“Congregation relationship management” appropriate for a small church

Unitarian Universalist minister and blogger Tom Schade reflects on his recent experience at a technological conference and suggests congregations use a CRM: an acronym with so many variant renderings that I created my own. And while I disagree with some of his suggestions, principly aboung changing our structures because it’s complex and expensive, his first thought is sound; that is, we need something other than a binary member-nonmember frame, we need to identify stages of affiliation, and we need systems to support this.

Fortunately, we have structures in our heritage and in parallel organizations to concieve this, and I have written about it here.

On “adherents”

I thought I had written about the Universalist way of distinguishing members from affiliates but I’m not finding it if I have.

As for a CRM, a typical Unitarian Universalist congregation is likely to have dozens or low-hundreds of members or members in process, and hundreds of contacts. Perhaps low-thousands. But not tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of persons that make complex, commercial systems worth their cost and trouble. There are more useful, better-scaled options, and a very small congregation might use (or at least start with) an old-fashioned paper system.

I’ll be examining this need in future weeks. As Jesus said: “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath.” Too much tech makes the user its servant.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Scott, thanks for this perspective — you get what I am talking about in terms of developing systems that can manage the relationships with the contacts, members in process, and all those others who don’t fall on our side of the high wall between members and non-members most UU churches are constructing. But I am also trying to see if technology can help solve the “silo problem” that most of our data about people is in separate congregational databases. That’s why I am interested in a CRM system at the ‘denominational’ level.

  2. Love that “silo problem” image. Every Sunday, when the worship associate asks if our pews hold any visitors, and if any are visiting for the first or second time, it bugs me. What I then would like to hear is, “Do we have any UUs from other congregations visiting here today?” So many theories about why we don’t follow up with this, and all of them are probably true at various times in various places. But every time we go through this ritual, we reinforce the model in which you’re either a newcomer to the faith itself or ensconced in relationship with this particular congregation.

    Although King’s Chapel is often considered stodgy — and certainly has many stodgy characteristics — our ministers always used various tools, including the tourist sign-in book — to be sure we welcomed, and prayed for, our co-religionists from other congregations.

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