Support Moving Forward

By Natalie Briscoe

In my last blog post, I spoke about the two major challenges facing congregations as we move into this new church program year. In this blog post, I wanted to highlight some specific resources and programming for congregations facing these challenges. All of these resources are in addition to the resources your Congregational Life Staff already provides, including one-on-one church consults. As a reminder, you can request a phone call or a one-on-one consultation with Southern Region Staff by filling out the Partnership Activation Request at any time.

First, many congregations throughout the UUA are beginning a year without the level of professional staffing that they had planned or hoped for. If your congregation is in this position, I encourage you to participate in the Essentials for Lay Led Congregations program, a gathering of resources, networking, and partnerships across our UUA and led by Congregational Life staff nation-wide which Kathy McGowan wrote about in our October blog. This program includes an email subscription to a newsletter (full of helpful tips, tools, training opportunities, and other resources), and admission to the December 10, 2022, Lay Led Congregation Convergence. There you will get to connect with leaders from other lay-led congregations.

In addition to this stellar offering, I encourage all Presidents, Past Presidents, Incoming Presidents, and Vice Presidents to take advantage of our monthly Presidents' Gatherings. These hour-long zoom gatherings are the perfect opportunity to stay connected, learn about upcoming events, learn about the particulars of being a President, and chat with other leaders about the issues you are facing right now.

And don’t forget about our Toolbox Webinar Series, which has been geared toward assisting congregations who are in your particular position. Upcoming webinars include:

  • November 8 - Dismantling White Supremacy Culture Within the Congregation
  • January 10 - Practicing Shared Ministry
  • February 21 - Leadership Resources and Paths
  • March 14 - Worship for Lay Led Congregations
  • April 11 - Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy Resources
  • May 9 - Small Group Ministry and Spiritual Practice

The second issue facing congregations today is a question of the religious education ministry: families with children and youth have not yet returned to church, leaving Professional Religious Educators with many challenges for program planning. In addition to ReUUp, Youth Advisor Training, the RE Volunteers Toolbox, and the New DRE workshop that were all held earlier this fall, there are several courses and ongoing resources available in the UU Leadership Institute. There are resources available here both for professional Religious Educators as well as lay people who are finding themselves needed to skill up in areas such as curriculum selection and development, program planning, and faith formation and development across the lifespan.

It may not need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: Religious Educators and lay leaders in congregations wishing to discuss, brainstorm, commiserate, or get resources for faith development, religious education, or religious education leadership, including but not limited to the models, theory, theology, curriculum, governance, or execution of religious education are encouraged to contact Southern Region staff. I am so proud that every single person on Southern Region staff is a Religious Educator and has vast experience in religious education. We can assist you in discerning the path forward for your congregation. We can be another voice in the choir of collegial support for both professionals and lay people as we move into what comes next.

These two formidable challenges can feel insurmountable at times. With congregations facing tight budgets and higher costs, the outlook can feel bleak. Can we do it? Can we not just survive, but build a thriving Beloved Community that extends beyond our walls and into the world? Can we indeed live into the promise of One Holy Love for All?

Of course we can. I believe in you. There is nothing we can’t do when we go forward together, with a shared vision of a living Faith that is co-created by all of us. Don’t give up. We need you.