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

Join us for RE Without Walls: Technology, Theme-Based Ministry, and Full Week Faith!

Liberal Religious Educators Assoc Logo

October 22-25, 2015 * Morristown, NJ

Behold the awesome!  It is the LREDA Fall Conference with a focus that all Unitarian Universalist congregations and their religious leaders need to wrap their minds and ministry around:

  • Social Media and Technology
  • Theme Based Ministry
  • Full Week Faith

Yes, we’re talking Religious Education Without Walls and our keynotes, workshops and other programming will be covering critical building blocks for ministry, religious education, and faith development in today’s digitally connected world.

This event not to be missed.

And I’m not just saying that because I’m leading part of the programming.   It is because I care too much about you to let you be left behind,  struggling with 19th and 20th century ministry models. The horror! We have to move forward.

You know we have to change the way we transmit our faith and values as the world changes.  Yes?  Good!  So let’s all convene at the LREDA Fall Conference, and  learn, experiment, and move forward together.

I  will be offering the Friday keynote, two workshops and serving as the conference social media / digital ministry coach.

Trust me. This is one of the events where you’ll hear about it after the fact and wish you had been there.

If you want to go, you need to reserve your hotel room now as space for this event will go fast. Why? Because it is covering so much critical information our religious leaders know they need. The reserved LREDA rooms are going to go fast.  Oh, and Emma’s Revolution will be there too.

Here are critical links via LREDA.org:

If you don’t have the professional development budget for this,  tell your leadership that this is critical education and ask them to help you find the funding.  You’ll be glad you did, and so will they…   I don’t know what scholarships are available via LREDA or your region, but make sure to check. You might be able to get some support.

I hope to see you there!

In cooperation,
Peter

peterbowden2013

FALL 2014 UU Social Media and Membership Growth trainings

Friends, this Fall I’m leading two separate  day-long trainings on UU social media and membership growth.   I hope you’ll join us!

Peter BowdenHere’s the deal.  Today we need to be intentionally integrating our social media, visitor greeting and other membership development efforts.  If we don’t,  we’re in trouble.

Thanks to technology the path to membership is moving increasingly online.   How many people visit your website before visiting?  Around 100%.  And now people are wanting to explore your social media and check you out digitally for a while to judge you before they visit. That’s right, they’re judging you based on what you’re online presence and identity.

Potential members are  increasingly making a decision about your congregation based on their digital experience, and then and only then, if that’s good, they’ll visit in person to confirm you are what you’ve said you are online.  Increasingly you need to be helping people pre-qualify themselves for membership online if you want them to visit and join in person.  And your existing members?  They are bombarded with information via multiple communication channels.  How do you get them to hear you and to not drift away?  We’ll discuss all of this in more in one very full, exciting and useful day…

Think of  this training as a 2014-2015 upgrade for your communications and membership growth strategy.

Again, here the dates and registration links.  If you have questions, Email me.

What’s that you say?   Are these events being lives streamed?  No,  but I will be turning the content into text and video resources. Make sure you are subscribed to my Leading Congregations E-Newsletter to be updated as they become available.

In cooperation,
Peter

Registration & Event Details


COLORADO

Growing UU Membership Using Social Media and Visitor Integration Strategies

Day-long training with Peter Bowden
Saturday, October 4th, 2014
High Plains Church, UU (HPCUU)
1825 Dominion Way
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
Event Registration

RHODE ISLAND
UU Social Media & Membership Growth Intensive
Day-long training with Peter Bowden
First Unitarian Church of Providence, RI
November 8, 2014
Event Registration

Program Outline

The following program is close to final for these two events.  There may be some small changes in timing and titles, but the content is set.

8:30 Registration & Refreshments

9:00    Opening Worship & Welcome

9:15  Technology, Culture and the Challenge to Congregations
How is changing technology changing us?  We’ll look at the new technology norms for how people are connecting, learning and making decisions. Understanding these changes is critical to effective outreach, social media use, and membership development.

