Embracing Family Ministry with Laura Beth Brown

 

In this Facebook Live conversation with Laura Beth Brown and Peter Bowden we discuss “Embracing Family Ministry” based on Laura Beth’s popular workshops and role as Director of Family Ministry at Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation is Summit, NJ.

We discuss how her congregation’s approach to family ministry is drawing inspiration from the book “Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age” by Juana Bordas
and what some of the resulting changes look like.

From my discussion with Laura Beth in preparation for our interview, I learned that she leads workshops related to volunteer/stewardship strategy and creating a spirit of generosity and therefore, sustainability in our congregations.

Scroll down for more on Laura Beth Brown and links to people and resources mentioned in this video.

You may also watch this on my UU PLANET Youtube Channel.

GUEST INFORMATION

Laura Beth Brown is a 500-hr Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance, an amateur grill chef, and the Director of Family Ministry at Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, NJ.

She is primarily a vinyasa and prenatal yoga instructor with a therapeutic yoga lens and has certifications in Prenatal, Children’s Yoga, and Off The Mat Into the World (the bridge between yoga, self inquiry, and effective community action). As a singer/song-leader and harmonium player, she also leads call-and-response community singing known as kirtan, a form of Bhakti yoga, or the yoga of devotion. As a yogi, Laura Beth leads workshops in Bhakti Yoga, Prenatal yoga, and Conscious Activism.

In role as a religious educator, Laura Beth has led 12-hr workshops on Embracing Family Ministry with her Ministerial Supervisor, the Rev. Emilie Boggis, at this year’s Center Institute for ministers, and then again on Star Island for religious educators. Just last month, she presented at LREDA Fall Conference as well. She also leads workshops on volunteer strategy called Stop Recruiting, Start Retaining as a means of collective sustainability for congregations.

RELATED LINKS

Kim Sweeney and Courageous Faith Consulting
https://kimsweeney.com

The blog by Rev. Emmily Boggis “Reflections on Parenting in the Pew” may be found on the home page of the Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation  website.
http://summitbeacon.org

The Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA)
https://www.lreda.org

Peter Bowden’s UU PLANET Facebook group for Unitarian Universalist congregational leaders, staff, and religious professionals.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/uuplanet

As always, please share this post with others who might appreciate this conversation.

How UU Reston added 101 new members in 2 years

In this session, I’m joined by the Rev. Dr. Debra W. Haffner, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston, Virginia.

We discuss her congregation’s incredible membership growth — 101 new members over the last 2 years!

Many of the strategies they use are ones your congregation can implement.

Rev. Debra says that if they can do it, you can do it!

Here are a few highlights:

• They use a SIMPLE COMMUNICATION CARD to collect name and email of visitors, as well as a few other details.

• The week after a person visits and fills out a communication card, a PRINTED NAME TAG (blue for newcomers) is waiting for them.

• The minister greets people outside the sanctuary and strives to GREET NEWCOMERS BY NAME by their third visit.

• There is a MONTHLY COFFEE WITH THE MINISTER following the service for visitors and newcomers. Instead of a more substantial orientation twice per year, they’ve shifted to monthly Coffee with the Minister events with these promoted throughout the month.

There are many other things they do to streamline the path to membership. Watch the video to get those details, including how they approach pledging.

Please share this with your staff, membership committee, and any leaders interested in membership growth.

Have related ideas, strategies, or success stories?  I’d love to hear from you.

Related Links:

UU Reston website
http://www.uureston.org

About the Rev. Dr. Debra Haffner
http://www.uureston.org/minister/

Rev. Dr. Debra Haffner’s books on Amazon
https://amzn.to/2D2nEYw

Recorded Oct 31, 2018 via Facebook live in my UU PLANET Facebook group for UU religious professions, staff and lay leaders.

Helping website visitors have that “These are my people!” experience

In this UU Planet Facebook live session, I share a brief case study on tweaking congregational website text to help people have that “these are my people!” experience.

