Slyypper's Outward Orientation

Friday, May 12, 2006

Preserve Net Neutrality!

My pal Gigi Sohn runs an outfit called Public Knowledge. I would not post this video were it not for two things: 1. the fight for Net Neutrality is important; and 2. Gigi's a cool gal.

So, watch the video...




and then write Congress, please:


Save the Net Now

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Roles of communication

Our UU fellowship held a town hall today, organized by its Committee on Ministry, having to do with growth, I think. Two thoughts and one piece of feedback filtered through my sugar-imbued brain during the meeting.

The two thoughts were:

1. Unless an exchange has taken place verbally, people don't feel that they've been fully communicated with. People were saying things like, "that phonecall I received last night on the phone chain is why I'm here. I also heard, "I miss having the announcements at the beginning of services; I wish that we didn't have to cut that piece short."

2. An important part of communication is leaving people with the feeling that they've had their say. Venue is important to inclusion...different people feel comfortable in different types of settings when trying to communicate.

The one piece of feedback was that someone out there thought our board was not doing a good job communicating with the fellowship. Whether this is a matter of not communicating fully, or not providing a sounding board for opinion, I can't say.

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The openness of committees

From Page 33 of TMJ, the following suggestions to *test* a committee's openness to newcomers:

· Does your congregation publish a guide to its groups and activities that can be handed to newcomers? Do you hold an activities fair annually?

· Do you have multiple ways to get the word out about upcoming events and opportunities (such as newsletters, bulletin boards, pulpit or bulletin announcements, e-mail lists, and Web pages)? Do you place updated announcements on your Web page to attract new people, as well as to inform existing members?

· Do committees and groups publish meeting times on a master calendar or other open forum? Are meetings held at people’s houses or on the congregation’s property (which may be less threatening to newcomers)? If events are held off-site, are clear directions provided to attendees?

· Do newcomers or new members receive an interest survey or other means of indicating how they would like to connect first? Is someone (member or staff) responsible for following up with these surveys, or do they sit in a drawer somewhere?

· Do membership committee members, greeters, ministers, or other key leaders pass on word of newcomers’ interests and talents?

· Is safe and stimulating child care provided for adult education classes or other key congregational events?

· Are newcomers invited to “try on” committee work with the understanding that they are there to learn and experience rather than simply to fill a slot that existing members are not willing to take? Are new committee members mentored, formally or informally, by more experienced members?

· Does your congregation offer programming designed to help newcomers who are ready to explore whether membership might be right for them?

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Pop music & reaching people part 2

For a different type of pop-cult experience, go to Granger Community Church's visitors area and choose "Welcome & Experience" from the playlist.

I struggle with this video every time I view it....the music is pop-rock, the faces are sooo white...in some ways very much like a UU congregation, but not in others.

It is obvious to me, reflecting on this video, that reaching the MOST people is not the same as reaching ALL the people, and that Granger has made its choices and plans to live with them. We UUs do the same thing every day, but the intentionality is just not as clear in cases where there is no stated mission.

Perhaps the first thing that the communications director of this church, who has some extremely useful ideas about church marketing published at her blog, would say is "keep the focus on the guest." Her name is Kem Meyer, and Googling her would surely show you, dear readers, her broad influence on this conversation. If you do Google, it may be well not to conflate marketing with mission. Grangerites are much more Bible-y folk than the average UU, so, it's just not the same gallon of cider. The apples they're pressing are off the Jesus tree, but the fruits by which we'd care to be known are more ... cross-pollinated.

We UUs long for diversity, but we do not know how to fulfill our longing. One love.

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Pop music & reaching people

This posting comes with a huge tip of the hat to a certain U2 fan I go to fellowship with, who sent me this link to the U2 Eucharist.

Including popular music in services is something I think about every time I turn on the radio. And then, I think some more...

Pop & folk music is tribal, it defines groups of people, and only with some effort do we really include ourselves in the tribes we didn't grow up with...that need for effort & reflection makes it a *very useful tool* in helping people to break down their boundaries around race, class, ethnicity, age, gender, *if the congregants are invited to the music* in a way they can understand. I am certain that even the elders can enjoy inclusion of pop music if the context of its presentation is made clear to them. That is one of the better aspects of the U2 Eucharist in my opinion: the Episcs are part of the broadly publicized ONE Campaign, and so is Bono, so it's pretty much a natural, creative outgrowth.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

"My Butt's in the Pew at the 4th UU"

a bare-assed list of quick & dirty hints I picked at the recent marketing seminar sponsored by the New York Metro District....

