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Large Congregations Conference Workshops—2011

On Saturday, March 19, 2011, a wide variety of workshops was offered to participants at the Eighth National Large Congregations Conference, including:

When Your Congregations Count—Based on the popular "Congregations Count" workshop at three previous General Assemblies, this workshop will use the participants' own congregations' data to identify strengths and weaknesses of their membership process, and share best practices in the identified areas. Bring three years of data for (1) total certified membership (bring 4 years for this one), (2) total annual first time visitors, and (3) total annual new members—or your best estimate! Linda Laskowski is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board and a former Membership Chair at Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, Kensington, CA.

Adaptive LeadershipThe world, and consequently our congregations, changes at a pace that's difficult to match. Challenges keep coming before us that have no easy solutions, and sometimes even defy definition. Challenges such as these demand a new kind of leadership to address them. "Adaptive Leadership" is an approach (developed by Ronald Heifetz, Harvard Business School) that helps us develop new skills and approaches to deal with the challenges, and also to help manage the anxiety and distress that come along with them. This workshop will explore the uses and dimensions of this leadership style. Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley is UUA Director for Congregational Life.

FORTH: Growth, Stewardship, and Leadership (Part 1)—Learn about FORTH, a new stewardship development program, and its unique role in large congregations. Wayne will focus on the five FORTH components: stewardship education, joyful giving, ministry and good works, the annual budget drive, and planned giving. Participants will learn how to initiate FORTH, incorporate Appreciative Inquiry into FORTH, and gain access to FORTH products and resources. (Attendance at Part 2 is helpful, but not mandatory.) Dr. Wayne Clark is UUA Director of Congregational Stewardship Services.

FORTH: Growth, Stewardship, and Leadership (Part 2)—Learn how to apply FORTH components to the particular stewardship expectations of your particular congregation. Wayne will focus on lay leadership in large congregations, stewardship structure in other large congregations, and tools to create your own stewardship development program. (Attendance at Part 1 is helpful, but not mandatory.) Dr. Wayne Clark is UUA Director of Congregational Stewardship Services.

Ten Steps to Creating a Planned Giving Program—Lay leaders “come of age” when they are mindful of their congregation’s future fiscal stability. This workshop is specifically designed for lay leaders in large congregations where there is either no planned giving program or where the existing program is moribund. Wayne will highlight ten simple steps to creating a vital planned giving program. Dr. Wayne Clark is UUA Director of Congregational Stewardship Services.

The Green Sanctuary Program in a Large Church—Large churches face different challenges than medium or small sized churches. We will explore these different challenges and ways in which they can be overcome, negotiated around, and worked with so that large churches can fully engage in the Green Sanctuary Program. Robin Nelson is UUA Program Manager, Congregational Stewardship Services.

Policy Governance® : Blessing or Curse Policy Governance® has become the model of choice for governing many of our largest congregations. When is it applied correctly, it provides a way for the board to delegate effectively and hold the executive function accountable for operating the institution to accomplish its exchange with the world. But when it isn’t, the result can be very harmful to the congregation. In our time together we will explore the components of the model and where congregations tend to get in trouble when not using the model as intended. We will look at implementation, linkage, and monitoring issues as critical to a proper use of Policy Governance®. Rev. Dr. Richard Speck is District Executive of Joseph Priestley District of the UUA.

Channeling Success: How Communication Practices and Processes Can Move Your Congregation Forward—In a large church, the opportunity is great for miscommunication, rumors, gossip and, of course, conflict. Often, this results in stagnation and dissatisfaction and interferes with the ability of the church to fulfill its mission and create a welcoming environment for both members and potential members. This session will examine the barriers to open communication processes and will explore ways in which lay and ministerial leaders can open up channels of communication and create transparent systems where information is shared and all are heard. Mark Bernstein is the Regional Growth Development Consultant for the Central East Region of the UUA.

Weaving a Web of Worship—Over the past three years, WorshipWeb—the UUA’s online worship resource—has become more than a simple database of readings, chalice lightings and sermons. In this workshop we’ll explore what the WorshipWeb has to offer worship leaders today—and what you have to offer to the WorshipWeb. Erik Walker Wikstrom is UUA Director of the Office of Worship and Music Resources.

