Creating a multigenerational congregation

The following is an excerpt from an essay submitted by Henry Halff, a member of Community Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio, Tex., about how to create a multigenerational church. Halff includes a story about his own experience as a parent of a child in a religious education program:

In 1976 I dragged my son, Larry, then about to turn six, over to the First Unitarian Church of Arlington, Virginia, and enrolled him in RE. I was met at the door of the RE building by one Norma Veridan. [The late Rev. Veridan served five UU congregations as religious educator and was the first district religious educator in the Massachusetts Bay District.]

The first thing she asked me was this:

“What are you going to do?” “Do?” “Yes, ‘do.’ Teach? Work in the office? Children’s worship? What are you going to do?”

“I’m awfully busy, and I’d really like to go to church.” “Wouldn’t we all. If your child is here, you’re here. That’s the rule.”

All of us parents bowed to the rule. I started as a teacher, worked my way into the children’s worship program, then the RE Council, and finally board member and liaison to RE. By that time, Larry was in college.

The Veridan rule had the effect of building a strong, well-staffed RE program, but that was not its most important effect. Its most important effect was that of forging a community of parents. Because we were all in it together, we got together socially; we brought food to meetings; we put on extracurricular stuff like the Christmas Pageant; we developed strong personal ties to the church, or at least to RE. What Norma knew was that if you build a community of parents, the children will be taken care of. And, incidentally, you’ll have a multigenerational church.

If you want a multigenerational church, make your church worth joining to the generations of interest to you. Forge a community of parents, even if that means drafting them. Doing this will give you committed lifelong members and a strong children’s program. What could be more multigenerational than that?

First Unitarian, Albuquerque, continues to branch out

First Unitarian in Albuquerque, N.Mex., which has two branch congregations 30 to 70 miles away, has been approached by a third group of people, 300 miles away in Carlsbad. Discussions have begun to determine if it too might become affiliated with First Unitarian. “This will give us an opportunity to see how well a church can ‘adopt’ a branch at a long distance,” says the Rev. Christine Robinson. She also reports an increasing numbers of inquiries about branches from across the country. Find a description of Albuquerque’s branch ministry on its website.