Tips for attending UUA General Assembly 2018

The UUA’s General Assembly conference is this month, June 20-24, in Kansas City, MO.

It is time to prepare, and if this is your first time, make sure to checkout our tips for having a great conference at  If you aren’t attending the conference on-site, checkout the many ways to participate off-site.

This collaborative post and “survival guide” features tips and reminders for attending the annual General Assembly conference of the Unitarian Universalist Association!  We started this post our UU Growth Lab Facebook Group in 2011 and I have been updating annually ever since.

Have a tip or resource to add?  Share it in a comment at the end of this post or share via Twitter and tag your tweet with #UUAGA and my username @UUPLANET.

Follow the UU World’s Coverage:

The staff of the UU World does an amazing job covering General Assembly.  Their GA blog and social media channels are the go to source for in-depth and breaking General Assembly news.

The Official Hashtag

The official hashtag for the UUA’s General Assembly conference is #UUAGA.  There is NO year in the tag. Every year a handful of UUs get stuck following the wrong hashtag because someone tweeted the hashtag and inserted the year.  There is no year. The hashtag is #UUAGA.

Preparation for General Assembly

To get the most out of General Assembly, schedule time to work through the UUA’s 2018 preparation guide:

Don’t think about the volume of content, you’ll go into shock.  SCHEDULE a time within the next day to review the list and schedule the time you’ll need to do your preparation.  You need to get it into your calendar.  Plan a time to plan your prep.

Prep includes content to watch, listen to, and read. The following video is an expample:

Learn about the racial and socioeconomic segregation that splits Kansas City geographically and explore current concerns around urban gentrification. First, watch this informative, locally produced 13-minute video, “Building the Troost Wall: Structural Racism in Kansas City.”

Delegate “What to Expect” Webinars

The UUA board is offering webinars to orient delegations.  You can join these live Zoom webinars on June 5, 7, 9, or 10.  Full details and registration:
“What General Assembly Delegates Can Expect at GA 2018”

Get the Offical General Assembly App!

The UUA GA Mobile App is fantastic.  If you have a smartphone, make sure to install it.  It will significantly improve your GA experience.  Plan on exploring and testing the app before you arrive. There are a lot of features. You can choose to follow posts by other attendees, share your own posts tagging which event you’re at, and much more.  The week leading up to GA, try opening the app each day. People will already be posting. It has all the program information and serves as a self contained GA social network.  Get it now!

 

Before You Go

  • Plan your life at General Assembly assuming you will not be able to access wi-fi in the convention center.  Internet access is always and issue. Bring critical information and contact numbers with you. If access is good, enjoy!  But be prepared.
  • Convention centers, especially the main halls, are usually freezing! Bring a layer you can easily take on and off so you’re okay going from outside to hallways to the general session/plenary ice box.
  • Hydrate! Bring a water bottle. If you’re flying, bring an empty one to fill at a water fountain after you go through security.  You can usually buy a reusable bottle in the Exhibit Hall.
  • If you are a delegate, READ related business materials before you come.  You are deciding our future. Visit the UUA’s page with information for delegates.
  • GA is amazing for network and learning.  Bring business or personal cards so that you can give your information to others.
  • GA is a great time to get on Twitter.  You’ll be surrounded by people to give you advice and amazing content to tweet about.  The following video was made before the 2014 GA in Providence. The process and tips still apply, just know that the GA specific examples are now from that past GA.  Just make sure you go to GA in the right city. Update to this video coming soon.

Again, this is an older video. Make sure to go to General Assembly in the right city — Kansas City, MO!

