UU email lists, labs promote sharing

Whatever project you’re trying to undertake in your congregation, you’re probably not the first to try something like that. Rather than inventing the wheel, learn from other congregational leaders by connecting with them on some of the 300 email lists sponsored by the UUA, plus the many UU “laboratory” groups on Facebook. On both these venues leaders share ideas and encourage each other.

Among the UUA’s most popular email lists are ones for congregational administration, Church-Admin-UU; software, ChurchMgmtSoftware; communications, Newmedia-L; finance, UU-Money; religious education, Reach-L; general questions, UU-Leaders; and membership, Memb-L. There are also email lists specifically for small and large congregations. All of the lists can be found here.

Worried about getting overwhelmed by emails? You can choose to receive emails from these groups as a daily—or every few days—digest, rather than as individual emails.

There are around twenty UU labs on Facebook where participants discuss specific topics, including social media, growth, and worship practices. Among the most active ones are UU Growth Lab, UU Social Media Lab, UU Young Adult Growth Lab, and UU Media Collaborative. A list of these groups is here.

Welcoming in the Age of Social Media

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

As recently as five or ten years ago, visitors to our congregations showed up full of questions—and brought with them some apprehensions about what Unitarian Universalism might be.

Times have changed. Thanks to the Internet and social media, today’s Sunday guests have a pretty good idea of what they’re getting into by the time they make their first in-person visit.

Peter Bowden, a Unitarian Universalist media consultant who often gives workshops on the relationship of changing culture and social media to ministry, wants congregations to adjust their thinking when it comes to welcoming. 

Go to full article.


New curriculum supports ethical eating

Two Unitarian Universalists—Diane Bassett and Jennifer Greene—have created a food-education curriculum designed to support the UUA’s 2011 Statement of Conscience on ethical eating.

Titled, “Demonstrating Our Values Through Eating,” or DOVE, the curriculum has six sessions of one-and-a-half to two hours, which include discussions on food marketing, climate change, food-worker justice, nutrition, food insecurity, and other food-related topics.

Greene said the course can also be used for individual study. It is not just for vegetarians, she noted. “It will be useful for people no matter where they are on the continuum of current food choices.”

The first session is an orientation. The second is a viewing of the documentary Food Stamped, which must be purchased or obtained from a library. Several sessions involve cooking, so a kitchen is needed. The curriculum itself is free online.

A Planning/Publicity Kit includes a timeline for promoting the course and preparing for it. Greene can be reached at jrg123 at optonline.net.


Webinars offer expert advice

If you’ve ever needed advice on a congregational issue at odd hours, there are now at least three collections of archived webinars available for anyone to access.

These are mostly one-hour webinars that were created in the past several years, then archived. Most feature a UUA staff member or a congregational leader making a presentation, followed by a period of discussion including the people who participated in the live presentation of the webinar. Topics include nearly all aspects of congregational life––running board meetings, committees on ministry, digital-spiritual literacy, tips for new youth advisors, religious education curricula, volunteer practices, and more.

The UUA’s MidAmerica Region has an archive of webinars, as does the Central East Regional Group (CERG), and the UUA’s Vital Leaders blog, edited by the Rev. Renee Ruchotzke. Check the website of your own district or region, as well. Registration is required to view the CERG webinars.

In addition, there is a list of upcoming webinars on Growing Unitarian Universalism’s Facebook page. Click on the Webinars icon at the top of the page.

Sermon-writing for lay people

New from Skinner House is The Shared Pulpit: A Sermon Seminar for Lay People by the Rev. Erika Hewitt.

The book is described as “a complete workshop to help lay people gain experience writing and preaching a full-length sermon.” It provides a step-by-step lesson plan for eight sessions, including the theory and theology of preaching, and practice sessions in writing and speaking.

The book includes a separate leader’s guide, homework readings, sample sermons, and other exercises “to help first-time preachers polish their preaching craft.” It is $14 from the UUA Bookstore.

Hewitt has an earlier book on worship, Story, Song and Spirit: Fun and Creative Worship Services for All Ages, which is $12 from the bookstore.

Fair Share Giving Guide is stewardship aid

Looking for a way to help congregants understand responsible levels of giving now that it’s time for the annual stewardship campaign? Share the UUA’s Suggested Fair Share Giving Guide with them.

It suggests a minimum financial commitment of 2 percent for congregants earning up to $25,000 and goes up from there, all the way to a full tithe of 10 per cent at the other end of the scale.

The guide can be especially helpful for new congregants who may be accustomed to different giving styles. Those who have been unchurched will appreciate knowing what appropriate levels of giving are. The guide can also be a reminder to longtime congregants who make small financial commitments that one of the responsibilities of membership is appropriate giving.

The amounts on the guide are suggestions only, of course. Congregants should also be made to understand that these are not goals to necessarily be achieved in a year, but goals to work toward.

‘Welcoming Children with Special Needs’ available as PDF

Welcoming Children with Special Needs, the 2004 book by Sally Patton, is out of print but is now available as a PDF on UUA.org.

The book is a resource about accepting special needs children into congregations. It includes information on common physical, mental, and emotional disabilities and disorders. It also has teacher training guidelines and strategies and techniques for inclusion. It is designed for religious educators, ministers, lay leaders, and parents.

Patton has advocated and worked with children labeled as disabled for more than 35 years. More information about Patton and her work is on her website, “Embrace the Spirit of the Child.” Her latest book is Don’t Fix Me, I’m Not Broken: Changing Our Minds About Ourselves and Our Children. She also has a post, “Teaching All of Our Children,” on the Call and Response blog of the UUA Lifespan Faith Development staff group.

Looking for a Skinner House discussion guide?

Wondering if there’s a study guide for that Skinner House book that you’d like to use for a religious education course? Now there’s a page on UUA.org devoted to Companion Resources for Skinner House Books.

In addition to study guides prepared by UUA staff and others, the resources include videos and UU World articles.

People are also invited to suggest other resources or create their own and submit them for posting on the site.

Restaurant workers subject of UUA Common Read

All Unitarian Universalists are invited to read the book Behind the Kitchen Door this winter and spring. The book, by Saru Jayaraman, is the 2013-14 UUA Common Read. Congregations are encouraged to use the book as part of adult education and book group discussions and also in worship, as a way of reflecting on congregants’ dining-out practices and the lives of those who create and serve restaurant meals.

The book describes how restaurant workers live on very low wages, and how poor working conditions, including discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens, affect the meals that are served to us. The author, who launched a national restaurant workers organization after 9/11, tells the stories of ten restaurant workers in cities across the United States as she explores the political, economic, and moral implications of eating out.

She explains that what is at stake is not only our own health, but the health and well-being of the second largest private sector workforce—10 million people, many of them immigrants and many of them people of color.

The author is cofounder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an organization working to improve conditions for restaurant workers. The book is a resource for the new minimum wage campaign announced July 18 by the UU Service Committee and the UUA. The campaign has a goal of raising the minimum wage to $10. The book, published by Cornell University Press earlier this year, is available from the UUA Bookstore for $21.95, with discounts for multiple copies. The book includes a free discussion guide.