1. Flyer for windshields: "I like your bumpersticker, you'd love my fellowship/congregation/church"
2. Auto sunshield with a logo
3. Clothing donation drop boxes sponsored by a UU church
4. adverts in my favorite cab drivers' cabs
5. buy subscription lists from parenting magazines
6. display children's art, made in RE classes in the windows of the fellowsip hall
7. Kid graphics on the roadsign, e.g., colorful nadprints up the side, etc.
8. Book: "Salted with Fire"
9. Flyer inserts for newspapers
10. Web banner ad at http://www.hvan.net
11. contract with building renters to advert for UU in their event publicity
12. what the heck is a doorknob hanger?
13. sneak bookmarks with adverts into library books
14. referral campaigns with prizes awarded
15. Know the objections to attendance and build programs that overcome them
16. Saddleback Church, Los Angeles
17. Look for lifecycle transition points of your target audience and market to those points
18. Parking Attendants....!
19. Membership not allowed for first year
20. five questions (for next posting, promise)
21. Mystery Shopping
22. don't ask newcomers to stand, ask designated newcomer greeters to stand

and, bringing up the rear:

23. Logo for a pair of sweatpants: "My Butt's in the Pew at the 4th UU"

!!!!!

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Dick Hamm, meet Jacques Derrida

It's not really postmodern per se (like, I would really even know exactly what that would be, to tell you the truth), but Mr. Hamm's article about the ins and outs of governing a church with a Small Board, as opposed to a gigunda monster-sized board, is one I'm reading & re-reading...

Postmodern Church Governance, by Dick Hamm

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If....then

I have contemplated recently that "if...then" is just not the best way to approach life. As in..."If I only had a BlackBerry with Bluetooth wireless capability and one of those cute little portable fold-up keyboards...THEN I would post to my blog more often."

Not that my premise is wrong, it's just not the most creative thinking I've ever done. For instance, If I could get myself to post shorter entries, I'd also likely post more often. Spending two hours concocting a post is a disincentive to regular posting.

Not only that, but making shorter posts is something that's within my power to do NOW. My employer may eventually give me a BlackBerry to use, but until then, I can't afford one on my own, so I gotta make do. (the notion of being logged in to my employer 24/7 is a bit daunting...a BlackBerry from the boss is not exactly a free lunch.)

So...shorter posts, more often. My new resolution.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Twelve Characteristics of A Vital Congregation

TMJ derives their list from Kennon Callahan's Planning for Growth and Vitality Weekend Workshops. The following twelve points are TMJ's, from Callahan's work.

Pertaining to a church's connections to and among people, a vital congregation

1. has specific concrete mission-oriented objectives
2. connects with and cares for its people
3. engages in holistic, cooperative, warm and energetic worship
4. consciously and intentionally nurtures significant relational groups so that members may find safe niches that support them as individuals
5. trains its lay leaders to prioritize relational attitudes towards and caring for the larger community (meaning, I assume, both the church and the community it's nested within)
6. has a streamlined organizational structure and uses democratic processes in decision-making

and pertaining to functional traits, a vital congregation

7. has two to three fully competent programs that serve, rather than use, people
8. is physically accessible to the community and exudes a sense of welcoming on Sunday mornings
9. has 'high visibility'in terms of both geographic and 'grapevine' visibility with both churched and unchurched people in the community
10. has adequate parking, land and landscaping
11. has adequate space & facilities
12. has solid financial resources and educates members about different ways of giving

There is no "chicken & egg" controversy for the writers of this list: for them, all good things come to those who have a clearly defined mission and have set reasonable and definite goals.

The list does not specifically address communications, which is interesting...communications may be read into several of the functional characteristics, but I'm not seeing "vital churches communicate well within themselves and with their communities" as being a definite point.

Those who are curious, turn to pages 13 and 14 of TMJ and tell me what you think. Can a church without a mission thrive? Furthermore, how can a church with only two or three clearly defined goals satisfy enough people to keep the tushes in the pews? Is a puzzlement, to be sure.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

oh, but I've been busy!

