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.

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.
  • Consider leaving a copy of critical email, social media, and other passwords / pins with a family member or trusted friend. If you lost your smartphone and had to login to email via a public computer, would you be able to?

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

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

#UUsGetSocial workshop schedule and recording

UPDATE:  You may access resources and recordings here.

I’m excited to announce that the four-part #UUsGetSocial workshop series at the UUA’s General Assembly conference is going to be video taped. It will not be live streamed.

If you’re going to General Assembly, I hope you’ll join us. You may find the full program book online here. If you’re going to be at GA and have a smart phone or tablet, make sure to get the official UUA GA event app.

Workshop Schedule

204 #UUsGetSocial: How Congregations Can Deepen Engagement Online
Thursday 10:15 am EST
RICC Ballroom BC

260 #UUsGetSocial: Updating Your Web Presence: Tools and Tips
Thursday 4:00pm EST
RICC Ballroom BC

306 #UUsGetSocial: Reaching “Nones,” Activists, and Spiritual Seekers
Friday 10:15 am EST
RICC Ballroom BC

408 #UUsGetSocial: Digging Into Facebook, Twitter and Video-Making/Sharing
Saturday 10:15 am EST
RICC Ballroom BC

The Hashtag

If you are on Facebook or Twitter, you can search for the tag #UUAGA to pull up all associated tagged posts and Tweets.  Search for #UUsGetSocial, click these links to give it a try:

#UUsGetSocial on Facebook
#UUsGetSocial on Twitter

Connect at GA!

I’ll be at General Assembly all week, including during ministry days, so make sure to connect.   Besides helping to lead this series, I’m going to be talking with clergy colleagues about a new series of social media learning opportunities specifically for parish ministers on making your public ministry more public.  Yes, if you are a professional minister being paid to do public ministry,  I think it is critical that you have a strong online identity — YOU, not just your congregation.  Oh yes, I’m talking about using clergy personal branding as a catalyst for Unitarian Universalist growth.

Look for our Leading Congregations ad in the program book. It shares contact information for contacting  me and Amy at General Assembly, plus an invitation to subscribe to our newsletter.  I’ll be sharing new social media educational offerings and resources via the newsletter following GA.  Don’t miss out!  Some offerings are going to have limited participation, and I’m going to share invitations with subscribers of our newsletter first.

Hope to see you at GA!
Peter Bowden

Tips for Your First General Assembly – 2014 Edition

The following list of tips for attending your first General Assembly conference of the Unitarian Universalist Association was  made collaboratively by the UU Growth Lab. It was first published in 2011 and has since been updated annually.    The UUA’s 2014 General Assembly takes place this June in Providence, RI.

Before you go:

  • Plan your GA life 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! Otherwise, be prepared.
    GA Planning Committee member say there will be multiple free wi-fi locations in the convention center.  I’ve yet to attend a GA without internet access issues…
  • Order a Standing on the Side of Love yellow shirt if you want to join the crowds who will wear these shirts during our Public Witness event on Saturday night.  Order via UUA Bookstore here.
  • 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 also buy a reusable bottle in the Exhibit Hall.
  • If you’re representing your congregation and they have a budget, you might be able to get some good discounts on curricula, books, and marketing materials (banners, postcards, etc.) but remember you’ll have to have a way to get them back.
  • If you are a delegate, READ the stuff before you come.  You are deciding our future. Available here.
  • Bring business or personal cards so that you can give your information to others.
  • