Surveys and thoughts on Freerange UUs

A new survey for freerange UUs has just been created by the UUA’s Office of Growth Strategies.  I hope you’ll share this with your friends, colleagues and congregation at large.

Here’s the survey announcement:

Seeking Free-Range Unitarian Universalists…
by Tandi Rogers
If you’re a “Free-Range Unitarian Universalist,” please take this survey: The UUA Office of Growth Strategies is seeking to better understand Unitarian Universalism outside our congregations. Help me transform the way we live into our faith. If you’re active in a congregation, but know people who aren’t, but identify as Unitarian Universalist, please pass this on to them. Thank you!!  In faith, Tandi

From a growth perspective,  I think figuring out how to cultivate (not control) a larger Unitarian Universalist movement is critical.   Often I hear people using the words movement and religion interchangeably.  They are very different. A few thoughts on that in older post Is Unitarian Universalism a Religion or a Movement?

For more on the difference between a movement and a campaign, read the book Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements.  For some inspiration on starting a movement, watch the Ted Talk video Seth Godin on the tribes we lead.

FREERANGE-UU-SEALI’m very happy to see the UUA taking what I call “Freerange UUs” and, if they had a sports team, “the UU Freerangers” seriously.   Since I started tweeting approximately three years ago (via account @uuplanet) I’ve come into contact with freerange UUs who feel that they aren’t allowed to be Unitarian Universalists because they aren’t connected to a congregation.  Some have expressed that they don’t feel like they have permission to be UU in any way other than the building bound form.  My response has been “With all the authority NOT invested in me, I hereby give you permission to be a Unitarian Universalist!”  

Some of my colleagues have challenged me on it being valid to be UU outside of a congregation.  I gotta tell you, if Unitarian Universalism is small enough to be contained in our existing congregations, it is too small of a thing for me.   The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations — this organization is rightly bound to congregations.  But I don’t think our larger faith should be.

Some of you may be wonder, why aren’t these people connected to existing congregations?  There are so many reasons.  Here are some highlights.

  • There is no local congregation
  • The local congregation is Sunday morning centric and they work then
  • They identify with our faith, but not our present demographics
  • They are in transition
  • The spouse they are divorced from is occupying the local congregation
  • They were asked to pledge their third time at the congregation and feel the church is all about money
  • The congregational leadership is constantly begging for volunteers giving a sense that it is a sinking ship
  • The congregation is filled with unhealthy politics
  • The congregation is old and they are young
  • They have accessibility issues
  • They “married out”
  • The local congregation stinks — it happens.
  • And on and on…

I’m looking forward to seeing what comes from the UUA’s Free-range UU survey.  Even more, I’m hoping that the UU Freerangers will start organizing themselves, that a movement will ignite.  There are far more of them in the United States than there are members of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Again, I hope you’ll share the survey.

In faith,

15 thoughts on “Surveys and thoughts on Freerange UUs

  1. Peter, I, too, an interested in this survey. I wonder what kind of results it will get, particularly based on who actually fills it out. Are freerangers likely to fill this out? Do they fall in a certain type, or are there many types (both are somewhat true, I’m sure)? Other questions abound.

  2. I wonder how many people self-identify as UU but merely do so to get people off their backs. I know this is the case for at least some folks I have met. Sometimes they have heard the name (usually just “Unitarian”) and may have looked it up on the interwebs. I wonder, too, if there is a way to connect with them. I suspect they have more interest than they let on but don’t know much about churches in general. I also wonder if these folks would, in fact, fill out a survey…

    I agree with you on your welcoming of UU’s who are not affiliated with congregations. I also wonder what sort of theology these folks have. Is it roughly the same or would it tip the balance in a different direction? That is, does “Movement” UUism have a different center than “church” UUism?

  3. I filled out the survey. I do have the work and timing issues. I actually think the free range identity works fairly well (although it makes me think of chickens getting to roam around a bit before they’re cooked for someone’s dinner, but no mind)..

