Unlike Clyde and more like Tom, I think there is already enough money for helping new churches form, and that forming a church formation foundation is the kind of work that deflects attention from what will actually get new church started. The bigger issues with Unitarian Universalist church planting are attitudinal.
Tom outlines a number of ideas — though I think new MFC tracking is a bad idea because it suggests career-long church planters and that’s an invitation for professional burnout — but even these are too adventuresome for an Association so out of grip with the realities of church planting. For one, I’m dumbfounded less about the expenditures associated with the Pathways Church but the old church planting models and assumptions it rests on. Since there are a few of us publically and blog-lically interested in new churches (I’d add Stephen Lingwood and Ron Robinson here, too, as he’s in a church plant.)
I’ve been blogging about this for a long time, and most of the posts are in the following categories:
I know talk won’t send a church started, but here are a few things we can to today:
- Recognize in our writing that church planting is difficult and worthy of support.
- Recognize the life cycles of the UUA by anticipating the birth of new congregations and marking the death and departures of others. (We used to do this.)
- Point out models and best practices in other religious bodies, especially those with successful outreaches to underreached populations (others fail too; I’d rather not copy their failures) and those with congregational polity.
- Review UUA and district reports and budgets on the blogs and point out potential pitfalls. Encourage readers to direct their responses to the people who can actually fix the problems before they happen.
- Encourage seminarians to attend schools with evangelism and missions programs. (I took an Evangelism class at my seminary.)
- Encourage districts to add standard church growth books to their lending libraries, if they don’t already do so.
- Blog constantly about the responsibility — and not just the anxious need — to evangelize.
- Point out those parts of operating Unitarian Universalist theology that mitigate against church growth, such as atomism (declining anyway, I hope) and our “mission for freedom” (people today mistrust churches as a vehicle for freedom; in any case, it is an insider’s perspective.)
- Pray for underserved areas — and name them. Steven Lingwood named the largest places in the UK without a Unitarian church. What about the US?
OK, there’s nine. Do you have an idea for ten?
July 17. Ron write a version of his comment at length. Linked from here.
Of course you’d expect me to have one.
At the risk of it going the way of all the other major initiatives of the UUA that have been the focus of GAs, I still imagine a GA whose theme and plenaries and workshops are highlighted around “Multiplying Your Church” or some other sexier name–also at the risk of the fact that unhealthy churches trying to multiply themselves isn’t healthy but then who knows what might come out of it anyway; for so long we have been trying to grow by addition within churches when we should be looking at ways the church can turn itself inside out and upside down in its community. Every church can find a way to multiple itself in some way in its community.
But a GA focused on getting churches to imagine and begin in motion the hundreds of different experimental ways of reproducing themselves would be in itself a major shift. It is something so few if any ever discuss. By the way Clyde do you know if setting GA themes is a BOT thing or Planning Commission thing?
Of course having said that about GA, that’s about all I would look for top-down now. On the other hand, getting the conversation going at conferences like the large church conference and mid-size church conference would help. I would rather the initiative come from the churches taking a lead. One of the problems I think we have had is making more of it than it needs to be (10 point plans and all that), which gets anxiety setting into the system. Why don’t a few churches around the country hold church planting conferences and invite church planters and those interested in it to come and pray, share visions, resources, networks, and build the momentum.