Archive for the ‘emerging congregations’ Category

Report from Multi-Site Congregations Workshop

November 12, 2009

Just a quick update on my last post, about the Multi-Site Congregations Workshop we held on November 7. [See previous post for details.]

Rev. Christine Robinson of First Unitarian in Albuquerque did an excellent job of introducing the topic and sharing the evolution of their project from the “idea” stage to now — they are a congregation meeting in several locations, as well as multiple venues at the Albuquerque site. We added information about the San Diego project and some learnings from evangelical congregations, courtesy of Pacific Southwest District Executive Ken Brown.

So, how was it? Well, in Kansas City, teams from two congregations participated, along with a couple of people who live 50 miles away from their home church. In Saint Paul, there were teams from four congregations.

All who were there felt that their time was well spent, and that the information presented was worth considering in their future planning. While we didn’t ask for commitments from those present, we do hope to hear more from the congregations as they begin to think about how they might use the Multi-Site Congregation concept to serve people in their areas and beyond.

The workshop was recorded, and we’re looking for ways to make it available to other congregations in our district, and perhaps in other districts. More to come!


Big Ideas for Small Congregations – a new resource!

January 21, 2008

Years ago now, Anne Heller wrote a book called Churchworks which quickly became a primary resource for Unitarian Universalist congregations because it covered almost all aspects of congregational life and did it in an engaging way. I’ve recently run across a book which is, I think, just as helpful, and its target audience is small congregations. The book was written by Jane Dwinell and Ellen Germann-Melosh, both former Unitarian Universalist Association District Staff members with extensive experience working in small congregations. It’s called Big Ideas for Small Congregations: a friendly guide for leaders. The book, available for $20 [free shipping within the U.S.], is available from Spirit of Life Publishing, PO Box 243, Montpelier, VT 05601.

Big Ideas is organized in three sections: Centering, Connecting, and Creating Change. Centering has to do with the organizational aspects of congregational life, such as leadership, finance, a place to meet, communication, managing conflict. Connecting is all about the relational aspect of congregational life that brings people together — worship, religious exploration, hospitality, pastoral care. Creating Change is about mission [“why do we exist?”], growth [“are we serving those who would appreciate our lifegiving message?”], and how to start a new congregation.

This resource is chock-full of good, practical ideas and would be an excellent study guide for small or new emerging congregations. A group of leaders could read a chapter a month and then do a reality check on their own activities, to see if changes or improvements are needed. The chapter on Money would be a great place to start; there’s a can-do spirit that pervades the material.

I have just one concern about this book — it’s in about 10-point type, and it’s a little hard on the eyes.

But that’s minor. If you are a leader or a member of a small congregation [less than 150 people in worship], this book is a handy little resource guide for you! I’m going to be recommending it to our congregations in Prairie Star District.

Starting a New Congregation

October 25, 2007

In my last post, I said that a good topic for the next post would be Starting a New Congregation. Well, Don Skinner beat me to the punch and wrote an article about that for the online UU World.  One of the featured congregations is from our District — the Northeast Iowa Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Decorah, Iowa.

Several years ago, Pacific Northwest District created a brochure to help people considering this learn about resources available to them. With their permission, we have adapted it for people in Prairie Star District. It’s available from our office.

You can find Don’s article here:  

Down the roller coaster, at lightning speed!

October 17, 2007

Wow – it’s mid-October already, and I’m barely keeping up. This fall has been extraordinarily busy, and things keep popping up all the time. I have just enough time to take a deep breath before starting something new!

Our new national media campaign started with a full page ad in Time magazine earlier this month. To help congregations get ready, Phil Lund and I did two one-hour workshops online — 10 Top Things You Can Do NOW To Welcome Visitors. As part of that conversation, Phil created an extensive list of resources so that participants could dig more deeply into them after the workshop. If you would like that list, email him at  and say you want the list of URLs on welcoming visitors. We learned a lot by doing these first-ever online workshops and will be offering more, with better technology, later in the year. [Phil did most of the work to put on the workshop – thanks, Phil!!]

Association Sunday was this past weekend. We are grateful to the 30+ congregations that told us they planned to participate. It was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the connections that exist among our congregations. The UUA has announced that the money raised will be doubled by some generous donors. Here’s how it will break out: 50% will be used for the media campaign; 25% will be used to support ministers of color and their congregations; and 25% will be coming back to districts, proportionate to the money raised in those districts, to be used for congegational growth-related projects. In November, our District Board will begin the discussion about how to distribute the money that comes back to us here in Prairie Star.

Sarah Greene, our District Administrator, worked diligently to get our first email newsletter out to people last week. If you did not receive it, go to our Web site at  You can read it there and also subscribe to future issues. We’ve had lots of positive comments; thanks, and we know it will be even better as we have more experience with it.

In the last month, I’ve had inquiries from people in western Kansas and in southern Iowa about starting new UU fellowships there. The question is usually the same — “there are a few of us around here who would like to get a group going. We’re just a few liberals in a very conservative area, but we’d like to find out if there are more people who would be interested. Can you help us?” Yes, we can, and perhaps that will be the topic of my next blog entry.

Thanks to all who are providing leadership for their congregations! It is deeply appreciated!

Time for another deep breath, and on to the next thing!