May feature stories, now available online at UUA.org:

When the offering plate comes around on Sunday morning at First Universalist Church of Denver, Colo., many nonprofit groups in the community feel the earth move just a little. This is the third year that the congregation has given its entire offering—every Sunday—to local groups or to support the work of the congregation’s own Social Justice Council task forces.

Associate Minister the Rev. Jeannie Shero said nearly $150,000 has been collected so far through the program, called Compassion in Action. “The first year we collected $44,000, then $56,000,” she said. “This year, which ends in June, will be close to $60,000. Prior to the program the offering would bring in around $25,000, much of which was largely used to support the operating budget.”

“This program represented a major shift for us,” Shero noted. “Was it a hard sell to the congregation? No. Did it make the board of trustees nervous? Yes. Giving up $20,000 for the operating budget was no small thing since the board has fiduciary responsibility.”

Go to full article.

 

Sponsoring congregation program aids small UU groups

From April’s InterConnections feature story, now online at UUA.org:

A fundraising campaign that began in 1993 at the First Unitarian Society of Wilmington, Del., now the First Unitarian Church, was supposed to be all about raising money for a new building project. But along the way the campaign came to be about more than just First Unitarian.

Karel Toll, chair of the fundraising campaign, explains what happened: “In one of our congregational meetings about the campaign a member of the congregation stood up and asked why our large church was raising all this money for bricks and mortar and why we were not sharing some of it with some new or small congregation that did not have our resources?”

It seemed like a reasonable question to Toll. He took it to the board of trustees and asked it to set aside one percent of the money that would be raised. The board agreed. As a result, at the end of the three-year campaign, which raised $1.5 million for a new religious education wing, there was a fund with $15,000.

Go to full article.

Avoid acronyms on Sunday morning

When you make announcements on Sunday morning, do abbreviations come out of your mouth before you know it? Do you speak of “RE” and “UUA” and “GA”?

Do you roll past “CUUPS” and “CLF” and “SRI?” It’s easy to do. But keep in mind that every Sunday there are guests who won’t have any idea what you’re talking about. The use of UU acronyms and abbreviations is insider language that is not as welcoming as it could be. So even though it takes longer, try to remember to speak of “religious education,” the “Unitarian Universalist Association,” “General Assembly,” the “Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans,” “Church of the Larger Fellowship,” and “socially responsible investing.” It’s the inclusive thing to do.

And if you are ever confused about UU abbreviations, there’s a page on UUA.org with a complete listing of UU programs, resources, and organizations.

Annual themes inspire, motivate Dallas congregation

From March’s InterConnections feature story, now online at UUA.org:

It is, of course, every congregation’s desire to have most of its members actively engaged in personal growth, in deepening their spiritual development and working to improve the larger community and the world.

There’s a lot of all of that going on at First Unitarian Church in Dallas, which has embraced a congregation-wide theme this year: Year of Engagement and Service, or YES!

The YES! theme invites friends and members to get involved in social action and civic engagement projects outside of church, ranging from increased involvement in their neighborhoods to engaging with the world at large. They are encouraged to join one of three YES! “tracks,” focusing on their neighborhood (Neighbors), the Dallas metro area (Community), or the world itself (Global).

Go to full article.

Let your building speak for you

Congregations interested in clearly communicating their values and mission to guests and others will want to  read a recent post by the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein on her blog, PeaceBang. Weinstein describes a visit to the Countryside UU Congregation in Palatine, Ill.

Starting with prominent exterior signage, neatly arranged informative bulletin boards, and interior signs that make it clear where people need to go, Weinstein congratulates the congregation on ably communicating “congregational vitality and purpose.” She writes that, without speaking to anyone, she “learned a ton about the congregation’s values and general health. The building itself communicated the congregation’s purpose in existing.”

Weinstein especially noted the presence of major areas of ministry—worship, study, foundations (stewardship and legacy), and kinship—communicated through prominent wall displays. She writes that “the visual consistency across the space announces that these areas of programmatic interest are all elements within one integrated system. That’s important and impressive.”

 

 

Live-streaming services draws in stay-at-homes

UUA Growth Strategist Tandi Rogers couldn’t make it to church one recent Sunday because of a sick child, so she looked around for the next best alternative. She found around a dozen congregations that were live-streaming their services in a time frame that worked for her.

She notes, “I hope more congregations will consider using this technology as a way to lower their walls and to connect to members who are unable to attend for a variety of reasons.” Read her full post on the Growing Unitarian Universalism blog.

The UUA’s website has resources for congregations considering live-streaming. To livestream a service you need a video camera, microphone (sound quality is more important than video quality), and the ability to upload to a free service like Ustream or Livestream.

Rogers notes that some congregations post their Order of Service. Some pan out to show the congregation and choir in addition to focusing on the speakers, and some allow online participants to engage in a real-time chat about the service.