  • Be sure that someone from your congregation is bringing the banner for the banner parade.
  • Plan out what workshops you want to go to.  Have a tentative choice made for all time slots in advance. You’ll need time between schedule blocks to take care of biological needs, talk to people, and change rooms. You won’t have time to pick as you go.
  • Pick a 2nd workshop for each time slot. You may find that when you arrive at your first choice it’s not what you expected and it will be good to know exactly where to go to get to your 2nd choice.
  • Pack comfy shoes.
  • Bring a bag you can carry comfortably with you at all times, like a shoulder bag or light backpack.
  • If you’re asked to carry your congregations banner during the banner parade, figure out how the poles/carrying PVC pipes go together before hand.  Here are banner specs from the UUA (pdf).
  • “Last year I had a binder where on the back cover I had a map of the area in the plastic cover thing, the front with my delegate card and other really important info, and inside my travel info, the program book, the business resolutions, etc.  It really helped me stay organized throughout.  Put in paper to take notes on, bring pens, etc.  I had that with me in my laptop bag and it was great.”
  • Talk to people in your congregation to find out about resources you can scout out and bring home. There is an amazing collection of resources available in the exhibit hall, including books from the UUA Bookstore.
  • Use General Assembly as an opportunity to connect with leaders in congregation near you. You can use the GA App to network. You might even reach out to your neighboring UU congregations in advance.
  • If you can’t walk more than a mile easily, you will want to rent a scooter through GA Accessibility Services. If you often use hearing assistive devices in crowded settings, you will want to use GA Accessibility Services. Better to reserve equipment you turn out not to need than arrive & be blocked from participating because no extra equipment is available.
    GA Accessibility Services. 
  • If you have special dietary requirements, scout out the food vendors before departure and plan well ahead. Make reservations at places that will accept them. Pack extra food if you have really specific needs. It isn’t uncommon to have to wait at GA area restaurants for a long time, or to have relatively few places that can accommodate vegans, folk who need to eat gluten-free, or even offer acceptable fast alternatives for diabetics.
  • Plan a check-in breakfast/lunch/dinner with some people you know at some point.  Even if you’re the independent or introverted type, GA is really overwhelming in the sheer mass of people and having a drink with some familiar faces can be really nice
  • If you don’t know anyone going to GA, start making connecting with people via the GA app and on Twitter.  For example, on Twitter you might tweet “Looking forward to _____ at this year’s #UUAGA conference.”  Fill in the blank with what you’re excited about.  By including the #UUAGA hashtag we can find your tweet on Twitter.  On the GA App you can share posts with photos.  You might share a photo of yourself and share what you’re looking forward to and what leadership role(s) you have in your congregation.
  • If you really want to spend time with someone you haven’t seen in ten years, email them now and ask to get together.  You don’t need to finalize plans now, but many people plan how they are using meals in advance. When you ask they will either say “yes” or “I’d love to talk to you for a minute at some point, but my schedule is totally booked.”
  • Prepare your Unitarian Universalism elevator speech. Local folks ask questions; be prepared to answer.  What’s a Unitarian Universalist?  What’s your conference about?

While you’re there

  • Now that you’ve arrived, remember to HYDRATE!  And take time to eat and pace yourself.  GA is a marathon.
  • You don’t have to go to everything.  And that’s ok.  I ended up skipping things last year, including the Ware Lecture, because I needed a breather.  And dinner.  Besides it will be online.
  • You need to eat.  You’ll need to schedule that in.
  • Attend the orientations, from GA for First Timers to your regional/district ones.  They help.
  • Avoid picking up paper – use digital notes whenever possible (they’re tending toward less paper).
  • Say “Hi” to people & don’t be shy to tell them that you’re a first timer.
  • A great way to meet people is to introduce yourself to people when you sit down in a workshop.  You already know you have a common interest.  Say hello and strike up conversation.
  • Whatever you do, go to the Service of the Living Tradition, the Ware Lecture and the Sunday morning service. See program highlights.
  • Don’t miss the Synergy Bridging Service! We’re the only denomination that honors the transition from youth to young adulthood at our annual assembly.
  • Having a meal with other UUs from across the country can sometimes be more valuable than going to a workshop. Prioritize relationships.
  • I was told this by my congregation and it really made a difference for me.  During a general session (previously called plenary) , if you aren’t sure what you’re about to vote on, don’t hesitate to ask for a point of clarification from the procedure microphone.  Because if you don’t know what you’re voting on, at least 100 other people there don’t know either.
  • There’s this GA tradition that I don’t fully get – getting as many possible ribbons from booths to hang from the bottom of your nametags.  When you check in, at least last year, you even got some “coupons” to take to certain booths to get certain ribbons.  I just followed the crowd on that one.
  • Wear comfy shoes.
  • GA volunteers are often wearing specific shirts or pinnies that identify them easily. They’re there to help you. GA is really possible because of the kindness and support our volunteers give.
  • If you are in need of emotional or spiritual assistance, if you experience any kind of harassment, talk to any shirted GA volunteer and ask them to help you be connected with either the Right Relations Team or the chaplains.
  • You are an ambassador of Unitarian Universalism!
    Many people in and around the convention center will be meeting their first Unitarian Universalists.   While at General Assembly, bring your best self and make living our values an intentional practice.  Sore feet because you forgot your comfy shoes is not an excuse.  Be kind. Be generous. Smile. Pick up trash. You are not a tourist. You are not a business conventioneer. You are an ambassador of our faith.

