UU Social Media: Why collaboration is critical for success

In this Facebook Live session, I discuss UU congregational social media management and why a collaborative spirit and team approach are critical to success! This 23-minute session is for all congregational leaders including religious professionals, staff, and volunteers. Parish ministers and ministry leaders: A special message (cheer leading!) for you is included starting at 14 minutes into video. Unitarian Universalist leaders are invited to join my UU PLANET Facebook group. In this group I hold weekly live sessions on themes related to leading and growing UU congregations.

Friends: I just added closed captioning for this video. Make sure to hit the CC button if you want it displayed.   ~ Peter

Prefer to watch and share on Facebook?  Here’s a public Facebook Post from my UU PLANET page.

7 Ways we make it hard to join UU congregations

Friends, this is the recording of my Facebook Live session from Thursday, September 13th. I discuss ways we often MAKE IT HARD TO JOIN OUR CONGREGATIONS. Many UU congregation are hard to join not from a policy perspective, but due to a range of barriers we create. I cover 8 barriers in this video, 7 plus a whopper of a +1 bonus barrier.

IN ORDER DISCUSSED

7. Not sufficiently communicating who you are and answering peoples questions online. Online instant access is the preference of digitally oriented people. Instead many congregations expect people to visit and bumble around and figure things out over time.

6. Related to number 7, not using the tools of our time, especially video, to eliminate the mystery around who your minister, staff, and key leaders are. You should be showing members, staff, and your minister(s) in videos. This can be simple smartphone videos or videos filmed in Facebook Live sessions.

5. Waiting for potential new members to appear before scheduling or announcing orientations, new Unitarian Universalist, and related gathering.

4. Expecting newcomers to go to and survive coffee hour.

3. Not enough physical space. People don’t feel like there is room for them once the worship service is 70% – 80% full.

2. Not having enough relational space. If all your groups are full and there aren’t people with the relational capacity to connect and form relationships with newcomers, peopel coming into your community can fail to make meaningful connections. This can happen even if you are a warm and friendly congregation. We can use growth oriented small groups to address this, a special kind of group led slightly differently than the average groups in your small group ministry program.  I’m working on a new online training related to this. More on that to come shortly!

1. Making joining feel like insignificant, instead of celebrating and making it a special milestone.

⭐ And the BONUS BARRIER — not encouraging (or allowing) youth raised in our congregations to become members!  For the love of coffee, how can we keep doing this?!  Well, perhaps it just comes down to the finances of it. Fortunately the way the UUA calculates fair share is shifting. See the NEW APF page.  Reminder, I don’t work for the UUA. I did once upon a time, but I’ve been 100% independent since 2002. Though our association is periodic client of mine.

Engaging people in congregational life using social media – climate justice example

How can you use social media to engage people in congregational life?  It isn’t by bombarding them with boring cut and pasted invitations to attend!

In this excerpt from my weekly live Q&A / office hours in our UU PLANET Community group, I share an example of using social media to engage people with a specific worship service and upcoming area of focus for the congregation. Because it is dangerously HOT, HOT, HOT in Boston I use a climate justice focused service and launch of a new climate justice ministry as an example.

Organizations I used in this example:

Note that YES, we do need to work on addressing the root causes of climate change, but I think a special focus for our congregations should be helping to re-connect humanity,  cultivating and articulating a vision for how we do “climate disruption” together, and working to address associated injustices.

 

UU Facebook Advertising Outreach Strategy

In this week’s live chat I discuss Facebook advertising and outreach strategy for Unitarian Universalist congregations.   

 

In this session we explore the outreach potential of Facebook ads, how you might use them for targeted outreach this September / Fall.  We also cover questions submitted by members of our UU Planet Community group in advance. 

Some of the outreach examples include:

  • interfaith families
  • parents of young children
  • young adults
  • people new to Unitarian Universalism
  • people interested in immigration justice.  

We talk budget, the need to have a clear goal, and importance of connecting outreach campaigns with specific events.  

Go to video on Facebook to see comments, questions, and my responses.

UU religious professionals, staff members, and volunteer leaders, you’re invited to join my new UU PLANET community group for Unitarian Universalists leading and growing amazing congregations. Check it out. We’re sharing resources, ideas, and continuing the conversation following each week’s live chat.

Join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/uuplanet

Live Session: Lifespan Small Group Ministry Approach to UU Religious Exploration

Live session exploring using a lifepan small group ministry model as the engine for our Unitarian Universalist religious exploration, leadership development, and justice work with children, youth, young adults, and adults. Video was recorded in our UU PLANET Community Group on August 14, 2018.

