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  • Statement of Purpose for Bylaws

    The purpose provision of the bylaws distinguishes the congregation from other institutions in the community and sets out the basic parameters for all the activity of the congregation.
    By UUA Congregational Life Staff Group | 4/11/2019
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  • Sample Core Values Exercise: The Experience of the Holy

    This exercise helps the governing body of religious institutions answer the question: What timeless, transcendent qualities of our religious community will we embody in all we do?
    By Robert L. Eller-Isaacs, Laura Park | 4/4/2019
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  • Being a Mission-Centered Congregation

    A congregation’s mission is an answer to the question, “Why does this congregation exist in the world?” Congregational leaders are constantly faced with a barrage of decisions. Without a clear mission, how can they make those decisions?
    By James Kubal-Komoto, Pacific Western Region of the UUA | 3/18/2019
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  • 7 Tips for Creative Facilitation

    Leaders who want to engage the creativity of the congregation in a process (such as the creation of guiding documents or strategic plans) can learn to ask questions and host conversations that will facilitate group learning.
    By UUA Congregational Life Staff Group | 3/15/2019
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  • Creating Guiding Documents: Effective Practices

    Guiding documents like bylaws, covenants, mission statements, vision statements and strategic plans are developed in consultation with the congregation as a whole so that there is a general sense of trust and ownership. The documents can then serve as guides for the board,...
    By Renee Ruchotzke, UUA Congregational Life Staff Group | 3/15/2019
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  • Why Undertake Vision, Mission, and Covenant Work?

    Congregations that have living vision, mission, and covenant statements are the ones that are growing—not only in numbers but also in the depth of membership commitment.
    By UUA Congregational Life Staff Group | 3/14/2019
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  • Generative Conversations in Congregations

    There are times when leaders need to take time and space to struggle with deeper questions. Generative conversations can create that kind of space
    By Phillip Lund | 11/19/2018
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  • Mission-Driven Leadership

    Leaders know why they are active, and how they are seeking to make a difference in the world; they understand that congregational life is not about making people “happy,” but by knowing how the congregation is called to serve their community, and are then faithful to that calling
    By Ian Evison, MidAmerica Region of the UUA | 4/19/2018
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  • Mission-Focused Leadership Development

    Faith communities function best when they have a clear understanding of why they exist and where they are going next. Leaders help to articulate the mission and lead toward the vision.
    By Renee Ruchotzke, Central East Region of the UUA | 4/5/2018
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  • Sweet Spot

    Dynamic congregations rarely have a hard time dreaming new dreams, but many struggle to choose from among a parade of compelling ideas about how to use their time and energy.
    By Sue Phillips, New England Region of the UUA | 3/22/2018
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  • Goals and Assessment

    Questions for Discussion How might having specific goals change the experience of serving on the board? What three goals would help you feel like your congregation has accomplished something significant this year?
    By Ian Evison, MidAmerica Region of the UUA | 3/15/2018
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  • My Love-Hate Relationship with Surveys

    I have a love-hate relationship with surveys, especially surveys used as a part of congregational planning. Frankly, used in this context they can often do more harm than good. When used as one among a number of ways of collecting data, they can get great and comparatively easy...
    By Ian Evison, MidAmerica Region of the UUA | 2/9/2018
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  • Overcoming the Resistance to Change

    Organizations, like all systems, seek equilibrium. If a congregation is thrown out of balance by the prospect of change, most members will seek to restore order and sameness. This is natural and should not be a reason to judge one another. Healthy organizations have developed...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 2/9/2018
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  • Governance and Ministry: A Partnership

    A brief overview of how Governance and Ministry partner to serve the mission of the congregation. (Based on Dan Hotchkiss's Governance and Ministry, 2nd Edition.)
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 2/7/2018
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  • Growth Cycles of Congregations Explained

    Is you congregation growing, static or in decline? This video, based on the book Taking Your Church to the Next Level: What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Gary L. McIntosh
    By Renee Ruchotzke, Central East Region of the UUA | 2/4/2018
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  • Characteristics of a Mission-Based Congregation

    Creates a shared vision of the church, an effective mission statement and dynamic mission-centered goals to implement the mission. Develops and affirms a clear identity and purpose with a strong sense of mission. Mission(s) used as a compass in decision-making. Members can...
    By UUA Congregational Life: Growth Strategies For Congregations Office | 1/17/2018
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  • The Roles of Mission, Vision and Covenant in Congregations

