Thursday, February 21, 2008

Growth: 5 new churches a year?

Ron Robinson over at Planting God Communities has recently pointed his readers towards older posts that are worth rereading. In one, about growth, he quotes Lyle Scaller who says:

"The single best approach for any religious body seeking to reach, attract, serve, and assimilte younger generations and newcomers in the community is to launch three new missions annually for every one hundred congregations in that organization. A significant fringe benefit of this policy is that it usually will reduce the resources for continuing subsidies to institutions that will be healthier if they are forced to become financially self-supporting."

This, for British Unitarianism, would mean about 5 new churches a year. Assuming a 'mission' is the same as a 'church' (broadly, broadly defined). I wonder if anything like this kind of a conversation will happen at the 'growth-orientated' Annual Meetings coming up. OK, let's be really pessimistic and say 1 new congregation a year. We're probably losing congregations at about that rate anyway. Is that crazily impossible or very possible and wise?

But maybe our 'religious body' doesn't run in the same way that Schaller imagines. How much does the General Assembly subsidies our churches? Not very much. Perhaps the appropriate 'religious body' in our context would be the district. Some districts do actively subsidies member churches. Perhaps the district is the appropriate body to launch new church plants? After all districts like Merseyside and Lancashire are actually called 'Missions.' Perhaps they need to be.


Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Maybe Unitarians need to define just what their mission is before creating any new "missions". . .

10:28 pm  
Blogger Joseph Santos-Lyons said...

I would be stoked to see more intentional organizing of new congregations. The UUA has gone through a lot of different strategies, and they are extremely expensive.

I have always seem Young Adult and Campus Ministry organizing a very affordable and high return strategy. In the years I was staffing the work, we connected with over 10,000 young adults, provided them spiritual growth, leadership opportunities, information, organizing tools, and so forth. So many are involved in our churches now, although no hard statistics are available. Still, we've put the ministry on the map for the UUA in a way that it hasn't been before.

While we may not start 30 new congregations each year, 30 new YACM groups would be wildly popular I think.

6:44 am  
Blogger Stephen said...

Robin, yes, you're right, it is important to get a sense of mission and vision out of which we do mission, though I think if we try to get the perfect 'mission statment' correct first then we'd never get started.

Good to hear from you Joseph. Yeah, I think it's a good idea to see young adult groups as misssions that increase the health of the larger movement. We're still working to put that ministry on the map over here!

9:05 pm  

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