    While I participate with UUSC and other functional groups of UU, (such as CUUPS and others), a strong identification with a congregation (two local and there is always CLF) hasn’t quite firmed up, though I have participated in those as well. I do have the timing and schedule issues with work regularly.

    Actually, if some congregations taped their services and took virtual members from wherever, that might work out best for me as far as congregations go. CLF has made some steps in that regard, so that might be the longer term direction I’m headed regarding UU identity as well. In the meantime, free range UU works for me.

    1. Kalen, thanks for your reply. Yes, the Freerange identity is best I’ve heard despite some of the suggested implications if you associate with chickens!

      I have similar issues. Because of my work (tv production and consulting) I am booked most weekends and travel often. Makes it hard to connect with a congregation.

      I do know CLF is working on utilizing more of the tools of our time to bring people together in meaningful ways, to offer streaming services, etc.. I’m hopeful that very soon we’ll have many options for anyone who wants to connect as Unitarian Universalists.

  4. The CLF has services every Sunday at 7 pm ET and every Monday at 1:30 pm ET. You can get there from the CLF homepage or:

    I invite everyone to visit and see what it’s like (including you, Peter!) It’s not like watching a youtube of a recorded sermon. It’s a full service, with connection amongst the attendees from around the world. (If you want to just lurk anonymously, that’s fine, too.) And it’s pretty cool to be able to go to church in your sweats. Or go to church at Starbucks.

  5. This effort seems to be very much needed, provided that it is coordinated with AND BY the UUA. The leadership of UUA with its President is doing well and competing personalities are not helpful. Being only tangentially involved with a local Fellowship (very small 17 members) in a sparsely UU represented area, I consider myself among the “free-rangers” (as does appear to be those 17). Have sought to encourage greater involvement with this by them and am interested in hearing from and about others. Must add that my 84 years have brought me to this position with rapidly diminishing energies to do other than to encourage this effort. I find the UU WORLD to be very stimulating along with CLF publications. This is even as it appears that UUA might direct its efforts towards greater response to the extremely loud voices of the fanatical “Christian?” world who are allowed to steal the “thunder” of our UU creed (Principles).

  6. Here’s another attempt to connect with UUs not necessarily in a local UU congregation:
    The First Unitarian Universalist Church of the Internet.
    Find us on Facebook under that name.

  7. Are “free-rangers” interested in contributing any time, talent and treasure to the institution with which they don’t care to be associated, despite the fact that it maintains a structure of congregations, programs and people of which they can take advantage when they feel like it? Or are they just consumers?

  8. If you are a free-ranger, with whom are you in covenant? Where is your community? Why think of yourself of having an identity where a covenant is important, when you don’t need to have that identity in the first place? Who cares if you are a free-range UU as distinct from anything else?

    We are often reminded that as many people say they are UUs–and are not members of any congregations–as there are in congregations, and this sounds like a, um, “plan” to find some kind of dotted line, somewhere, that somehow the unaffiliated will sign on to. But to what end? If people don’t care about being in community, why is it in the interests of the UUA to hand them an identity?

    My congregation has a member covenant and a staff covenant. Meadville Lombard Theological School has a covenant. The minister’s association has a covenant. This goes to our earliest American history and is one of the reasons we exist. Where does the “free-range UU” identity add anything to a denomination that has both a Church of the Larger Fellowship and a Church of the Younger Fellowship?

    1. Thanks for your comment. I think it is important to remember that many people are not affiliated because of failings of our association and congregations. I’ve been in touch with people who are not affiliated because they work Sundays and that’s all that their local church does. Some are in locations where there are no congregations. Some don’t share the theology of the local congregation and there is only one in town. The music. Unhealthy leadership. Some people are raised UU and have that identity but aren’t looking to connect further. But others are. What percentage of those free range UUs? I don’t know. But for me, validating the experience of UUs who are not being served by our existing institutions — for many reasons — is important for our health, growth and development as a movement.

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