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Leap of Faith: Congregational Mentoring
Successful Pilot Project Promoting Long Term Numerical Growth Moves to a Regional Model in 2012-2013 Program Year
The Leap of Faith model will be taken up by the Pacific Western and New England Regions, each of which are comprised of four districts.
Congregational learning communities will be created across districts within each region, and the two regions will share common technology infrastructure, public relations material, and evaluation methods.
The Pilot Program
Based on Peter Morales' consultation with large and growing congregations, Leap of Faith is more a methodology than a program, inviting congregations into learning communities with larger congregations.
The first year we worked with twelve aspiring and mentoring congregations in five learning communities. Each aspiring congregation made a weekend learning journey to their mentoring congregation in addition to regular phone and web contact throughout the year. They each made a video about their experiences. A General Assembly workshop was presented in Charlotte in 2011.
A professional outside evaluation team reports that Leap of Faith consistently:
- enlivened and motivated lay leaders
- increased leadership awareness of the difference between technical fixes and adaptive challenges
- deepened lateral relationships between congregations
- improved congregational capacity
- opened taboo and difficult topics to creative conversation
- increased and intentioned use of Unitarian Universalist language and values
- increased understanding of significance of congregational mission
- developed heightened risk profiles—trying new things, risking experiments
- increased expectations of membership is met with approval
- new understanding of the balance of professional leadership and lay leadership
Sometimes the specifics are more amazing, though. One congregation committed to a new building after decades of struggle with an historic building. Another learned how to maximize their sanctuary through appropriate use of technology and are now filling it twice each Sunday. Yet, another Leap team lead the congregation out into the community where they are now actively and regularly engaged in sharing Unitarian Universalist (UU) values.
This is the second and final year of the pilot project before the methodology will be implemented at the regional level without Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) funding. We are working with 9 teams of aspiring and mentoring congregations across the country. Our aspiring congregations range in size from 135 members to 900 members. All will have made their Learning Journeys by the end of March.
The Northern New England and Pacific Western Regions are preparing to launch regional expressions of Leap of Faith in 2013.
2012 Leap of Faith Congregation Videos
- First Unitarian Church of Alton, IL
- Horizon UU Church, Carrollton, TX
- UU Church of Peoria, IL
- First Parish, Framingham, MA
- First Universalist Church of Minneapolis, MN
- All Souls New London, CT
- UU Church of Greater Lansing, East Lansing, MI
2011 Leap of Faith Congregation Videos
- UU Church of Bloomington, IN
- First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, OH
- First Unitarian Church of Des Moines, IA
- Emerson UU Church in Houston, TX
- First Parish in Milton, MA