It's been over two weeks since I've made a posting to this blog. My life took a temporary turn toward the theatre, but that's all finished now.

In the meantime, the more delightful and interesting readings I have had at other blogs, UU and otherwise, are these:

Sister Scorpion, via the Progressive Faith Blog-Con's weekly carnival of progressive religious blogs

PeaceBang getting incensed at BrideZillas

Chutney questioning the White Allies movement within the UU

Hope these provoke thoughts, if so, post a comment please!

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Difference

Radical Hospitality is the new buzz at the UU and other religious organizations seeking to open the tent flaps to potential congregants who are not of this mainstream...or perhaps to provide education and encouragement if it just so happens that the congregants are mainstream as all get-out...

As a matter of fact, pages 25 and 26 of TMJ (hey, great acronym!) address the ups & downs of tight knitted-ness. It's cool to be part of a place where the culture is really strong, pleasantly quirky and assertively itself. Speaking for myself, it was cool to discover such a place, but sometimes frustrating to continue as a member.

TMJ suggests many resources for outreach to various populations. Rather than repeating those resources here, most of which are available at the UUA website, here are Slyypper's Recommendations for Getting to Know your LGBTQ, minority, as in Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American, immigrant, disabled, and low income and low education level neighbors...and yes, the youth deserve a post of their own. Not that they need me to talk for them...

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

New Members & Purpose

Unitarians being over-committEEd is a joke that still gets laughs.

I think the real problem is that we are over-committEd:

1. we try to act without clearly defined purpose, in the form of either a stated mission or either a broad or local ministry;
2. and it's often same people serving on committees and doing work over and over, leading to exhaustion and staleness.

Some congs actually ask members to serve on a committee as a condition of membership, a service that would perhaps bring fresh opinions to some of these tasks. They get to sign the book, make a pledge AND are assigned to a committee short-term, until they find their feet and can make a more informed choice as to where they'd like to serve.

Atlanta North UU does this: They stick their new members on the Greeting Committee short-term and they greet everyone coming thru the door in partnership with a seasoned member. This Southern congregation has 667 members...not bad, hey?

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Evangelism - a wing & a prayer

It's a very Christian word, from a Greek root, and the meaning apparently has to do with spreading the good news, with "Good News" being synonymous with the Gospel.

Personally, I think the best evangelism is doing the work of the angels and not just trying to convert people.

No, I don't believe in the existence of supernatural beings with big fluffy wings. I'm stained with Christian metaphors from my upbringing, and that's what I tend to draw from when using the English language, which is not just stained with this religion but thorougly dyed by it.

The topic of evangelism makes me somewhat grumpy and critical (more than usual). In the event I am feeling more...even tempered about the subject, I'll post again.

Incidentally, The Membership Journey begins with throwing terms at the reader like evangelize & proselytize. The terms are appropriately examined and teased, thank God.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

No Higher Authority

From Page 8 of the UUA's new publication, the Membership Journey:

"In Unitarian Universalism no higher authority creates a congregation; in fact, a congregation is formed only if people are willing to constitute one. Membership, then, is the heart of our Unitarian Universalist congregational life."

If your religious values are not tied to salvation, what keeps your butt in the pew? With the fear factor scrubbed out of the theology, why not just go out & act on principles? Of course, most people can't or won't function that way...fear still exists, the need for love & companionship still exist, and there still are mysteries left to be explored on the various points of the continuum between the self and the way-out-there.

The section in which the above quote appears also offers definitions ofcongregational growth. Their points are drawn from a book by Loren B. Mead entitled "More Than Numbers: The Way Churches Grow." Mead's book is published by the Alban Institute, an organization which provides consultative services to churches.

The section ends with a link to a page at the UUA site on evangelism Unitarian-Universalist style. When I get around to reading it I'm sure there will be lots to talk about.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Church Marketing Sucks?

I also intend to read this site and make comments.

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What's an Outward Orientation, anyway?

The UUA has a new publication called The Membership Journey. Page 19 is a list of things that members can do to be more welcoming to newcomers, raise awareness of UU-ism in their communities, and yes, evangelize a bit...that is, to develop an outward orientation to their religious faith.

Kudos to Art Brewer at First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto for developing this wonderful tool.

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