Q and A: How to increase Facebook views

Q. I’ve taken many of the suggestions about doing church Facebook better (InterConnections, March 1, 2014) but am very frustrated by the rate of views allowed by Facebook algorithms. Last year I regularly got 100 views, sometimes 1,000 or more, and now they are very small. Someone told me that about one in five posts get through to the news feeds, more likely the ones with videos. I always have a photo. I can see the content is not reaching my own news feed. What can we do to change that? I changed the option on my website to receive notifications from the church website, but still am not getting all the posts.

Sara Morrison Neil, membership program director, First Parish, Framingham, Mass.

A. Facebook changes privacy controls, news feed algorithms, et al. per its own business needs, not per the user’s needs. Only when user needs tie directly to its bottom line will Facebook suit UU needs, let alone any special interest group.

Sara’s not getting the traffic because she has no control, not only over what Facebook does but over how friends or followers to her page set their Facebook accounts. Unless everyone on both sides of the dialogue identifies each other as “close friends” or “followers,” there’s no way for her content to be viewed consistently by those she’s trying to reach. And therein lies the crux of the Facebook problem. Forget about covenant because the technology works against it. Even with the setting of “followers,” there’s no guarantee people will see her posts.

June Herold, former executive of AOL, member of the UU Church of Arlington, Va., and author of REACH: A Digital Ministry Program.

Encourage first-time GAers with cash, support

The UU Congregation of Princeton, N.J., typically sends five to eight adults and several youth to General Assembly each year. Over the years most of them have tended to be “GA regulars,” folks who had attended several previous GAs.

Like many congregations, UUCP longed to interest new people in GA but hadn’t had much luck. This year the membership committee tried something new to do just that. Since cost is typically a major deterrent to attending GA, the committee raised $800 to pay much of the cost by soliciting donations at two Sunday brunches. It also promoted GA through the congregation’s website, newsletter, orders of service, and from the pulpit. It let it be known it wanted to send someone “new” with the money it had raised.

That person turned out to be Kevin Trayner, co-chair of the Religious Education Council at UUCP.  He and his wife, Lisa, began attending five years ago “for the kids” but quickly found their own places in the congregation. He was recruited as an RE teacher and both continue to teach, including OWL, the UUA’s sexuality education program.

“I think that the experience of attending GA will give me a better grounding in the overall UU experience,” said Traynor. “It will be valuable to me to connect with other UUs from different backgrounds, and to share that experience with others. Part of it, also, for me, is to educate myself so that when I talk to newcomers I can better speak to ‘who are we.’”

Several congregational leaders, including the Rev. Bill Neely, met with Trayner to fill him in on GA and help him register. He’ll attend GA sessions related to welcoming guests and integrating people into the life of the congregation.

“We plan to meet with him after GA to discuss what he learned that can help us with welcoming,” said Lisa Roche, co-chair of the membership committee. “We’re hoping that because he’s active in RE, this will also lead to closer ties between the RE council and the membership committee. And we want to work with him on welcoming in his role as RE co-chair.”

Roche offers the following tips toward encouraging GA attendance:

  • Start promoting GA in the fall.
  • Talk it up among other committees.
  • Raise a substantial amount of money.
  • Show videos of events at past GAs.

She said the committee hopes to try again in coming years to recruit others to attend GA.

Another option for help with GA costs is the Davidoff Fund for Lay Leadership. It offers grants to lay leaders whose congregations have not been represented at GA by non-clergy in the past three years or more. Two scholarships remain this year.

Certification deadline is February 3

The UUA’s online system for annual certification of membership for UU congregations is now open. All congregations are required to log in to their online accounts and submit this report before the deadline on Monday, February 3 at 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Congregations must submit their certified number of members and financial statistics from their recently ended fiscal year, including total operating expenditures. Learn more and review the certification process online, or contact data_services@uua.org with questions.

Congregations that do not certify by the deadline are not eligible to send voting delegates to General Assembly 2014.

Congregations can use their online accounts throughout the year to update their lists of member names and addresses to ensure delivery of UU World magazine. Changes in leadership can also be recorded throughout the year using the my.UUA.org account system.

Letter: What to do about lack of volunteers

My name is Dan Kirchoff and I’m a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast, Maine. I’ve been enjoying the Interconnections e-mail newsletter, especially a recent article (or perhaps I should say chain of articles) about the digital congregation. I’ve been working with others to form a Communications Committee in our church and we’ve been studying the initial article as well as all the blogs, tip sheets and such with great interest. I very much appreciate you folks providing us with that.