9:25 Social Media and the New Path to Membership
The path to becoming a member in a congregation has changed significantly in recent years.  Not in terms of what has to happen for people to connect with a congregation, but how, when and where these connections happen.  Today much of what happens in the course of “church shopping” happens online via congregational social media channels.

10:45 Break

11:00   Increasing Engagement, Understanding Social Media Today
For congregations to maximize engagement with newcomers, members and friends, we need to understand what communication platforms people are using, what they are using them for, and the new norms for institutional communication. We’ll identify the top social media platforms today, look at their use by demographic, and identify key ways congregations need to shift their approach in order to communicate effectively today.

11:30   Break Out Session
What have you tried? What works? What doesn’t? We’ll take some time to learn from each other, share successes and challenges. This will also prime our lunch time conversation.

12:00      Lunch
We’ll take a nice full hour lunch to allow for conversations to continue, connections to be made, and to let our brains cool down as needed!

1:00 Report Back
When we gather after lunch, we will take some time to hear some of our success stories and insights from our lunch conversations.

1:20   Social Media Storytelling, Relationship and Membership Growth
We’ll go deeper into the strategy of communicating with newcomers, members and friends via social media with the goal of building relationships, increasing participation in congregational life, and growing your membership. To be successful at this, we need to master the art and science of telling the many stories of congregational life in ways that are interesting, meaningful, and invite participation.

2:00 Best Practices for Keeping Members Engaged and Coming Back
If we’re successful in brining newcomers into our communities, soon we will have new members. Which raises the question, how do we keep members coming back in today’s world with so many competing demands for people’s attention and time.

2:20   Developing Social Media Plans, a Small Group Exercise
We’ll break into small groups and go through the process of developing a social media plan for one primary event or happening within the life of your congregation using strategies detailed earlier in the day. This may be for a large fundraiser, your monthly newcomer class, or a special holiday event.

2:45   Discussion on Small Group Exercise

3:00     Q & A Time

3:30   Closing

Testimonials

“Peter provided our team with an opportunity to learn together about social media giving us a common understanding of the benefits and costs of utilizing it. His enthusiasm for social media is infectious, making us feel not only that implementing it is possible and perhaps inevitable as our world continues to evolve.” — Sara Deshler, Church Administrator, Cedar Lane U U Church.

“Peter’s passion for social media communications and Unitarian Universalism is contagious. His vision for our future is something we need to learn and embrace.” – Don Southworth, UUMA Executive Director

Peter’s training on Social Media was clear, instructive, and interactive. He is dynamic, engaging and brings an enthusiasm to his sessions that is contagious. I recommend him highly.” — Mark Bernstein, Regional Growth Development Consultant, Central East Region of the UUA

Larry Ladd on the Ecology & Economy of UU Identity Theological Schools

Those of you interested in UU ministry, theological education and finances — this post is for you.

What’s the future hold for our theological schools?
What does the past tell us?
Can we overcome crushing student debt?
What are the choices for our association?

If the questions above interest you, read Larry Ladd’s new paper shared at recent Panel on Theological Education conference.

Religious Education Schedule Poster

The following guest post is by Barb Greve, Interim Director of Religious Education currently serving the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, GA, and includes links to download files of the described religious education schedule poster.  ~ Peter

By Barb Greve

Barb Greve

I noticed that several of the Religious Education/Exploration classes in my programs were struggling with following a consistent schedule of components from week-to-week. I suspected that having such a framework might help the attendees and facilitators alike know what to expect each session. I also know that for some of us, knowing the meta-schedule helps to reduce our anxiety and thus allows us to more fully participate in the learning session.

To address both these needs I created a visual schedule to put in each of our Religious Education/Exploration program’s class spaces. My intent was to create something that helped to remind everyone in the class what the order of the day should be and to do it in such a way that allowed those who couldn’t read to be able to follow the schedule easily.