A Cycle of Seasonal Celebrations—What are the holidays and holy days of your liturgical year? Are they a smorgasbord largely made up of the honoring of others’ festivals? Or is there—can there be—a coherent and uniquely Unitarian Universalist cycle to be found? This (hopefully) provocative workshop will begin to examine the possibilities. Erik Walker Wikstrom is UUA Director of the Office of Worship and Music Resources.

It Can Be Hard to Share—Shared Ministry!Collaboration with colleagues! Sometimes it’s just easier to do it myself! (After all, great art isn’t made by committee, is it?) Let’s have a frank discussion of the challenges and opportunities involved in sharing the ministry beyond the ordained clergy person to include religious educators, music professionals, and laity. [The focus of this workshop will be specifically on worship development and facilitation.] Erik Walker Wikstrom is UUA Director of the Office of Worship and Music Resources.

Lay Leadership as a Spiritual Practice—Can serving the church be about more than simply getting the work done so that we can all get back to the spiritual stuff? Can leadership be, in and of itself, one of the spiritual practices we offer our congregants? What would that look like? This workshop will explore the ideas in the new Skinner House book Serving With Grace: Lay Leadership as a Spiritual Practice. Erik Walker Wikstrom is the author of Serving With Grace, as well as Simply Pray and Teacher, Guide, Companion, and the Tapestry of Faith curriculum Spirit in Practice.

Discipling Leaders—The primary task of ministry in a large congregation involves neither preaching nor pastoral care, teaching nor administration; it involves “discipling” leaders. Thriving congregations are those in which ministers and existing leaders are nurturing a new crop of leaders into existence. What are the five commitments to leadership development made by effective congregations? What are the characteristics of good leadership recruits? How can existing leaders best multiply themselves? How do we equip others to lead? Rev. Stefan Jonasson is UUA Director for Large Congregations.

Leading From the Balcony—Effective leadership in large congregations requires good governance, healthy emotional systems, a broad perspective and the ability to know when to act and when to observe. Leadership is more like alchemy than engineering. What then are the key ingredients to offering effective leadership in the curious and complex entities we call congregations? Rev. Stefan Jonasson is UUA Director for Large Congregations.

Staff Teams That Make a Difference—While ministry and staffing become increasingly specialized as congregations grow in size, the large church is no place for soloists! Effective staff teams need the harmony of a choir or orchestra, even as individual staff members focus on a particular "instrument" or "voice." What are the characteristics of staff teams that make a difference? How can team spirit be cultivated amidst the distractions and pressures of everyday responsibilities? Rev. Stefan Jonasson is UUA Director for Large Congregations.

Quest—A Spiritual Journey—The First Unitarian Society of Madison offers an innovative and transformative two-year adult faith development program in which Quest participants engage in an active journey of self-discovery guided by its Intentions: Honor Our Spiritual Selves, Awaken Wisdom and Inherent Knowledge, Create Intentional Spiritual Community, Embrace and Express Reverence for the Sacred Interdependent Web. Janet Swanson is Quest Spiritual Program Director, Karen Gustafson is Associate Minister and Quest Minister, and Claire Box is Quest Curriculum Development Coordinator at the First Unitarian Society of Madison.

Facing Our Challenges: Creating and Sustaining a Membership MinistryHosted by members of the UU Association of Membership Professionals group, membership professionals from three large churches will kick off the session describing how they have overcome challenges within their congregations. Attendees will then be invited to share challenges they face in their Membership Ministry and gather ideas on ways to address them. The Steering Committee of the newly formed UU Association of Membership Professionals will provide an update on their progress towards becoming recognized group within the UUA. Participants are encouraged to bring membership and welcoming resources to share (brochures, DVDs, pamphlets). Mary B. Jones, First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY; Marie Murton, Fox Valley UU Fellowship, WI; and Suzette Marie Southfox, First UU Church of San Diego, CA; Lori Emison Clair, First Unitarian of Des Moines, IA.

