Warning Signals: Anemic Involvement

By Helen Bishop

How many of these vignettes sound like your congregation?

  • At your last annual meeting, twenty-seven of your 181 adult members showed up. The budget and a proposal to hire a part-time bookkeeper couldn't be considered for lack of a quorum.
  • There are 126 children and youth in your religious education program. Your congregation is considering going to two worship services and the religious education director is working on scenarios for how to manage Religious Education (RE). At the last parent/caregiver potluck, four people showed up by the 7:00 p.m. start time and two others wandered in late.
  • Your board has nine trustees. Last month, five made the regular meeting. Two called the president to let her know they couldn't attend and the other two didn't even call.
  • The treasurer's report shows a steady decline in pledge payments. The canvass co-chairs had a disagreement over whether to host a donor recognition event and only half of the members of the congregation were ever canvassed that year.
  • The membership committee chairperson has been a member of the congregation for more than forty years. She maintains membership records on her home computer, an old Commodore that was donated to the church. The board president received a notice from the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) in March that, since the annual report on membership had not been received by the deadline, the congregation could not send delegates to General Assembly.

If two or more of these little stories sound like your congregation, consider a retreat to develop a plan to re-involve your members in the life of the congregation. The retreat should include your minister and religious education director, members of the board, and other key lay leaders. Call your district staff representative for assistance in finding a facilitator for the retreat.

About the Author

Helen Bishop

Helen Bishop looked after around 80 UU congregations in the Midwest as District Executive. She served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, is a Credentialed Religious Educator at the Master level, has master’s degrees in genetics, medieval and Renaissance music, and distance learning, and has a...

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