Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Growth: priorities

What should be the priorities of the General Assembly if it wants to promote growth? According to Lyle Schaller (Growing Plans, 165-168) the top three priorities should be:

1. Organise new congregations. This is the most effective way to reach people without any church affiliation. Newly organised congregations have a greater rate of growth than any other type of church.

2. Encourage the growth of large congregations. (I'm less convinced of this one because I'm not sure people born after 1975 are as invested in big churches as those born between 1945 and 1975, plus I'm not sure we have what church growth people would call a large congregation)

3. Help congregations assimilate new members. In many congregations as many people drop out of the back door as come into the front door. We need to understand why people leave our congregations as much as why they come to our congregations. Do we need more systematic systems for becoming members? i.e. membership classes, more liturgical relevance for becoming a member, abolishing the laity so every new member welcoming is an ordination?


Anonymous Chuckpa said...

This is a Drum I've been beating in other blogs lately, so be warned.

I believe growth is possible and easy, but it must be done as a result of action instead of a direct action.

While ours is a wonderful faith that should resonate with many, the reason so few members attend might not be funding, or the right workshops, but the wrong strategies.

Maybe our churches should do more with other nearby UU churches, socially.

Is it possible that by offering our churches as the social center of the lives of young families that we will get growth?

If there is one thing I noticed about most UU's we are a gregarious group. Therefore, while a UU may feel unconfortable about converting another to the faith, that person would have no problem inviting another to a multi-church picnic.

9:51 pm  
Anonymous Mike Killingworth said...

The principal issue with growth in existing congregations is that what holds the existing membership together primarily is sociability. They have often become "family like" and have a very limited capacity to absorb newcomers.

The newcomer is, typically, less interested in sociability than in the resolution of his/her spiritual and theological difficulties. S/he often gravitates to the minister, who by both training and inclination is more interested in such a person than in sustaining the "old timers' club". Time and again ministers who have encouraged growth have been shown the door by the "old guard" who feel neglected.

As long as the attitude that "this is our congregation, you do it our way" persists then we shall go on having a high "churn" rate among those we do manage to attract.

I have predicted before that David Usher's PULSE programme will come to a similar end: the existing congregations in London and the South East won't grow (for the above reasons): PULSE will turn into an exercise of promoting new fellowships (or even a chapel if a millionaire turns up) and the existing stalwarts will start to feel neglected and decide it's time for a new District Minister (probably in about 2011/12).

9:12 pm  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

No need to put the "old guard" in quotation marks these days Mike for the simple reason that the "old guard" of the U*U World is quite literally old. . .

3:23 am  

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