Earlier this year, as congregations were getting certified for General Assembly, I organized a spreadsheet with each member-congregation’s stats. I came up with some very illuminating conclusions.
Then, I had a major computer meltdown. I was sure I had backed up that file, but was unable to find it. It took a long time to compile, but since then my skills with spreadsheets have improved. Time to reconstruct it, I thought.
I don’t have the raw data for 2003, so the new edition is strictly 2004 stats for 1070 congregations. That means I’m missing one, and try as I might I can’t identify it.
Even so, some interesting facts. There are twenty-seven emerging congregations, but some of those have been “emerging” for years. Did you know the one hundred smallest congregations (including federated ones, reporting the Unitarian Universalist share of a large membership) equal a mere 1,287 adults. Compare that with the largest local congregation — First Unitarian, Madison, Wisconsin — with 1,315 members.
Or take the smallest 25% of congregations. They make up a total of 6,406 members, or every congregation with 42 or fewer members. As I said in February or March, I can see why the powers-that-be would want large-membership church starts, but the reality is that we are a small church denomination. Rather than ignore this reality (or fight it), can’t we strategically target our resources to making them as strong, efficient, and faithful as possible.
Why? Because the new congregations enter the UUA and then tend to hover at less than fifty members. (All Souls Community Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan is an exception at 114 members, but it has a clever and gifted organizing minister — my internship supervisor, the Rev. Brent Smith — and an identifed liberal church core in town, making it quite exceptional.)
Well, back to the point: if you’d like a copy of the spreadsheet, in Excel format, email me at blog at universalistchurch.net.