Saturday, August 27, 2005

Did I die and go to Heaven?

Nope! I just checked out the new UU WORLD website. It looks great. So light an airy. I'm pleased to see that with the move from 5 world issues to 4 there is a corresponding investment in a more dynamic website and that the site is well done.

NOW we have a great website for our "quarterly denominational magazine" ( and a much improved website for our association (

What's next? I think we need a kick @$$ site for people who are new to our movement. A.k.a. a seeker site. Something with no insider nonsense, UUisms, association business, etc...

I'm pleased to say that I've prioritized this as one of UU PLANET's projects for the coming year. It is time to pull together a fabulous team of people to develop what I see as a grassroots produced or developed seeker site. Where will this seeker site live? -- a domain I saved from the religious right. Yes, died and went to a biblical heaven. A sad sad tale and a domain I'd now stay away from. God help those UU wannabees who try going to that site as their first attempt to learn about us.

After seeing the mega bible site located at the .com I found that was not registered and registered it. After several failed attempts to give it to the UUA I parked it. It is still parked to this day.

Given the focus on UU growth and evangelism today I do believe it is time for this parked domain to be unparked. So, over the coming months please look for updates on this project both here and on the UUPLANET newsletter.

I have some ideas for this site. Do you have ideas? I know UU do. Let me have 'em.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Miracle" snow at my home church

Looking at the UU news as listed on Google I just came upon a story that tells of a pile of snow appearing outside of a Unitarian Universalist church on a recent hot August day. To my surprise it was my HOME church in Providence, RI that had this "miracle" snow appear.

The real miracle is that this story got coverage in our local paper, the Providence Journal, and was picked up by other papers as well.

Since I now live in the city where my wife is a UU minister I had to do some investigating. It would seem that someone raided the pile of "snow" outside the Brown University skating rink.

Though I'm happy for their media coverage, I do wish that it was due to some good work, not a prank. If only they had called all the TV stations, set up a "miracle snow cone sale", and given the proceeds (at eBay prices) to a local charity. That would be news worthy.

Ah, the First Untiarian Church of Providence...

Which kind of CEO are we asking our ministers to be?

Who is behind the present push towards senior ministers serving as CEOs? That I'd love to know.

If you look at the business world and the CEO model some are now recommending there is volumes of literature suggesting that the best CEO knows how to trust, empower and support great staff people.

There is a great article on TEAM MINISTRY in a recent interconnections article.
UUA InterConnections: Collaborative Leadership In Churches' Best Interests

If your congregation is looking to move to a CEO model, make sure you find out if they are trying to move towards an older model where the "boss" calls all the shots, or a more cutting edge CEO model where the staff has a team leader but is a TEAM.

Have stories of UU CEO success or horror? I'd love to hear from you.

FYI -- Be careful where you stick your Policy Governance. It can send a dysfunctional UU leadership-ministry structure straight to HELL.

UUA Lay Leadership Drive Time Essays

At General Assembly 2005 the UUA started distributing discs of what they are calling "Drive Time Essays." These are short informational essays on focused topics for lay leaders.

The first set of these DTE's are now available online as PDF text files and in streaming audio. This is a great resource to share with your leadership.

UUA Programs & Services: Lay Leadership Drive Time Essays

UU's and Study Circles

I've been talking to many UU leaders (after trainings, guest speaking, call me for scheduling at 401 855-0037) and the issue of how to do outreach keeps coming up.

A great way to reach out into the community is to DO SOMETHING in the community. Don't just look for ways to get people to come to your church -- when you become a valued partner in the larger world people will take notice and start checking you out.

So the question therefore becomes what to do... There are endless options. Here is a new one for you. Our congregations are doing amazing things via small group ministry. People need to talk. Why not help the larger community talk about important issues? We can use what we've learned about connection, meaning and engagement in UU small groups and bring it out of the church.

This is an amazing model for social action. And the resources already exist!

There is an organization called the Study Circles Resource Center which is producing incredible resources on making this kind of dialogue happen. They have resources on using what they call "study circles" and I playfully call "secular small group ministry" to explore the following issues:

Civil Liberties and Homeland Security
Criminal justice
Student success / Achievement gap
Growth and sprawl
Neighborhoods and families
Police-community relations
U.S. policy In Iraq

Many of these are topics UU's are already involved with. Why not connect your leaders with the study circle people, the resources, and have your congregation be the group that made these essential conversations happen?

Go forth and get people talking. Its the UU thing to do.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Food and Scarcity

I recently guest preached at a small congregation. There were 30 people attending at most -- a good sunday. When I went to the coffee hour/fellowship gathering there was an amazing spread. It looked as if they were expecting fifty or more people. They had sweets, veggies & dip, chips and little hot dogs. I asked if it was a special occasion.

"Yes. Its Sunday!"

Obviously food is one of the things that makes them feel good about their community. They coordinate volunteers to make sure there is a phenominal spread every time. We all lingered and talked and talked and fed our stomachs AND especially our souls. I left feeling great (and ready for a nap).

This is in stark contrast to another church I speak at regularly. They have multiple buildings, multiple staff, an endowment and are worried sick about money. Not too long ago they started placing a tin can next to the coffee for donations. This wasn't even fair trade coffee.

Soon after, still looking to save, they lowered the quality of and volume of the food. Now, I believe they are going through a period without any food for guests, visitors, or members.

Last time I was in their coffee hour I felt sad. The kind of sad I feel whever I see a person who is in need. You know, down and out and in need of food, shelter or some spare change.

This is NOT a good image for a church to project. If they can't figure out how to feed guests and members how well can they be feeding the rest of their beings?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Pathways is about People

If you check out the Pathways Church website, the site of the UUA's first large church startup, it says pathways is about people. And part of being about people is communicating with them! Those familiar with UU churches and our websites will notice how slick this website is. Pathways is putting into practice some important lessons which most churches are slow to pick up on.

Your website is the most important publication you have and tells the world who and what you are.

You should have pictures of people on your website.
It should be clear and easy to navigate.
Your message should be obvious.
You should have easy ways to contact human beings.
Your options for joining groups should be very prominant.

I love that Pathways has a "Community" link that takes you to info about small groups. It is VERY clear how Pathways is going to help you connect to people.

Some advice: Imagine that your only publication is your website. Put everything you offer online. Have a weekly or bi-monthly email update for anyone in the world interested in your church. Make it EASY to know what is going on and how to get involved.

What? Oh... You're right. That takes skill, time, money and a whole lot of intention. You better believe it. And you should do it. Its as important as your minister not having spinach between her teeth while she preaches on Sunday morning. Newcomers will forgive some lingering greens. They will not hesitate to surf on and find a different church.