Main Content

Orientation for New Members

A package of two classes to be offered before religious services on Sunday morning or at a brunch after church, or at an evening session. The first session focuses on information about the denomination, the second on an individual congregation. Newcomers should be encouraged to attend both. These sessions could easily be expanded to two hours. The 28-minute video, An Heretical History, is shown during the first session. It is available for $25 from the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church, Rockford, IL or phone (815) 398-6322.

Many of the documents which are given to visitors/prospective members at these sessions can be found elsewhere in this online collection of membership information.

"Welcome to Unitarian Universalism"

A ninety minute introduction to the denomination, focusing on history, theology, and beliefs.


Held in a comfortable room where coffee service can be made available.


  • Lay Presenters (2)
    • Set up, greet, pass out name tags and packets.
    • Introduce program, facilitate exercises, present discussion materials, offer wrap-up, tear down.
  • Minister
    • Presents UU history & polity, answers questions.
    • Facilitate progression of session.
  • Childcare (2-3)
    • Care for children
  • Food Preparer
    • Provide bagels, muffins, sweet rolls, juice, two kinds of coffee, cream cheese, napkins, forks, spoons, knives, plates, cups. (NOTE: Remainders can be used at coffee hour after church.)

Leader materials:

  • Agenda/Leader packets
  • Flip chart and markers
  • TV w/VCR
  • Video: An Heretical History
  • Materials to make name tags

Packets for each visitor/prospective member:

  • Congregation's "Welcome" brochure
  • "Becoming a Member" information sheet (how to join)
  • Flyer that lists places to get more UU information (how to access Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) website and bookstore, and congregation's bookstore and website).
  • Books:
    • 100 Questions that Non-Members Ask About Unitarian Universalism;
    • UU Pocket Guide, UU wallet cards, Dinner for Eight flyer
  • Flyer: "So What Do UUs Believe In?"
  • Copies of any recent newspaper articles about the congregation or Unitarian Universalism.


Tables arranged in L for participants, food table.


Welcome visitors. Explain that participants are free to get up for coffee, etc., during the presentation. Presenters introduce themselves and talk briefly about why they became UUs. Go around the room, asking participants to introduce themselves, talk about their previous religious affiliations and why they're interested in UU, and, if they wish to, offer a question about Unitarian Universalism they'd like answered during the session. Presenters explain what will be covered in this session. Announce that our other introductory session, Welcome to Our Congregation, which will focus more on the church itself, will be presented on _______________(date). Announce that a New Member Ceremony will be _____________(date).

History And Polity of UU


  • Show video: An Heretical History (28 minutes)
  • Recommend our own UU History course which starts _____(date) and library books for additional information.

What Does It Meanto Be a UU?


  • Diversity in demographics and beliefs
  • Misconceptions: "I'm a UU because I can believe anything I want"
  • Minister discusses UU theology, Seven Principles, and how we as UU's practice the Principles in our daily lives.

The Seven Principles

  • Every person is worthy and should be treated with dignity.
  • People should treat each other with justice, equality, and compassion.
  • We should accept the differences that tend to separate us.
  • Everyone should have the freedom and responsibility to search for the truth.
  • We should strive to use democratic processes both within UU congregations and the world at large.
  • We should work for peace, liberty, and justice for everyone.
  • We should acknowledge and respect our interdependence.

What Will You Get Out of this Community?


  • A supportive community (religious and social)
  • Place to continue your spiritual journey in safety
  • A place to be renewed and inspired once a week in the company of friends
  • A place where you may join with others to do good works in the larger community

What Will You Give to this Community?


If you become part of our community whether becoming a member or not, you will be asked to do three things:

  • Find a small group where you can make friends and continue your spiritual journey;
  • Help with the work of the church through one of its committees; and
  • Support it responsibly with your financial gifts.

If You Decide to Join this Church


  • Contact anyone on the Membership Committee or at the Visitor's Table.
  • Meet with minister.
  • Take part in both Newcomer sessions.
  • Participate in New Member Service.
  • Sign the Membership Book in the presence of a congregational officer.
  • Make a financial pledge.



Answer any final questions. If there are any you can't answer, tell them you'll find the answers for them. Thank all for coming. Invite them to attend the second session for newcomers, which focuses on the local congregation, rather than the denomination. Give the date. It will cover material that is mostly different, including opportunities to learn and grow spiritually as a friend or member of this faith community.


