These commuting zones are empty zones for Unitarian Universalist

Last time –and this was a while back — I talked about commuting zones was using them as a proxy for communities where a new Unitarian Universalist church could rise up. I have to admit I was wondering if I was being naive by drawing this conclusion. After all I don’t have any sociological, mapping or civic engineering experience. But once around the numbers, some of the gaps in the Unitarian Universalist map became perfectly clear and when I tested my findings against the UUA congregation locator map, I felt my process was valid. (If this post gets significant traffic, I’ll write about the process.)

Looking at the gaps, there are two ways you could read them to see where a new congregation could be planted. On the one hand, it makes sense to reach to the nearest unserved zone: a place where a large existing congregation might put a satellite. On the other hand, it might make sense to stage concerted effort to reach a large area with no nearby Unitarian Universalist presence.

Let’s call these the strawberry runner and airdrop methods respectively. This week, I’ll look into each.

By Scott Wells

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


  1. I know that in the church planting literature, the strawberry runner method is considered more effective than the airdrop method. But on the other hand, the fellowship movement allowed a kind of very effective airdrop into places where UUism had ZERO presence pre-WW2. I am talking places like Montana, Alaska, and New Mexico. Perhaps strawberry-runner method is more effective with paid staff planting endeavors, but airdrop method is still very effective when it is a lay-led?

  2. To pull out the contextual meanings of the metaphors… A strawberry plant reproduces by sending a runner stem to a new area and generating a new, smaller plant. So a larger congregation puts part of its resources in a new geographic location, generating a new smaller congregation. In a literal airdrop, an airplane drops a package into a location where it can not / will not land. So in that metaphor a person (or group of people) arrives in a location, largely without resource to a larger congregation nearby, and organizes a new congregation.

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