So far the posters have been warmly received. They are too new to know if this will help for the long haul, but I suspect they will. With an ever-changing volunteer corps and learners whose attendance rotates in unpredictable patterns, everything we can to help those in the classrooms know what to expect is bound to be helpful.

This poster I created is available to any and all who would like to use it. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. This means that you are welcome to use it as is, make changes to it and reproduce it but can not put the original or any derivation up for sale. This was created for the common good of all Unitarian Universalist Religious Education communities.

Download Files

UU RE classroom schedule poster

Why you aren’t reaching young adults and families with children

The following guest post is by Kelly Mahler, a former 3D artist, SAHM (stay-at-home mother), Unitarian Universalist since 2007, and member of the UU Growth Lab on Facebook.  Thanks for sharing your experience and suggestions, Kelly!   I totally relate as a parent of a young child.  11am? Uh, that’s lunch time!  ~ Peter

While reading the UU Growth lab on Facebook, I came across a post that caught my attention. The question asked was, “How can we more effectively reach out to and involve young adults and families with children as fully participating congregants?”

I don’t often participate in these online discussions, but this topic was something near and dear to me, considering I’m one of those young parents many UU churches refer to. Having been a former board member in my twenties, and now quickly closing in on my thirties (with a toddler in tow), I wanted to share my experience and perspective regarding how my involvement with my own UU church has changed over time and why those changes have happened.

I used to be quite busy at my UU church before my baby came along (even serving on the board for a time). Now I am a stay at home mom to a 19 month old. My attendance and involvement have changed drastically. What are some of the reasons that hold me back from being more involved? Sometimes it can be the little things (like a church not having changing tables in the bathrooms or nursery), but there are other issues as well that sometimes hold me (and other parents) back from being more involved.

1) Service time – our service is 11-12am, with coffee hour right after the service. Back when I had just graduated from college, I loved this time slot. Now with a kid, however, that is a tough time to make. It’s lunch time for many children, and it’s not easy making a kid wait to eat until 1pm (tantrums, anyone?), especially when their nap is usually around noon or 1pm. If the service time were earlier, we could get in and get home for lunch and nap without major headaches. Likewise, we usually don’t attend anything too late in the evenings due to conflicts with bedtime.

2) Lack of confidence in childcare providers. Ours are very nice, but they are a bit young and sometimes the judgment calls they make seem questionable to me (like letting my kid cry the entire hour of service and never coming to retrieve me to settle her down). Perhaps we need more training for our providers on handling issues such as these.

3) Activities, groups, events that I can’t relate to or that are not kid friendly. I don’t want every meeting or event I attend to require that I use the church childcare service. I would much rather have my child be a part of it, and have her see adults modeling good behavior. I realize this is not possible a lot of the time, but perhaps we should be thinking specifically on what kinds of events could be scheduled that would create opportunities for our children to participate.

4) Limited opportunities for staying in the loop when you can’t attend. Even with a newsletter and website, not enough information is communicated outside of the church walls to keep you in the loop – especially if you frequently can’t attend. It’s a compounding problem. The more you miss out, the “further behind” you feel. I wish our services were recorded and available on our website. I wish more info was provided in various communications.

5) No one has asked. It’s not that you are forgotten as a parent in church… but it does sometimes feel like people assume that you won’t be interested or that you are too busy due to having a child. Even if we say that life is busy with our children, that shouldn’t be taken to mean that we aren’t wanting to be asked to help on occasion. ESPECIALLY, if it could be a good fit – something that aligns well with that congregant’s interests or skills.

6) Outdated forms of communication. Email, phone, snail mail… I hardly ever respond to theses kinds of communications – not on purpose, mind you, but it just seems to happen. I wish my church utilized texting more, or could send out texts about things going on (kind of like how businesses do text advertising). This would help keep me in the loop better. I also would prefer if church members/leaders contacted me via Facebook or texts when they want to communicate with me directly. Email is not my preferred method of communication anymore. It seems antiquated.

