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.

Organizing caring committees for small congregations

Small congregations often struggle to develop an effective caring committee or caring group. There’s the usual problem of too few volunteers, for one thing. But some congregations have found ways to respond to caring without developing the large caring structures that bigger congregations might have.

Here are several articles from InterConnections that look at the caring needs of smaller congregations and how to address them:

Beyond Casseroles: Caring Committees That Work

A Three-Person Membership Committee for Small Congregations

Membership Job Description (including Caring Committee functions)

‘Remembership’ Calls Help Keep Track of Members

Among the tips offered in these articles: Consider the entire congregation part of the caring team. Let people know you’ll be calling on them when a need arises. Remember that most people are generally happy to do a specific caring task, such as delivering a meal or giving a ride, if asked. We probably don’t ask people to do things for others enough. This way even if there is only one person interested in being “on” a caring committee, that person can keep track of caring needs and then call on others to do the actual caring tasks. This works best if that person is skilled at delegating.

 

 

What not to say to young adults

So, you know that it’s the right thing to do to talk to young adults when you see them on Sunday morning, correct? But what should you say? To help with that, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries has created a list of what not to say.

Don’t ask “How old are you?” “What do you do?” “What year are you in school?” or  “Are you new here?” says Carey McDonald, office director. “Age is just not important,” he adds. “Asking about work is also tricky because so many people are unemployed or underemployed. And asking about school implies that someone is a certain age.”

Instead, ask “What did you think of the service?” Or give them an opening like “I don’t think we’ve met, my name is . . .”

Rather than saying, “We need more young people,” say, “Great to meet you!” says McDonald. “Like everyone else, young adults want to be seen for who they are rather than as a token for their age group. And rather than asking, ‘Have you met our other young adult?’ say ,’May I introduce you to my friend?’ Don’t assume they only want to know other young adults.”

These questions and others are on a flyer, Coffee Hour Caution, which can be posted at your congregation. It might even serve as an opening for conversation. McDonald discusses the flyer further on the Youth and Young Adult Ministries blog Blue Boat.

 

Congregational exit interviews help us see ourselves

As fall comes on and we look around on Sunday mornings and notice that a few folks who were regulars last spring aren’t coming around anymore, it might be time to think about doing some exit interviews. Having someone call those no-shows will hopefully let you know why they quit coming.

Here are three sources of information about exit interviews, including the exit process formerly used by the UU Church of Berkeley in Kensington, Calif. The final document includes formats for exit interviews by letter and by phone:

Church Exit Interviews Measure Programs, Appeal

Doing Exit Interviews

Exit Interview Processes

Why Unitarian Universalism is right for Generation Y

The Rev. Renee Ruchotzke writes about Generation Y—the Millennials—on the UUA blog Growing Vital Leaders. Ruchotzke is Regional Leadership Development consultant for the Central East Regional Group of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

In a blog post from June 28 titled “To Be ‘Bona Fide,’” she quotes sociologist Robert Putnam, who notes in his book, American Grace, that the Millennials—born from the late ’70s to early 2000s—are less likely to have been raised in a particular religion than any previous generation and are less likely to believe that any one religion holds exclusive access to the “truth.” Millennials yearn for authenticity, she says, adding:

I believe this is good news for Unitarian Universalism. The promise of our faith is the promise of a living tradition, not the dry bones of old, irrelevant texts. The promise of our faith is the promise of personal wholeness; from our identity-based ministries to our antiracism, antioppression, and multicultural work. And the promise of our faith is the promise of being connected to something greater than ourselves . . .

The best gift we can give each generation is to embody that promise, to invite each new generation to join us, to nurture them as they become a part of our communities and grow in their own faith and commitment, and—most importantly—to step back and allow them to transform our living tradition as generations before have done.

Ruchotzke also recommends David Kinnaman’s book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith.

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.

 

Friendship Sunday works in Pennsylvania

Mark Bernstein, growth development consultant for the Central East Regional Group, composed of four districts of the Unitarian Universalist Association, has written a blog post describing the creative way that his home congregation held a “Bring a Friend Sunday.”

He said the UU Church of Delaware County, in Media, Pa., declared that the goal of the day, which it called “Friendship Sunday,” was not to gain more members but was simply to “enable our friends, neighbors, and loved ones to experience the place that has brought us such joy and meaning.” He said leaders asked members to invite their close friends to come by telling them “this is a community that is very important to me, a place where I feel at home. As someone who is also important to me, I want you to see this place and meet the people who mean so much to me.”

Bernstein said about forty people came as guests. He added, “Not all of our guests in attendance yesterday will become members of our congregation. But they now have a better understanding and appreciation of what our faith tradition is all about and perhaps they will help us spread the good news of Unitarian Universalism as they travel about their world. Like a stone tossed into a pond creating ripples that radiate out, Friendship Sunday created ripples that may influence others we have not yet met, or in ways we may never know.”

A broader definition of membership

The Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley, the UUA’s director of Congregational Life, writes on her blog “Learn Out Loud” about changing perceptions of membership in our congregations. Using the example of a young adult friend who is very involved and considers herself UU, but has not “signed the book,” Cooley asks, “What do we have to learn from her story? Perhaps the future of Unitarian Universalism does not depend upon more people ‘signing the book.’ Perhaps it depends upon us adjusting our understanding of what connection and commitment are.”

Cooley also writes about encouraging congregations to focus outwardly rather than simply being satisfied with creating communities of like-minded people. “What if we move from the (perhaps arrogant) statement of being ‘like-minded’ to seeing ourselves as ‘like-hearted’—coming together to offer our gifts to the world?”

Annual congregational certification process open

The Unitarian Universalist Association is asking for a new piece of information from congregations this year as part of the annual Certification of Membership process. For the first time the UUA is requesting the number of non-member UUs in a congregation. Congregational leaders have until February 1 to complete this form online.

One other change is that the time period for which financial information is requested is different this year. Leaders are asked to submit the actual operating expenses of their congregation for the most recently ended fiscal year rather than the budgeted amount for the current fiscal year.

The certification process opened November 15. To complete the form log into the Data Services Login Page for Congregations. When you are logged in you can certify your congregation’s membership and statistical data. Do this by selecting “Begin Certification of Membership 2011.” You can also update the congregation’s mailing and meeting addresses, phone number, email, etc.

Although anyone at your congregation can be authorized to input the congregation’s membership number on the website, the number that is entered must be certified as accurate by a minister or officer of the congregation. Certification numbers are used by the UUA to determine the number of delegates each congregation may send to General Assembly.

Membership professionals create organization

An organization has been created to support congregational staff members who work with membership issues. The group, Unitarian Universalist Association of Membership Professionals [UUAMP], was officially created at General Assembly 2011.

The organization is open to anyone who is a paid staff member of a congregation and who works with membership issues. Marie Murton, Membership Coordinator at Fox Valley UU Fellowship, in Appleton, Wisconsin, is president.

She notes, “Membership professionals are in a unique position to help our congregations grow in many ways. Not only do we help people join the congregation, but we also help those members grow on their spiritual paths and in community.

“Though there are fewer membership professionals than most other staff positions, more and more congregations are understanding the importance of having someone dedicated to the membership role. UUAMP is an effort to make sure congregations have a place to go for membership questions and concerns.”

The website has a comprehensive list of membership resources, including information about workshops, webinars,  how to welcome and integrate new people, and how to create a membership professional position.Membership also includes access to an email list, Mem-Pros and other opportunities to problem-solve with other membership professionals. An annual membership is $40.