    This image is one mental model in understanding mission in a congregation. The heart in the center is the core purpose of your congregation. Who are you called to be in the world, and in your context? What is it about your community that resonates in the hearts of its members...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 1/17/2018
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  • Creating a Purpose-Based Budget

    We often claim that budgets are moral documents, and that congregational budgets should reflect our values. But line item budgets that include "office supplies, utilities, salary" and other such descriptions don't show how these line items serve the mission of the congregation....
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 1/5/2018
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  • Whole Congregation Discernment

    There are times when the congregation needs to engage in a process that will enable the congregation to reflect on its future in an organic, open and creative way—as a system. (Traditional congregational meetings do not lend themselves to such a process—they are better suited to...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 10/31/2017
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  • Characteristics of Decentralized Governance

    How to create a congregation where people are equipped and empowered to live out the mission through ministry.
    By UUA Congregational Life Staff Group | 10/31/2017
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  • Multi-Site Ministry: Lowering the Walls Between Us

    Satellites, multi-site, yolked ministries and partnerships can explored by all types of congregations - tiny, large, urban, rural, clustered, or isolated. Might multi-site be right for you? UUA General Assembly (2014).
    By Scott Tayler, Tandi Rogers, UUA General Assembly and Conference Services | 9/1/2017
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  • Want to Develop Church Leaders? Stop Training Them!

    Let me share a fable of two congregations. ...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 5/12/2015
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  • The End of Strategic Planning

    Smaller congregations in many denominations are struggling to survive. This doesn't mean they are necessarily "doing church" badly. But it does mean they need to do church differently. Intuiting this need, church leaders often begin gearing up for a strategic planning process....
    By Douglas Zelinski, New England Region of the UUA | 3/18/2015
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  • If the Buddha Was "In Search..."

    It's the beginning of the year, and Ministerial Search Committees have just received a list of names of ministers who are interested in learning more about their congregation. Savvy Search Committees know that they are looking for a good match, not a perfect candidate, and the...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 1/5/2015
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  • World Café: An Exercise for Vision Discernment

    A wonderful exercise to elicit emerging ideas and to discover where the energy resides in a large group.
    By UUA Congregational Life Staff Group | 6/26/2014
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  • Living Your Purpose II: Aspirational Values and Vision

    Once a congregation understands its mission, the next step is to discern how it wants to deepen and grow as a congregation. This workshop outlines processes for discerning aspirational values and ways to create and use a vision statement in devising a strategic plan and annual...
    By Patricia Infante, Douglas Taylor, UU Congregation of Binghamton, Binghamton, NY | 6/26/2014
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  • Living Your Purpose I: Core Values and Mission

    Purpose-filled people are misson-driven. Workshop participants will explore discerning congregational core values, how to articulate them as mission, and how to make a mission "portable" to provide alignment for all of its ministries, strategies, and resource allocation.
    By Joe Sullivan, UU Congregation of Binghamton, Binghamton, NY, UUA Congregational Life Staff Group | 6/26/2014
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  • Art Doesn't Happen by Committee - Part 1

    Once upon a time there was a congregation that wanted a mission statement. They appointed a committee that worked hard. They held cottage meetings, World Café conversations, and got a real sense of the identity of the congregation, who they were as a "whole"—or their "center."...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 5/7/2014
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  • Do you have "Committee Alphabet Soup?"

    I often use General Motors as an example of the top-down model of organization and leadership that is the opposite of what our congregations need to be nimble and vital (and I might add, attractive to Gen-Xers and Millennials). A story from Bloomberg "GM Recalls Stalled in 10...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 3/13/2014
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  • Think "Strategic," Not "Long-Range"

    There is a quote that guides me in my work: “We create the path by walking.” How many of us knew exactly who or what we wanted to be when we “grew up?” Instead, many of us made choices that led us in a certain direction. As we started down a particular path, our choices helped...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 1/21/2014
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  • Adaptive Measures

    Your congregation is committed to growth and understands that growth in numbers results from other kinds of growth. You also know it is important to set goals and measure how well you are doing. ...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 12/18/2013
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  • Hide it under a Bushel? No! Share Your Awesomeness

    Are all of the members and friends of your church aware of all of the outreach ministries of your church? Is the wider community aware of who you are serving and how? Churches need to tell their stories, advises a recent article in the Christian Century. Author George Mitrovich...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 10/9/2013
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  • Speaking with One Voice

    One of the most important keys to congregational health and vitality--along with a clear purpose--is a cohesive leadership team. Many of our UU congregations struggle with power and authority to a point where they don't empower leaders to lead, i.e. to make decisions in the best...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 9/19/2013
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  • Vision: Make sure it "tastes good"