7) Expecting attendance for planning purposes. I don’t understand why people want to meet in person just to plan things. In most cases, all of the planning can be handled via text, Facebook, Google+, shared Google documents, online chatting, Skype, or Google hangouts. This is so much easier than packing the kids up and all that that entails (or having to arrange for childcare).

8) Finally, there are other “groups” or “communities” doing it better. Namely, a lot of the moms groups out there are doing a better job. The Moms group I’m involved in provides many more opportunities that my child and I can relate to; the kinds of events that my church does not provide. Think playdates, mommy breaks, baby gyms, Funflatables, miniature golf, zoo, etc, as well as community outreach- outreach that doesn’t require us to be separate from our kids. Examples include bake sales, knitting for charity, 5Ks that allow strollers, craft sales, and more. All of it is managed and planned digitally. We don’t meet in person for planning purposes, we do it via text, Facebook, Meetup, and the like.

I have already addressed some of the above issues with my church. Other issues, I regret to say, I have not brought up much, if at all, with fellow congregants or lay leaders. Maybe it’s due to being busy. Maybe it’s due to the inability to make it to many meetings and services. Perhaps it’s the fact that I can so quickly and easily find other support systems and outlets out there via the internet, social networking, and Meetup. Either way, upon writing this, I’ve come to the conclusion that a congregation can’t grow if we don’t speak up about our concerns, and our lay leaders certainly can’t read our minds. We Millenials need to speak up if we want to see changes happening. We can’t expect our churches to always anticipate our needs, our communication styles, or our differences from generation to generation.

I have decided that rather than leave this discussion to the boundaries of the UU Growth Lab and online blogging, it would be worthwhile to send my thoughts onward to the board at my church. I hope they see it as something encouraging – an opportunity for discussion and growth – rather than a critique of “everything that is wrong.” I encourage you to do the same with your own congregation.

It’s your church, too – don’t passively wait for your lay leaders or fellow congregants to anticipate your needs. Rise to the occasion and shape it into the loving, supportive community you envision.

Kelly Mahler

“Young Adults” image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A UU Theology of Community Organizing by Matt Meyer

I’m helping the amazing Matt Meyer share a new resource he’s developed, so please share! Use buttons at the bottom of this post.

Download  A UU Theology of Organizing (PDF)  by Matt Meyer articulating a “Unitarian Universalist Theology of Community Organizing.”

Social justice work and Unitarian Universalism are intricately connected. Most of us believe that doing our part to make the world a better place is an important part of our spiritual journey. When it comes to the means of engagement however, there is less consensus. Our faith has much to say about the importance of charity and service and advocacy and education. I would offer though, that the tools and grounding values of community organizing reflect our Unitarian Universalist identity more than any other method of justice making. For a number of reasons, community organizing is a more holistic expression of Unitarian Universalism.  – Matt Meyer

Matt Meyer is an artist of percussion, knowledgeable and experienced in a variety of styles, including latin-jazz, Brazilian, folk, funk, Hiphop and pop. He is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and has studied in Cuba, Ghana, and Central America. A love of music and a deep respect for its ability to stir and transform audiences is at the heart of Matt’s continuing devotion to understand more of the world’s cultures through the vocabulary of rhythm. Learn more about Matt including descriptions of the workshops he offers on his website, rhythmrevelations.com.

Birth, Breath, and Death – Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula

Amy Wright Glenn - Birth, Breath and DeathAuthor Amy Wright Glenn during her pregnancy

I am excited to announce that Amy Wright Glenn, a Unitarian Universalist and dear family friend, has just publish Birth, Breath, and Death— Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula.  You may start reading it in under a minute on Amazon Kindle!