One issue I’ve see come up in our church, as well as my previous UU church in Rockland, Maine, is volunteer overload. Perhaps you’ve already had articles on this subject that I’ve missed, but it might be well worth re-running. All too often the need for volunteers at church outstrips the available manpower and a new member who is willing to do something gets overloaded with requests to join multiple committees, special tasks forces and councils. I’ve seen others (and felt the urge myself) pull back from participating in church as a result of this overload of requests. It’s as if the church “powers that be” discover “we’ve got a live one” and it’s all downhill from there.
Not too long ago, I was part of a cooperative art gallery in our area of Maine and while things can be hectic with 30 artists all trying to work together, they had some very good ideas. One exceptional requirement for membership in the gallery was that everyone was expected to participate on ONE committee or take on ONE task in the gallery’s function. We had full participation, lots of diversity of ideas, and complete ownership of what was happening there. I’ve often thought of how this might be extended to the functioning of our church in Belfast.
My thought is if everyone in the church’s congregation was encouraged to do just one thing—even if it’s just to join the choir—then we would have an abundance of participation and the diversity of thought and ideas and action would be rich indeed. The idea is not to have one person do five or six things (although since there are members with lots of time and energy on their hands, it also would not necessarily be discouraged) but to have five or six people all doing one thing each. Is it impossible? I wonder if other UU churches have been able to do this, thereby breaking the chain of overuse of a few qualified but very tired people.
I have yet to convince our church council to embark on such a mission, but I’m still working on it. We could even have entry-level, new-member participation slots such as greeters, hospitality and the choir (I’ve found that you make more friends in church just by joining the choir). Then these now-seasoned participators can move up to committees and task forces, eventually ascending to leadership positions. So far, I’ve heard of no such UUA church volunteer initiative, but perhaps it’s time we had one.
Perhaps if you have information on this topic, it could be shared.
Thanks for your attention and I appreciate any feedback you folks might have.
Dan Kirchoff
UU Belfast, Maine

 

Editor’s Note: Dan, many congregations make it clear to new members that the congregation can only function if everyone helps out in some way. They point out that giving of one’s time is an important aspect of membership. Often this happens in new-member orientation courses, but there are other ways to make this point as well. InterConnections will be happy to publish responses to Dan’s question.

 

 

UUAMP supports membership professionals

When Marie Murton became responsible for membership functions at Fox Valley UU Fellowship at Appleton, Wisc., in 2005––her title is now Congregational Life Coordinator––she spent months combing the UUA website searching for membership resources. It wasn’t long before she began compiling those resources on Fox Valley’s website.

They have since been moved to UUAMP.org, the website of the UU Association of Membership Professionals. The association was founded in 2011 to help paid and volunteer membership professionals in UU congregations find the resources and other support they need.

The mission of the organization is to develop and support the ministry of membership through professional development and collaboration. Said Murton, “We want to help grow Unitarian Universalism––not only through numbers, but through spiritual depth and connection.”

The organization meets annually at General Assembly and has smaller gatherings around the country. It also brings members together through webinars, book discussions, a monthly newsletter, mentoring, and an email list. Membership in UUAMP is $40.

 

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.

Tips to recruit and retain volunteers

On the blog Growing Vital Leaders, the Rev. Renee Ruchtozke, leadership development consultant for the Central East Regional Group of the Unitarian Universalist Association, offers some tips for recruiting volunteers. In brief, find out what each member’s gifts and passions are and help them find a role that feeds them, notes Ruchtozke, drawing on information from Bonnie Blosser, the director of lifelong learning at the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, Kans. See the blog entry “Your Trash, Another’s Treasure.” Also read the comments for more information.

If someone is being fed, say Ruchtozke and Blosser, they are less likely to burn out or fade away. And if you find a volunteer who seems to be struggling, make it possible for them to give up part of that job to someone who might enjoy it more. Or leave it empty to see if someone will step into it. It’s important, Blosser says, to “walk beside” the volunteer. “Sometimes just knowing you have someone you can turn to helps you to plow through.”

Growing Vital Leaders is a blog of the Central East Regional Group that focuses on ideas, tips, and tools on leadership formation. Recent blog topics have included congregational communications and management issues.

Many other articles and several webinars on volunteer recruitment are here.

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.

How to update member information online

When someone formally joins your congregation, how soon can their name be sent to the UUA so they can begin receiving UU World magazine? Immediately.

All the information to change your membership list is at myuua.org. Someone in the congregation will need to be registered on the site. Each congregation may have up to four Data Services Updaters. You can print out a membership list if you wish, add and delete individuals, change marital status and addresses, and perform other membership functions.

 

 

Membership certification deadline is February 1

Congregations are required to certify their membership numbers with the Unitarian Universalist Association by Friday, February 1 at 5 p.m. Pacific time. The membership number a congregation certifies is the basis for determining the number of voting delegates for the congregation at General Assembly 2013 and for calculating the congregation’s Annual Program Fund Fair Share contribution to the UUA.

Certification can be accomplished online by logging into your congregation’s Data Services account with your congregation’s four-digit identification number and a password.

Complete information about this process is here. If your congregation prefers to certify with a paper form and postal mail, contact Nick Rafael in the UUA’s Information Technology Services office as soon as possible: 617-948-4654 or nrafeal@uua.org.