Recently I visited two UU congregational websites back to back. The difference between them was staggering.

One was “Eh….” The other? I was instantly drawn in, inspired, and had a deep sense that “Ahhhhh, these are my people….”

There are lots of little adjustments we can make online which can impact whether people stay on your website or immediately bounce. We don’t want potential visitors bouncing off your site, we want them to stay, to learn, to connect, and eventually, to visit.

UU Holiday Service Planning

Happy UU Holidays! 🎄
Well, not quite. But it is time to start planning. That’s why in this session we’re talking DECEMBER HOLIDAY SERVICES and things congregations do that keep holiday guests from returning. I’ve included some take away points below. If these ideas inform your planning and you have a related story to share, I’d love to hear from you. Happy planning! ~ Peter

1. SERVICE CONTENT

During holiday services, if your approach and message don’t represent what your congregation and Unitarian Universalism is like the rest of the year, you’re making your congregation less compelling to your guests.

YES! Holiday services should be about the holidays, but do your service planning knowing that there will be many guests. What does your service communicate about Unitarian Universalism?

2. SERVICE LENGTH

For holiday services, think twice about going long. During the regular course of the year, our services tend to be an hour. We don’t want people leaving apologizing to their guests saying, “I’m sorry. It isn’t usually this long. Services the rest of the year are very different.”

Instead of going long, consider going short. I consume a lot of church growth and outreach books, articles, and other material. Again and again, I see recommendations for Christmas Eve to stick to the regular service length or be on the shorter side. Instead of going long, deliver a fantastic service in 45 to 60 minutes so people can celebrate, have a great experience with their guests, and leave to continue their celebrations.

I sometimes joke that the only time a service should be longer than an hour is when someone is being ordained, or someone has died. That’s a little cheeky and kind of harsh, but I say it in defense of the people who are regularly subjected to poorly crafted services that go too long.

The majority of the time I see or hear about UU services going long, it is by mistake, not by design. In most cases, I think the overtime has a negative impact on your message. Of course, there are exceptions! Just be intentional. And if it is designed to be longer than an hour, include the start and end times in your communication.

3. VISION CASTING + INVITATION

When guests come for holiday services, plan on offering them more than just the holiday message. Offer them a vision for what you can accomplish as a community. Think about the mission of your congregation, the impact it can have on their lives, your community, and invite them to participate.

I encourage you to make designing corresponding January worship services, public events, and other programming an integral part of your planning. Plan for December Holidays + January.

I DO NOT recommend pushing announcements during the holidays. But you can deliver a message that speaks to the state of our world, upholds the challenges we are facing (in the context of appropriate holiday message), how we are called to action, and explain that is WHY your congregation is committed to _____ and over the coming month you’ll have services and programming on ______.

You can do that in a way that supports and amplifies the message of the holidays and upholds the mission and vision of your congregation.

4. AFTER THE SERVICE FLYER

How do you communicate with guests attending holiday services? My favorite strategy is a print flyer. When people leave, hand out a well designed high-quality flyer that is an invitation to upcoming services, programs, special events. You can minimize talk of announcements during the service but have ushers, and other volunteers hand out a flyer as people leave.

Is your congregation’s ministry team in the holiday planning stage? Know someone who would appreciate this conversation? Share this post with them.

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.

Live Session: On Welcoming and Hospitality

Live session talking GUEST SERVICES recorded in our UU PLANET Community Group on August 8, 2018.

I discuss greeting and hospitality and kicks off our group’s conversation on what we can do to make sure guests have a great first visit. It also includes some common pitfalls to avoid.

We’ll be exploring this and related topics as we approach September.   If your congregation has a practice or insight related to welcoming, greeting, and hospitality, share it in our group or as a comment on this page.

Need to train your greeters?
I’m working on a new online greeter training for Unitarian Universalists (and friends).  I’ll email you when that new training is open for registration.  Not sure if you’re on my mailing list? Subscribe here.