The Membership Journey in Large Congregations—If it’s true that culture trumps strategy, how do we work with our own congregational culture to become more welcoming? And how can we strategize successfully? Do we “retain” members, or foster a mutually-sustaining model? We’ll look at how even large systems can still accommodate one soul at a time. Susanna Whitman is UUA Growth Services Program Manager.

Radical Hospitality: Creating Beloved Community for All Children—Creating beloved community for all children means being able to manage the diverse needs of all the children in our religious education programs. It requires us to look beyond the labels to see the divine in each child, and in so doing, we are changed and blessed with a new understanding of ourselves and our relationship with all children. One of the ways we can become more accepting of children with special challenges is to find ways to see the world through their eyes, to drop assumptions about behavior, and listen to our children’s stories. Once we develop an accepting and loving attitude then we can effectively utilize basic teaching strategies and techniques. Sally Patton, Ed.M. Developmental Psychology, serves the wider Unitarian Universalist movement as a trainer and advocate for children with psychological and intellectual disabilities.

Guardianship of Your Church's Assets: Its Property and Its PeopleA presentation of administrative best practices for ministers, staff, and lay leadership, focusing on risk management and providing resources for church administration. Led by Mary Ellen Morgan, Business Administrator, UU Church of Berkeley; Deborah Bieber, CPA, Vice President, Finance & Administration Meadville Lombard Theological School; and Chuck Rosene, Administrator of Pacific Central District.

Multi-Site Basics—An overview of the multi-site church by Rev. Christine Robinson, Senior Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, a pioneer UU congregation in the field. They went multi-site to serve UUs in rural New Mexico but there are other reasons to explore this way of organizing churches. Some Evangelicals claim that multi-site will be the primary way churches are organized in the future. Rev. Christine Robinson is Senior Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque.  

The Gift of Giving—We are often apologetic when asking our members to support the congregation financially. What if we presented it as a gift we offer to them—the gift of having the opportunity to give? What would it take to change our views as staff and lay leaders to promote the idea of serving people by facilitating their generosity? Judith Siers-Poisson is Director of Development at the First Unitarian Society of Madison.

Policy Governance®

Policy Governance® in Large UU Congregations: Overview and Philosophy of this set of four workshops—The four workshops in the Policy Governance® track aim to put governance in a religious and spiritual context for congregational teams considering, transitioning to, or operating in Policy Governance® . Our core question: “How can governance liberate the energy and creativity of our congregations to awaken compassion, transform lives, and bless the world?” We'll explore practical applications of Policy Governance® fundamentals to build a governance system that models our religious ideals.

Presenters from Unity Consulting: Revs. Rob and Janne Eller-Isaacs, co-ministers, Unity Church-Unitarian; Barbara Hubbard, Executive Director, Unity Church-Unitarian; Laura Park, Managing Director, Unity Consulting; Joe Sullivan, Consultant, Unity Consulting, and former President, Southwest District; Louise Wolfgramm, Consultant, Unity Consulting, and President of Amicus.

Policy Governance® in Unitarian Universalist Congregations Today—How is Policy Governance® being implemented in the UUA? What special transitional and governance system issues do congregations face? What best practices have congregations developed? We'll review what we learned from the congregational Policy Governance® census, and help workshop participants connect to develop a support system for governance excellence. 

Effective Transition to Policy Governance® —We’ll explore how the transition to PG is a multi-year period for building sustainable governance practices that exemplify the congregation's values and highest aspirations. We'll look at how to allow enough time for each transition stage, and consider case studies of common barriers and how to address them in covenantal, spiritually fulfilling ways.

Monitoring and Assessment to Empower Your Governance—We'll put monitoring in the context of the leadership cycle in a mission-focused congregation, and review several examples of monitoring that can tee up important, meaningful conversations in your congregation about the future it's called to fulfill.

The Flame of Informed Connection—Informed connection between the board and its sources of accountability and authority is what brings a governance system alive with meaning and purpose. This workshop will look at how to define your sources and accountability and authority and demonstrate several methods to build deep, meaningful and sustaining connections with them.

For more information contact growthresources @

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 27, 2012.

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