Shed old processes to create vitality

Natalie Briscoe, a Congregational Life staff member for the UUA’s Southern Region, invites congregational leaders to undertake some “spring cleaning” in a recent post on the region’s blog. She suggests some things congregations might want to get rid of, including:

• A mission that is uninspiring, inaccurate, or old. A vision that is too small, old, or doesn’t lead you to where you want to go. An old covenant that isn’t practiced. Processes that no longer serve the congregation (such as committee structures, governance style, or communication processes).

• Along with old processes, how about old technologies? Are you still using a membership database from 1994? Do you still have Yahoo email groups? The internet, social media, and new database systems can streamline our congregations. We no longer need to waste time with outdated technologies.

• Silence around financial issues. Does your congregation have anxiety when it comes to speaking about money? Throw out the silence and start having honest conversations about what we can realistically do to financially support Unitarian Universalism in our communities. There are no tips or tricks; we just have to do it.

Briscoe’s complete blog post, from March 16, is here.


Now available: Skinner House eBooks

Big news! The UUA Bookstore and Skinner House Books have announced the launch of Skinner House eBooks. Sixteen titles are now available through Google eBooks, with more to come shortly. For a complete list of Skinner House eBooks and purchasing links, visit the UUA Bookstore website and click on the big red eBooks logo on the right side of the page.

Customers who buy Skinner House titles from Google will be able to read them on any eBook reader except the Kindle. The same titles will be available soon through the Amazon Kindle store as well.

Photo frame is a way to share church life

Want a way to spot guests on Sunday morning and build connections with members? Install a digital photo frame in your foyer. Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colo., did that a year ago, and it attracts people every Sunday, say staff members.

Digital frames, placed on a desktop or mounted on a wall, can hold more than 100 photos that are presented in a repeatable loop. Dee Ray, public relations chair at JUC, says photos can be loaded directly into the frame or you can use flash drives and SD memory cards, which can be loaded at home with different sets of photos and inserted at church.

Ray uses a graphics program that labels photos on their surface with the date, event, and names of participants (if practical). Ray chose a 15-inch frame for JUC. A 15-inch frame costs around $200 and a 10-inch one $80. Some frames can include music as well.

“I’ve gotten many compliments on this addition to our commons area,” she says. “People love to watch it. Those who have been around for some time get a feeling of nostalgia, and newer folks get a visual cue to the many programs we offer at JUC and a sense of the fun and excitement of our church life.”

A photo frame has the added benefit of giving first-timers something to engage with if they are not being spoken to. In July it can also be loaded with photos from the annual General Assembly, sharing that experience with those who did not attend. One precaution: Find a place for the frame where viewers won’t block traffic.

Technology expands learning opportunities

From July’s InterConnections feature story, now online at

Technology is changing the way congregations acquire information. There was a time not so long ago when a congregation interested in learning how to do a better annual stewardship drive or develop its leadership might invite a consultant in for a day or a weekend.

That can still be the best way to go, but more and more—because our lives are busier and because the economy has shrunk our resources—congregations are gathering information through online “webinars” and other electronic learning formats.

Take the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada in Reno. When it wanted to update its mission and vision statements last winter it knew that an outside consultant would be helpful in that process. It also knew that its budget probably wouldn’t stand the strain of bringing one in for a face-to-face workshop.

Go to the full article.

FCC prohibits some wireless mics

Some churches will have to stop using their present wireless microphones because the spectrum those microphones operate in has been sold by the Federal Communications Commission, according to an article in Your Church, an online publication of Christianity Today.

Microphones that operate in the 700 MHz band (698–806 MHz) cannot be used after June 12, says the FCC, which auctioned off the rights to that band in 2008 to (among others) Verizon and AT&T.  Some emergency service providers also operate in that band, says the FCC. After June 12 all other users are subject to fines and will likely suffer interference from the new traffic, and may themselves cause interference, according to the article. The 700 band was formerly between the frequencies used by television stations. With the transition to digital television last June 12 the 700 band began to be used by public safety entities and commercial providers of wireless services.

Another article, by the FCC, is here. The FCC estimates that 25 percent of wireless mics operate in the 700 spectrum. A list of the affected devices, compiled by the FCC, can be found here. You can also call the FCC’s Consumer Center at 1-888-225-5322 (voice) and 1-888-835-5322 (TTY) for more information. The FCC says a small portion of affected microphones can be retuned to another frequency, but most cannot.