Growth data offers snapshot of congregations

The Rev. Stefan Jonasson, the UUA’s director of Growth Strategies and Large Congregation Development, has analyzed the annual certification data submitted by congregations each February and has created a snapshot of our congregations.

Among his findings:

• The average size of a UU congregation’s adult membership is 148.

• Twenty-eight percent of congregations reported an increase of more than three percent in adult membership in the past year and almost thirty-three percent reported declines of more than three percent.

• Declines of more than three percent were significantly more common among congregations of up to 60 members and midsize congregations (161-300) than other size categories. Growth exceeding three percent was most common among large congregations (401-600) and midsize congregations (161-300).

Jonasson concluded that, “The presence of midsize churches as a leading category for both growth and decline suggests that this is a relatively volatile category for membership when compared to others. It suggests both opportunities and problems to solve.”

Read more about Jonasson’s findings, including how congregations fared during the past decade, at the blog of the Office of Growth Strategies, called Growing Unitarian Universalism.


Growth Strategies office creates blog

The UUA Office of Growth Strategies has created a blog, Growing Unitarian Universalism, which it will use to share ideas and strategies for growing congregations. The blog will share research, resources, articulate strategies, identify good practices, present guest commentaries, and invite comments from congregational leaders.

The office was established in 2011 “to help restore the Unitarian Universalist Association to a position of active evangelism,” writes the Rev. Stefan Jonasson, director of the office. He notes that he and Tandi Rogers, growth strategies specialist and a credentialed religious educator, have surveyed UUA growth initiatives past and present, identified resources from inside and outside the UUA, and  consulted with individuals and groups “who care about the health and vitality of Unitarian Universalism.”

One early conclusion: “Along the way, we’ve discerned that the best programs and initiatives seem to have a ‘shelf life,’ after which they need to be retired since they begin to produce diminishing returns, however effective they may have been at their peak,” says Jonasson. “We’ve realized that our institutions reward caution much more than responsible risk-taking. We’ve seen how technology is outpacing our imagination for its effective use.”

He adds that the Office of Growth Strategies can’t single-handedly increase the number of UUs, nor is it focused simply on numerical growth. Rather, growth is the work of all UUs and it includes changing hearts and transforming lives, in addition to increasing numbers of UUs. “Our office’s role is to inform, equip, and inspire Unitarian Universalists in this work,” he says.