Play with Video!

  • Going to film video at GA with your smartphone? Checkout my video tips page. Whether you are tweeting or sharing on Facebook or another platform, GA can be a great place to record videos.  If you are at GA with a team, you might take turns filming video updates from GA.

Tourism / Local Information

Have a tip or related resources to share?  Comment on this post or comment wherever I’ve shared this post on Twitter or Facebook.  Thanks! Peter

On the “Historical and Future Trajectories of Black Lives Matter and Unitarian Universalism”

Videos of the Spring 2017 Minns Lectures on “Historical and Future Trajectories of Black Lives Matter and Unitarian Universalism” are now available.

Lecture 1:   Friday, March 31
Presented by the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, Affiliated Member, Meadville-Lombard Theological School. The Rev. Mary Margaret Earl, Executive Director and Senior Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry (UUUM) acted as respondent. Lecture held at First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough St., Boston, MA

Lecture 2: Saturday, April 1
Presented by the Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, President, Professor of Unitarian Universalist Ministry and Heritage, Starr King School for the Ministry. DiDi Delgado, writer, activist, organizer, and freelance journalist, acted as respondent. Lecture held First Parish in Cambridge, 3 Church St., Cambridge, MA

The UU Media Collaborative week 1

Friends, this is a glimpse of how Unitarian Universalists can collaborate with amazing results…

Late September 2012 we started a Facebook group called the UU Media Collaborative to bring together UU creatives who want to work together to share our faith and raise the quality of UU Media.  We created the group, then a page to share content, followed by a site for archiving hi resolution images.

The first week (according to Facebook) over 50,000 people saw the images and 3,000+ were “talking about” the content.  Check it out…

Here’s an alternate version.  Sharing this video with the group for feedback, ultimately it was decided there was no reason not to share both 😉

Checking in on Youtube stats

Just looked at my Youtube channel stats for September and 30% of videos were watched on mobile devices.  Only 12% were viewed as embedded videos.  Just goes to show how critical it is to 1) put your videos on Youtube if you want them discovered organically and 2) that mobile is increasingly the norm.   I think about all of the Unitarian Universalist sites that aren’t mobile optimized, using vimeo, etc…. Gotta go where the people are and that’s Youtube…

Church Growth Conference – Taunton, MA, October 26-27, 2012

First Parish, Taunton, MA - Exterior

Next month our Unitarian Universalist congregation in Taunton, MA is hosting a growth conference which I hope you will consider sending a team to.

It is Friday, October 26 – Saturday, October 27, 2012.

See Full Details and Online Registration.

Paul Nickerson

Presenting will be my colleague, Paul Nickerson, a senior associate with Griffith Coaching, the leading new church Start and Turnaround Company in the country.  Paul has more than 30 years of experience as a local pastor, judicatory leader and church consultant.

I met Paul in May of 2011 at a New Church Start Boot Camp  he was leading with Jim Griffith, author of Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by New Church Starts.  That training was the best I’ve attended in years!  Now I’m excited to hear Paul’s take on growth, membership and turning congregations around.

