Rev. David Pyle, Regional Lead
Recently, a congregation asked me about church growth. Unlike some other times, this question was not about how to grow in order to meet a congregational budget, or how to grow in order to have more volunteers for church programs or committees. No, this congregation asked me about growth because they are growing. They have added around a hundred members in the last two years, and it is causing them to need to rethink many of their basic assumptions about how their church functions. They were asking about how to manage the changes that come with this kind of growth.
While we strategized about how to adapt to the growing ministry and leadership needs of the congregation, including the need to consider additional professional ministry for the congregation, I shared with them the moral imperative behind their growth. There are people in their community, in all our communities, who are in need of this religious faith we call Unitarian Universalism. I believe we have a religious imperative to connect with those who need this faith who have not yet found it, and to change enough to make room for them within our congregations and communities when they come.
I remember attending a meeting of denominational leaders in the Baltimore area a few years ago, representing Unitarian Universalism. While the program was supposed to be about shared work for justice, the conversations in the breaks seemed to be all about consolidating and closing congregations. One Bishop lamented to me that his major work that week was convincing three congregations to consolidate and become one. I remember leaving that meeting grateful for our faith, and for the ways in which Unitarian Universalism has always sought to and been successful at adapting to the changing landscape of religion in America and to the work of justice in our country.
I believe my work, and the work of the MidAmerica Regional Team, is to help congregations work through barriers to congregational health, so that the congregation’s ministries and mission can be unleashed in their community and in the world. Because I believe that the primary barrier to congregational growth is not a lack of people who need our faith, but rather the ways in which we get in our own way. It is my experience, almost invariably, that when a congregation is healthy enough to look out and truly invite people in, they find that there are many who wish to join in the transforming power of our faith. And it is to that health that I find the center and call of my ministry.
This world needs the faith that we have found in Unitarian Universalism. How can your congregation help share that faith with the world? And what might be getting in the way of your doing so well?