1007 UUU - From Visitor to Member
Prepared for UUA.org by Pat Emery; edited by Margy Levine Young
Sponsor: Ballou Channing District
Speakers: Rev. Peter Morales, Annie Hedberg, and Dea Brayden of Jefferson
Unitarian Church, Golden, CO
Membership Coordinator Annie Hedberg presented "From Visitor to Member," the
second of three workshops in the Membership Leadership Track Overview Series of
UU University. She described the highly successful membership programs of the Jefferson Unitarian Church (JUC) in Golden, CO,
one of the fastest growing congregations in the Unitarian Universalist Association. A video presentation
showing the program in action complimented Hedberg's talk.
At JUC, visitors are greeted warmly and are asked to fill out a guest
registry. In addition to asking for their address and phone number, the registry
also asks permission to make a newcomer's nametag and send a three month
complimentary subscription to the church newsletter. The registry is used to
record subsequent visits as the newcomer uses his or her nametag.
A welcoming letter is sent to the newcomer with a free ticket to the next
fellowship dinner, and specifically mentions that they are welcome to attend any
of the functions of the church, not only the Sunday services. A follow-up call
is made about two weeks after the first visit, by a person who is particularly
good at listening. During the call, the newcomer is invited to attend "Getting
to Know UU." Held after the last service on two Sunday's per month, this
informal session lasts fifteen to thirty minutes and gives visitors a chance to meet with
and ask questions of the minister.
Hedberg stressed that the process of becoming a member of JUC is clear and
well advertised. Membership packets are available at the Welcome Center.
Newsletter articles, boxes drawn around Order of Service announcements of the
upcoming "Path to Membership" class, and verbal announcements from the pulpit
put the process front and center.
The "Path to Membership" class is offered five times a year at JUC. A
four-hour session held on Saturdays, it includes lunch and childcare and is
required for membership, with few exceptions for long time Unitarian Universalists (UUs). The class starts
with a chalice lighting to emphasize that this is a sacred time, and asks
participants to share briefly about the spiritual journey that led them to the
church. Hedberg described the "Four Corners" exercise, in which participants
share in small groups after sorting themselves according to their religious
upbringing, their present religious perspective, and the paths they would like
to explore. A brief description of UU history and a discussion of the UU
Principles are included in the session. After lunch, the many programs of JUC
are described and the meaning and responsibilities of membership are discussed.
A tour of the facilities ends the session, and the opportunity to sign the
membership book and turn in the membership paperwork follows. Most participants
are ready to take this step, and have their photo taken for the new member
New members are welcomed into the congregation twice per year during a Sunday
service. Each new member tells the congregation their name and the names of
their children, lights a candle from the chalice, and places it in a sand bowl.
A brief covenant of acceptance and support is spoken by the congregation, and
each new member receives the gifts of the congregation, including the Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide and a flower.
All new members and their families are invited to three New Member Potlucks
during their first year of membership to help them continue to make connections.
They gather in a circle for a greeting and introductions and hold hands for a
pre dinner blessing. They use ice breaker nametags which say "Ask me about
______," to help stimulate conversation. Hedberg emphasized that it is important
to make this a sacred experience, not just another supper club event, and to
remember that people are coming for human connections, not just the sermon.