    Congregational leaders are often tempted to go through the motions of creating mission, vision, planning and covenant documents without taking a holistic view of the process. Do the congregations systems support the process? How do we reflect the core values and personality of...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 9/10/2013
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  • Assessment: "Edit"ability vs. Accountability

    Assessment of a congregation's ministry is a very important aspect of religious leadership and is one of the roles of a Commit tee on Shared Ministry . We often use the term "accountability" as in "accountability to mission" to describe the purpose of such assessments. The word...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 9/5/2013
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  • The Power of Symbolic Language

    Unitarian Universalists tend to use a lot of words when we attempt to explain our religious beliefs and values. We have a complicated faith that does not fit into typical questions about religion from outsiders. This makes sense at a national level. We have a big tent that makes...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 4/9/2013
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  • The Data Trap

    Attempting to reconcile liberal religion to the scientific method has a long history among Unitarian Universalists. From the Biblical Criticism of the 19th century, to the Process Theologians of the 20th, to Thandeka's Affect Theology today, we yearn to quantify...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 3/26/2013
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  • Working At Cross-Purposes

    Your mission is what is hanging on the wall, Your system is what is happening down the hall. — Andy Stanley, North Point Ministries Sometimes leaders have an "aha" moment where they realize that they have been doing (or avoiding doing) something that is working at cross-purposes...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 1/22/2013
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  • Something Epic...

    A good mission—articulated gracefully and served faithfully--can help the members of your congregation feel like they are part of something epic.
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 7/30/2012
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  • The Mission-Driven UU Leader

    What is the role of lay leaders in a mission-focused congregation? What is the role of the minister? The Rev. Brent Smith has experience and success leading mission-focused congregations. In this post he shares some of his insights. The distinction between lay and clergy roles...
    By Brent A Smith | 7/9/2012
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  • How would you tweet your mission?

    Having a clearly articulated mission statement helps to guide a congregation’s leaders in deciding where to put their energy and resources. But often such statements are put together by a committee and can be a bit….(I hate to say it)…wordy. Last year I visited Western Michigan...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 6/18/2012
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  • Walking Away from "No Energy" Programs

    How many of our congregations offer programming that isn't working, or has only a very small group of the "usual suspects" participating? In a recent article in The Christian Century, LeeAnne Watkins. Titled This Just Isn't Working: When People Don't Show Up, the article...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 6/5/2012
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  • Changing Mental Models for Growth

    Responding to a changing context in order to keep your congregation vital is hard....really hard. Brain science helps us to understand that we create and use mental models of our reality that help us to filter and make sense of our experiences. But our mental models aren't...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 5/28/2012
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  • Vital Leaders for Vibrant Congregations

    Vibrant congregations in today's world live out of a sense of core mission or purpose. Twenty-first leaders need to find ways to embed that mission into all parts of congregational life. This workshop will provide strategies to help your congregation focus its development of...
    By Renee Ruchotzke, Central East Region of the UUA | 4/28/2012
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  • Robert Latham's Committee on Ministry Model

    A brief outline of the Committee On Ministry (COM) model that was invented in the early nineteen eighties and was honed as a working model over an almost ten year period in a mid-sized congregation.
    By Robert T. Latham | 2/7/2012
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  • Listening to Experience: UU Ministers Discuss Growth

    12 Ministers from Growing and Diverse UU Congregations Talk About Growth
    By Alice Mann, Ken Beldon, Thom Belote, John Crestwell, Kendra Ford, Robert Hardies, Peter Morales, Christine C. Robinson, Victoria E Safford, Michael A Schuler, Marilyn Sewell, Elizabeth Lerner Maclay | 3/19/2010
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  • Mission Statement Tips

    Mission speaks to the congregation’s calling, the source of its integrity and it’s central reason for being. What are we called to be and do?
    By Douglas Zelinski | 3/16/2009
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  • Supportive Relationships Are Not Enough: A Drive Time Essay

    Supporting one another is important, but if that is primarily what you do, then your congregation will decline. For a congregation to be alive, vital, and growing, it must have a sense that it exists to serve as well.
    2/15/2009
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  • Sample Visioning Process: Guided Imagery for a Group

    This process can be run in a morning, afternoon, or a longish evening. The program works well with teenagers on up to seniors.
    By UUA Congregational Life Staff Group | 6/16/2005
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  • What Are Vision, Mission, and Covenant?

    The words vision, mission, and covenant have been used but the meanings have varied over time and context. This is one model of understanding.
    By UUA Congregational Life Staff Group | 6/15/2005
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