UU Book Review

A Unitarian Universalist from her congregation writes:

This book is a treasure: part memoir, part musings about philosophy, religion, spirituality and spiritual practice, but entirely about love. It ranges from personal reflection and experience to more scholarly and existential explorations. It is a well-written, thoughtful description of how one person moves through her life open to all of its experiences and teachings, in whatever form they appear. Amy brings to life her own varied experiences with different religions and cultures and roles with curiosity, insight and imagination. Her descriptions about being a doula and a chaplain are very moving. Equally compelling, however, were her descriptions of the emotional obstacles she faced in becoming mother, her awakening to the intense love and joy in mothering her son, and, and her descriptions of the sustaining relationship she shares with her husband. This book, written by someone so loving and so open to life with all of its daunting challenges, should not be missed. Plus, there are great quotes throughout, as well as many memorable passages.

Our Connection

Amy Wright Glenn
Amy Wright Glenn

Amy Wright Glenn and her husband, Clark, lived in Newport, RI and attended Channing Memorial Church where my wife, the Rev. Amy Freedman, previously served as minister.   Though Amy & Clark had moved by the time I arrived in Newport, I was able to get to know them through their regular Newport visits.  Amazing people!

And now for me to start reading the book. Click. Downloading…  30 seconds later reading on my iPad.  Hmmm… Wonder if there’s anything about Unitarian Universalism in this book:

I found Portland’s Unitarian Universalist First Church through my interest in poetry. Marilyn Sewell, the editor of my favorite poetry anthology, which focused on women’s spirituality, lived in Portland. I heard she was the minister at First Church and woke early one Sunday to attend. Alone, I navigated my way downtown on Portland’s public transit bus system. Reverend Sewell led a coming-of-age ceremony for three teenager members of the congregation. The simplicity of the ritual, the absence of patriarchal dogma that would prohibit a woman from offering such a blessing, and her grounded presence touched me deeply.

I was drawn to the way that Unitarian Universalist (UU) ministers attempt to…

Keep Reading

Shazam! I knew it. Had to be something related otherwise I wouldn’t be posting it.

My Book Reviews

I share reviews and announcements when friends and colleagues (people I already know) publish books and resources I think my readers will appreciate.   Please take time to connect with me (Facebook, Twitter) and our UU media, growth and outreach focused community via social media before you ask me to write a review.  If you aren’t using social media,  a post on this site isn’t going to do much for you.  Interested in learning?  Contact me to discuss group trainings and private social media coaching.

The 2013 Minns Lecture Series

Friends,  here are details for the  2013 Minns Lectures. I’m honored to be offering one of the three lectures.  Note that while this is a free event, there will be an online registration/RSVP.  See http://www.minnslectures.org~  Peter

Publicity Materials

Minns Lectures logo

The 2013 Minns Lecture Series
March 8 & 9, 2013
Boston, MA

Eventbrite Attend Event Button

Young for Liberty:  The UU Movement in the 21st Century

In the spirit of William Ellery Channing, who once said, “I was always young for liberty,” the Minns Lectures for 2013 will be structured around three lively interactive presentations on how our free faith tradition speaks to, and in the past reached out to, young people – and how today’s revolution in social media can reshape, enlarge, and invigorate that outreach today.

Join us on March 8 and 9 in Boston, in person or online, for these three important lectures.  [I’ll be sharing more about the online details shortly. Peter]

Lecture 1

AG-MinnsFriday, March 8, 7-9 pm
No-cost reception included
King’s Chapel, 58 Tremont Street, Boston
King’s Chapel House, 64 Beacon Street, Boston  (Changed Location!)

Sticking with Stories: Unitarianism and the Creation of Children’s Literature
Delivered by the Rev. Andrea Greenwood

Rev. Greenwood has served congregations in Atlanta, GA, and Watertown, MA. A strong advocate for special education both in the church and in the broader community, she is currently writing a biography of the Newbery Medalist, Elizabeth Enright – a Unitarian and the niece of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Lectures 2 and 3

NK-MinnsSaturday, March 9, 10 am-2:30 pm
No cost lunch included
First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough Street, Boston (Google Map)

Ministry in the Age of Collaboration: Congregations in a Hyper-Connected Generous World
Delivered by the Rev. Naomi King
Rev. King ministers locally and at large with City of Refuge Ministries, utilizing social media to join global houses of study, prayer, and action, and to grow faith communities in and beyond congregational walls. Via a mix of spiritually minded blogs and faith development programs, her ministry reaches around the world, engaging multifaith partners as well as Unitarian Universalists.