Is this a Unitarian Universalist event?

This event is being organized by our Unitarian Universalist congregation in Taunton, MA, will have mostly UU participants, and is being coordinated by the very Unitarian Universalist minister, the Rev. Christana Wille-Mcknight.

Presenting will be Paul Nickerson, who is NOT Unitarian Universalist, which is exactly why I’m going to this event.

Paul has also been kind enough to invite me to speak briefly on congregational social media.  That’s right, can’t have a complete growth conference without a healthy (and fun) dose of social media!

Registration

Online registration is now open at http://growthconference.eventbrite.com.  Want to share news of this event with others?  There are sharing buttons at the end of this post. Below you may also find the original event announcement from the Ballou Channing District of the UUA.

I look forward to seeing you in Taunton!
Peter Bowden

Church Turnaround and Growth Conference in Taunton

The First Parish Church in Taunton is sponsoring a growth conference for churches who want to do something new to turn their church around on Friday, October 26 and Saturday October 27.

The conference is being lead by church development consultant, Paul Nickerson. It will introduce new ways of thinking about conducting and employing  new techniques for doing growth work differently. For more information contact Rev. Christana Willey McKnight, minister@firstparishtaunton.org. Register at http://growthconference.eventbrite.com/ Registration fee: $350 group/$125 individual. First Parish Church in Taunton, MA, is located on Church Green (on Route 44).

The UU Media Collaborative, it works…

UU Media Collaborative - Dragonfly - Sept 19, 2012

Yesterday a few of us launched a new project on Facebook, a group called “The UU Media Collaborative.”  The group is described as follows:

The UU Media Collaborative is a space for Unitarian Universalists to collaborate on the production of freely available and sharable visual graphics, images, videos and other resources. We hope to encourage collaborations between UU graphic designers, photographers, videographers, graphic artists and other creative minds. Interested in sharing the ideals of Unitarian Universalism visually? Join us!
Coming together in a new spirit of collaboration, members started sharing resources for free stock photos,  then sources for UU quotes.   Then POW!  The following UU Media Collaborative works resulted.   We’ll be figuring out a vehicle for making the groups works easy to follow and share, with clear use guidelines. UPDATE: We’ve launched a Facebook page for sharing images created by the UU Media Collaborative. Like to get new content you can share with your congregation and beyond!
You may join the group at  http://www.facebook.com/groups/uumedia
Get content via Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/UUMedia

UU Media Collaborative - Ballet Sept 19, 2012

3-day UU Social Media intensive next week!

Peter and daughter enjoying porch/rocking chairs at 2011 Star Island Lifespan RE Week


Friends, just received these details for the three-day option we’ve created for those who want to attend the mid-week portion of my social media track next week.  A few people still trying to join us for this  Tue — Thur option  featuring sessions on Facebook, Twitter, and online video for UU congregations. The following details are from email sent out this morning by the conference organizers. Hope you can join us!  -Peter

Can’t make our full conference?
Join us for a mid-week 3-day UU Social Media intensive!

Tuesday, July 17 – Thursday, July 19
Peter Bowden, leader of our week-long social media track, has adapted his program to allow for a Tues to Thurs option—featuring sessions on Facebook, Twitter, and online video.
Interested? Register ASAP!
LRE Registration Fee: $30/day
Room/board charged as personal retreat.
For pricing, details, and to register, visit:
starisland.org/overnight/personalretreats


Interested in attending other days?
We’re working to maximize participation and fill our remaining open seats! Let us know.

The following is the full program description:

Social Media for Ministry & Outreach
Social media is fundamentally changing how people form relationships, consume information and make important life decisions. This has significant implications for congregations. For our ministry to thrive in the 21st Century, we must understand these changes and learn to use the communication tools of our time with skill and integrity. With a focus on ministry and outreach, we will explore major social networking tools including blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube (video). After rave reviews last year, we are bringing Peter back to lead another round of his social media intensive for congregational leaders. This year will include even more material on integrating video into our ministry with all ages!

