Joy and Ease, Part Two: Finding Ease

By Wren Bellavance-Grace

A close-up of white, fuzzy dandelion seeds spread out against a bright blue sky in the background.

In one recent conversation ministers and religious educators were reflecting on how they are discerning what families today need from church, and they left me with two questions:

What is bringing you JOY?

How can we make things EASIER for you?

Last month, we focused on the first question. This other question—how can your congregation make things easier for you?—is both powerful and in a way, countercultural. So often we inadvertently send the message to our members that there is a one-way delivery system between congregants and their congregation. “WE NEED YOU!!!” we practically shout it in all caps to new members and visitors alike.

WE NEED YOU to volunteer for this committee!
To increase your pledge!
To show up for this meeting!
To bring your kids to church!
To bring your kids QUIETLY to church!
To invite your friends!
To join the board!
To donate something to the auction!
To carry the flame of Unitarian Universalism in this community for the next few generations because we have been trying so hard and we are tiiiiiiiiired!!!
Okay, we don’t yell all these things out loud, but we have definitely heard all of these concerns from congregational leaders this year, and these messages have a way of getting out - even if they aren’t shouted from the pulpit.

If these are the messages we are sending—even inadvertently—what questions are we not asking, whether to new guests or longtime members?
What do you need from community?
What does ‘faith’ mean to you?
What might you—or we—be able to stop doing, at least for a while, to create room for rest?
Do you (do your children…) know that you are loved here?
How do you hope to grow?
How can we accompany you?

I know you are probably part of a congregation that is listening to its members about what they need from church—and your regional staff wants to know what you are hearing! Recently, I heard from two different congregations about their learnings when talking to parents of children and youth.

One group of parents in a New Hampshire congregation said their teens felt connected to each other, but they could not commit to Sunday afternoon youth group this year because they have commitments to sports teams and theater productions that meet on Sunday afternoons. Youth Group as it had always been operating on Sunday afternoons wasn’t working for them. What if - the church staff and leaders asked—we moved youth group to meet an hour before worship on Sunday mornings? We’ll show up early for you and then you have the whole rest of the day for other commitments. They held their breath, imagining that the teenagers would laugh them out of the room. Show up to church at 9:00 a.m. on one of their only days to sleep in?? Imagine their surprise when the youth said, YES! And they have indeed been showing up at 9:00 every Sunday, and staying through worship with their families before they go on their separate ways to the rest of the day’s commitments. It’s working.

One day it will stop working. And then we’ll ask again - what would ease your way here? How can we adapt to remain connected and in community together?

Joy and Ease. Like Bread and Roses, we need all of it to be whole, to be healthy, to be free to connect with our community, to deliver our gifts, to heal ourselves, and the world.

Tell us, what would make your congregational life easier? What could we do to ease your way? Reach out to us at newengland@uua.org. By the way, I’ve made it easier for you to make an appointment to talk with me through my calendar —and I’ve had folks pop up on my calendar who I haven’t talked to in so long, because they could just choose a time instead of sending three emails back and forth to find a mutually good meeting time. Adapting to create easier ways to be community to one another can be relatively simple and painless.

About the Author

Wren Bellavance-Grace

Wren works with the New England Region team to support congregations across New England with particular experience in Safer Congregations, faith formation, and spiritual leadership.

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