 

LIVE SESSION: Using SMALL GROUP MINISTRY

QUESTIONS FOR YOU:

• What kind of group experiences do you have for adults in your congregation? Where is group life jamming in your congregation?

• What about groups with children, youth, and young adults? How do these compare to your offerings for adults?

• What do you think the benefit would be of integrating our vision and approach for groups across ages?

QUESTION FOR PETER
Have questions for me on these themes? Share them in our group or contact me here! I’m working on turning my core small group ministry trainings for program leaders and group facilitators into online trainings. Would love to include more on groups for all ages. Your questions are a big help. Thank you.

New UUA Congregations Reaching Out Toolkit

Friends, I’m excited to share the new UUA Congregations Reaching Out Toolkit with you!

I’m always sharing great UUA resources, but this one is special as worked with the UUA Outreach Team on its development. It represents a fantastic collaboration and synthesis of many best practices and recommended outreach strategies.  More on my contributions and link to the toolkit below.

I highly recommend sharing this resource with your leadership. Use it to help you realize your congregations growth and outreach potential.

About the Congregations Reaching Out Toolkit

The Congregations Reaching Out Toolkit is designed to help Unitarian Universalists congregations and groups accomplish the following:

  • Discern who you are and compellingly communicate a cohesive identity online and in person.
  • Use social media to identify, reach, and engage with specific target audiences.
  • Create and promote outreach events and opportunities based on the needs of these audiences.

UUA Congregations Reaching Out Cycle

The toolkit is presented in three guides:

  • Finding Your Target Audience
  • Social Media Strategy for Outreach
  • Planning and Promoting Great Outreach Events

“Together these present an outreach process of continually refining your public identity, sharing this through your online presence, identifying new audiences you want to reach, engaging with them via social media, and intentionally designing and promoting outreach-focused events. As the need for UU values has never been greater, we must turn up our efforts to turn our ministries outward to our communities, helping those values reach new groups of people inside and outside our congregations.”

My Role and Contributions

As for my contributions to the toolkit, first, I offered content feedback and strategy recommendations on an early version of the toolkit. Later, after the two principal authors on the resource changed staff positions — Carey McDonald moved from UUA Outreach Director to UUA Acting Chief Operating Officer and the Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh joined the congregational life staff of the Pacific Western Region of the UUA — I accepted the task of doing a major edit and re-write of the toolkit.

Because of these various roles:

  • I am directly quotedin the toolkit
  • Offered additional tips and strategies for inclusion
  • And re-wrote / edited large portions of the toolkit

If you recognize language from my training in parts of the resource that are not directly attributed to me, that’s because I wrote or edited that section. As I said, this resource represents a great collaboration.

I’m grateful to Carey McDonald, now Executive Vice President of the UUA, for the opportunity to work with the UUA Outreach Team on the development of this resource, and to the Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh for giving it a home with the Pacific Western Region of the UUA.  Thank you.

Get the Toolkit

That’s it! I hope you find this resource valuable.  You can download the strategy guides that make up the toolkit here:

Make the most of this great resources:  Share it.  Print it.  Discuss it.

Going to the UUA’s General Assembly conference?  Bring it with you.  It will make for great reading and conversation.  Once you check it out, I’d love to hear what you think.  Comment on this post, where I share this via Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Changes: What Your UU Congregation Needs to Know

Facebook’s recently announced changes are going to have a huge impact on congregational pages. Here’s a briefing on the changes and why you may want to consider incorporating a congregation-wide Facebook group into your strategy. This is food for thought.
 
You should talk how to respond with your ministry communications team. Don’t have a team working on integrating ministry and media? Oh, we should talk… Let me know you need support. That’s what I do.

Welcome Show and Tell: UU Congregation of Phoenix, AZ

The average guest visiting a congregation decides if they are going to come back within minutes of being on site.  How we welcome guests is critical!

This is a problem for our congregations with cringe worthy welcome tables,  cobweb covered welcome nooks hidden in dark corners, and in some cases nothing at all.

To help inspire taking our welcoming environments to the next level, I’ve invited members of the UU Growth Lab to join in a little welcome table show and tell.  Additional submissions welcome, see the end of this post.

Here is our first installment! ~ Peter

The UU Congregation of Phoenix

Our first welcome area show and tell is from Janine Gelsinger and the UU Congregation of Phoenix, AZ. Janine serves as their Membership and Welcoming Ministries Coordinator.