Videos: Thousands of Unitarian Universalists protest Arpaio’s Tent City jail

On Saturday, June 23, 2012 thousands of Unitarian Universalists and immigration partners protested outside of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City jail.  The following are videos containing footage from this event, including UU World videos and media from vigil participants. For full coverage of this religious witness event and the 2012 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, visit the UU World’s GA blog.

UU World description: On Saturday, June 23, 2012, more than 2,000 Unitarian Universalists and their immigration justice partners protested outside Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “Tent City” jail in conjunction with the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Justice General Assembly in Phoenix. Read UU World’s coverage of the vigil and a tour Sheriff Arpaio gave to UUA President Peter Morales, United Church of Christ President Geoffrey Black, and other religious leaders:
blogs.uuworld.org/ga/2012/06/24/thousands-wage-peaceful-protest-at-tent-city/
blogs.uuworld.org/ga/2012/06/24/religious-delegation-visits-tent-city/

This 4-minute film includes footage from two previously published UU World videos:

Our colleagues with Denver Film & Video recorded the speakers at the vigil — 14 minutes.

Religious Leaders Tour Tent City

UU World description: The Rev. Leslie Takahashi-Morris was part of a delegation of religious leaders who toured the ‘Tent City’ jails in Phoenix, Ariz., on Saturday June 23, 2012.

UU World description: The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, describes the Maricopa County, Ariz., “Tent City” jail to the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries. Black toured the jail with Unitarian Universalist Association President Peter Morales and other religious leaders on Saturday, June 23, 2012, before an interfaith vigil outside the jail organized as part of the UUA’s General Assembly. blogs.uuworld.org/ga/2012/06/24/religious-delegation-visits-tent-city/

Black, Jaramillo, and the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, UCC Ecumenical and Interfaith Officer, attended the UUA General Assembly as interfaith guests. Black took part in the Sunday worship service.

ucc.org/news/ucc-leaders-to-join-unitarian.html

Three days before the Tent City vigil, the Unitarian Universalists Association held a rally following the opening of their 2012 General Assembly conference.  Event was held on the block adjacent to the Phoenix Convention Center. Read the UU World blog post about this event.

Additional Vigil Videos


Follow me and the UU World at the UUA’s 2012 General Assembly

This week I will be video reporting on the 2012  General Assembly conference of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) for the UU World Magazine. Coverage will be posted on the UU World’s GA Blog, including videos, and be shared via all available social media channels. Connect with the UU World and follow this week via links below.

  • Follow me on Twitter @uuplanet.
  • UU’s I know are welcome to friend me on Facebook.
  • Need to reach me at GA? Message me via the above channels or leave voicemail at (617) 744-9784. This will forward to my cell and notify me via email.

Follow the UU World Magazine

Full coverage of the 2011 General Assembly

Occupy Your Faith – A Boston Unitarian Universalist Revival

Event announcement via Matt Meyer. “Please pass it along to everyone you know!  Pass it along to youth group leaders and youth, friends and family, choir members and musicians, clergy and college students!  The RSVP will let us know how much food to get and how much help we’ll need with childcare.”

Boston UU Revival on May 12th!
Join us for a service of song, story, and reflection.
4-6pm.  Dinner to follow

Music by: Matt Meyer, Mark David Buckles,
and “The Music Committee,” a contemporary UU band.
$15 suggested donation.
An offering for the UU Urban Ministry will be taken.

Childcare Available
RSVP HERE



Occupy Your Faith
A Boston Unitarian Universalist Revival

Join us for an energetic service of song, story, and reflection as we share in a celebration of the transforming message of Unitarian Universalism.

Saturday, May 12th
Worship begins at 4pm, with a shared dinner to follow at 6pm.
RSVP HERE

Childcare will be available

At the UU Urban Ministry
10 Putnam st. in Roxbury
 
<10 min walk from Roxbury Crossing T stop

Music by: Matt Meyer, Mark David Buckles, and “The Music Committee” a contemporary UU band.
Suggested donation of $15.
A free-will offering will also be taken for the UU Urban Ministry of Boston.