What’s so good about small churches?

Update: With 561 congregations reporting a combined membership of 90,803, the UUA has a net gain of 745 members.

I use an old copy of the UUA Directory: 2001-02. That was the last one before the Quebec General Assembly when we (the Americans) lamented loosing them (the Canadians) because it meant that we would never again have General Assembly in a city where there was such good French food.

Otherwise, few non-Canadians seemed to notice Canadian autonomy wrought there. (An imperfect autonomy, to be sure.)

Of course, some Canadian congregations disaffilited very quickly, and others (counter to plan) have kept their membership in the UUA. But what if they all left – what would be lost?

According to the 2001-02 Directory, forty-four congregations and 5,158 members would be lost.

And what if we lost another 5,158, but this time in the form of the smallest congregations in the nearly-all-U.S. UUA?

With more than half of the congregations reporting – it is hard to keep momentum reporting slowly shifting and rather predictable numbers, so indulge me – I took a rounded half of the Canadian census (2,580 members) and asked myself: “If we lost this many people again, how many of the 561 congregations would be gone?”

One hundred three, or more than one-sixth of the total. Or, put another way, any congregation with a membership of thirty-nine and smaller. Or, put still another way, including nearly every new congregation that has joined the UUA in years.

I know it is unfashionable to speak well of the smallest congregations in the UUA – as unfashionable as once they were fashionable – and it is all too easy to think of them slipping into anonymous deaths. But we would be the poorer for it, and might well loose a good venue for numerical growth.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.