"Welcome to Our Congregation"


Held in a comfortable room where coffee service can be made available.


  • Presenters (2)
    • Set up, greet, pass out name tags and packets.
    • Introduce program, facilitate exercises, present discussion materials, offer wrap-up, tear down.
  • Church Members (2)
    • Help share in discussion
  • Minister, Religious Education Director (DRE)
    • Provide overviews of their areas
  • Childcare (2-3)
    • Care for children (two age groups, if needed)
  • Food Preparer
    • Bagels, muffins, juice/coffee

Leader Materials:

  • Leader packets with agenda
  • Flip chart and markers
  • TV w/VCR
  • Video: Local video on the congregation
  • Materials to make name tags

Packets for each prospective member:

  • Becoming a Member flyer
  • Lifespan Education Brochure, including class listings
  • Childrens' Religious Education brochure w/class listings
  • "Ways to Connect " booklet (list of small groups, committees, etc.)
  • "Becoming a Member" information sheet
  • Flyer on places to get more information on Unitarian Universalism (UUA website, congregation's bookstore and website)
  • Flyer that explains stewardship that will be asked of new members
  • Financial Giving Table
  • "How Things Work Here" flyer (where the bathrooms are, what happens on lay Sundays, etc.)


Tables and chairs arranged in L for participants. Separate food table .




Introduce self and other program workers. Explain that this program is to provide visitors and prospective members an opportunity to learn more about each other and the congregation, including its history, what it has to offer they, what they have to offer it. Ask participants to go around the table and share briefly where they came from (geographically as well as religiously) and what brought each to this congregation. (Do this briefly since it was done more in depth at the first session and ideally the participants attended it also.)

Overview of the Congregation

(Presenter, Historian)

  • Founding and History (By congregation's historian, if possible)
  • Congregation's place in the larger community
  • Goals for the Future: (growth, social justice, etc.)

Opportunities to Learn and Grow Spiritually

(Minister And DRE)

Minister's Presentation

  • What it means to be a member of this congregation
  • How to get the most out of the experience (get involved, etc.)

Religious Education Director's Presentation

Explanation of childrens' religious education, including course material, how classes are divided, Coming of Age, teen programs, child safety policies, summer programs, etc. Lifespan Education: Provided through evening or Sunday morning multi-week courses. topics developed to suit a range of experiences and interests that vary from year to year. Courses which are especially suited for newcomers are: A Chosen Faith, UU History, and Build Your Own Theology.

Opportunities to Get Involved


  • Greeter/usher teams Helping with worship services Lay-led services every fourth Sunday (Opportunities to lead)
  • Dinner for Eight Interest Groups: Vary from time to time as members choose to start new groups (men's group, women's group, book, bridge, yoga, movie, process theology groups)
  • Membership/Caring Committee Religious Education/Lifespan Education Music: Choir, Instrumentalists, Youth Choir Facilities and Grounds Maintenance (Work parties)
  • Social Action: Environment and other issues
  • Other committees: Library, Finance, Communications, Denominational Affairs

Show Video of Congregational Life

(Note: If you have the ability to make a video of reasonable quality of congregational events throughout the year it's a great way to show, as well as tell, what your congregation does.)

How to Learn More About the Congregation / UU


Review materials in packet. Tell participants about websites (Congregation's and UUA's). Minister or Membership Chair always available to answer questions.

What Do You Get Out of this Church?

  • People come here mainly for two reasons: find friends and to add meaning to their lives.
  • Supportive community where you can continue your spiritual journey in safety and make a difference in the world.
  • A place to be renewed once a week in the company of friends

What Do You Give to this Community

If you become part of our community whether becoming a member or not, you will be asked to contribute time and money to support it. We ask that each person do three things:

  • Find a small group where you can make friends and continue your spiritual journey;
  • Join a committee where you can help with the work of the church; and
  • Support it with your financial gifts. Suggest working toward 3 to 5 percent of income. Average pledge is _________.

How to Join this Congregation

  • Attend both Newcomer classes
  • Meet with Minister
  • Participate in new member service (give date)
  • Sign membership book in the presence of a church officer
  • Make a financial pledge



Answer any final questions. Thank attendees for coming. If they have not done so, invite them to attend the other orientation session: "Welcome to UU" for more information on Unitarian Universalism.