PB-MinnsMinistry in the Age of Collaboration: Faithful Practices and Principles
Delivered by Peter Bowden
A television producer and parish consultant, Mr. Bowden runs Leading Congregations, [was the author of the UU Growth Blog, now archived on this site], and UnitarianUniversalism.TV.  He is dedicated to helping religious leaders master changing culture and technology.

The Minns Lectureship Committee of King’s Chapel and First Church in Boston sponsors an annual series of lectures by UU ministers on religious topics of historical importance and contemporary relevance. Last year’s lectures by former UUA president the Rev. John Buehrens explored the renewal of Unitarian Universalism in the 21st century.

Video, audio, and texts for these lectures and for earlier ones, along with additional details on the 2013 lectures and how to register (at no cost), can be found on the Minns website.

The committee welcomes innovative proposals for lectures in 2014 and beyond. Guidelines on proposal submissions and a short history of this unique lecture series are also posted on the website.

Stephen Colbert, Billy Graham and “the Cult of Unitarianism

Unitarian Universalism made the Colbert Report yesterday, November 1st.  In hiTip/Wag – Constant Documentation & Billy Graham segment, Stephen Colbert discusses Mitt Romney’s outreach to Reverend Billy Graham and Graham’s subsequent disencultification of Mormonism.

In response to Unitarians being listed on Graham’s website, Colbert replies..

“Oh yes, the dangerous cult of Unitarianism. Their rules are so loose, their three sacred texts are the Old Testament, New Testament, and Free to Be You and Me.”

If you haven’t seen it yet, you may watch the segment here. The part about Unitarian Universalism starts 3 min 30 sec into the video.

What Do Unitarian Universalists Believe?

What happens when a previously Christian church gets so liberal you don’t have to be Christian to belong? What happens when over time the country gets increasingly pluralistic with massive numbers of people loving the Dalai Lama, Oprah and doing yoga?  Eventually you get a breed of congregations that bring diverse people together around shared values, not set beliefs. That’s what’s happening in Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations, great values but many different spiritual and theological perspectives.

That’s my quick explanation.  You can get a more official description here or watch the following video about our congregations.

The Challenge of Unitarian Universalism

Okay, not all Unitarian Universalists love Oprah and the Dalai Lama…  But I do.  And that’s the beauty (and challenge) of Unitarian Universalism.

Because our congregations don’t have a set creed, we end up with people who don’t agree on big religious questions.  And I love that!

What About Love?

Speaking of love…  In recent years love has moved to the forefront as an organizing force in our congregations.  Not a cheesy bad greeting card love, but a we need to take care of each other fight for justice and build a better world together kind of love.  We might not agree on whether there is an afterlife, but we know how we should treat each other.   In fact, we have a campaign dedicated to that, the Standing on the Side of Love campaign.

And this election season, we’re encouraging people to VOTE on the side of love.

Why I Love the Challenge

Me? I want to be part of a community where people have great values, but differing opinions.   It keeps me learning and growing.

For me, Unitarian Universalism serves as a home community and center from which I can continually explore, have friends to share and discuss life with, and an institution through which we can multiply our efforts to address the moral challenges of our time — marriage equality, climate change, immigration justice and beyond.

If that sounds appealing,  find a congregation near you and see what they’re up to.

I should note that I have a big fat UU bias.  I was raised a Unitarian Universalist and came upon pretty much everything great in my life through my UU connections — my wife, my work, my friends, my meditation practice, fellow change agents, hope…