Pay close attention to how you feel as you review the photos below.

The Welcome Desk
This is their beautiful welcome desk with Janine modeling being a friendly presence.  I wish I had an animated GIF of her smiling and waving, but this will have to do.

Don’t you want to walk up, ask her questions, and get involved?

The notebook computers on each side of the welcome desk have sign-up forms including name tag request, pathway to membership enrollment, children’s registration, etc…

Temporary name tags and markers for visitors are available front and center!  Look close and you’ll see that they have a golden cup filled with a rainbow of Sharpies.

I love that they offer a rainbow of Sharpies.  Why?

  • Unitarian Universalists LOVE RAINBOWS
  • People enjoy picking their own color
  • If you are going to use guest nametags, use bold markers with ink!
  • I’ve seen many congregations with dry Crayola markers,  BIC ball point pens, and pencils next to their name tags. These are not only bad for visibility, they tell people you  don’t care.

Brochure Rack
Across from the main welcome desk is the brochure rack featuring a wide range of pamphlets. These are available via the UUA Bookstore.

Television Monitors
There are two televisions in the lobby. The one next to the desk, facing the sanctuary, scrolls through quotes relating to the monthly theme.  The side television displays information including new member photos, upcoming events, and photographs of the staff and board.
Children’s Ministry Welcome Table
Outside of the front doors, there is a Children’s Ministry welcome table. This is where parents are greeted by family greeters, sign in their kids, learn what rooms they go to, and get info about children’s ministry events.
What do you think? 
How do these photos make you feel? 
Does it give you any ideas for your congregation?
 
Comment on this post or wherever it appears online, especially in the UU Growth Lab.  Submissions for this series are welcome, as are other Unitarian Universalist growht, outreach, and media focused guest posts.  Before you submit a post, take a look at my UU PLANET guest post suggestions.
Thanks again to Janine!

UU Ice Breaker Bingo

This UU Ice Breaker Bingo activity was created by me, Peter Bowden, and the Rev. Amy Freedman. It was designed specifically for a religious education parent community building event.

Download UU Ice Breaker Bingo:
Icebreaker Bingo (updated 10/20/17) DOC
 Icebreaker Bingo (updated 10/20/17) PDF

Example Board

UUIcebreakerbingo

For best results CUSTOMIZE the boards to better fit the group you are using it with.  We used multiple boards just for fun.  Note that you can only customize the word docs, not the PDF.

How it was used        
The bingo sheets were passed out as people arrived.  This helped the 50+ parents attending connect before dinner.  Note this evening program was specifically designed to help parents connect, with the children having a separate program. Want to get your families to interact as families? Want to promote intergenerational / multigenerational community?  Make sure to do some intentional community building with your parents!

The three boards included in this document have different squares.  Boards 1 and 2 include questions referencing children.  Board 3 does not.  This has been included for those who don’t want to take the time to customize.

Tips on customizing:
As the facilitator of this icebreaker I  included “Find someone who has been on the Curious George Show” because I HAVE  and that helped me connect with all participants. We also knew that there was some interest in meditation.  That helped people connect who shared that interest.

We had prizes for the first five winners to shout out BINGO.  Either make sure to have prizes or take out the text saying you have prizes.

Want more resources like this? Signup to receive email updates.

Have fun! And let us know how it goes.

Why I hate special church visitor mugs and you probably should too

 

A question I am often asked in the context of my trainings with congregations is “Do special church visitor mugs work?”

My answer? NO!!!

In fact, in most cases I find special visitor mugs do harm. I rarely use the word HATE, but I do hate special visitor mugs.

Why? Because they take visitors with high expectations for how they are going to be welcomed, raise their expectations, and then? Holding the special mug you made them take, they are usually ignored. Their hopes and dreams are crushed! They are disappointed. They get angry.

Want to guarantee a visitor never comes back? Make them take a special mug to flag themselves to be warmly greeted and then ignore them. Works every time.

Does your congregation have a great system for greeting people?  Have a challenge, success story, or other learning to share?  I’d love to hear from you.

Comment below,  or if you’d like to speak with me about your congregation’s membership development efforts, you may contact me here. 

This video is an excerpt from my online course “Church Social Media and Membership Growth” which also covers some of the basics of welcoming people when they arrive onsite. What’s the point of doing great work with social media and outreach if we crush our vistors’ hopes and dreams when they show up, right?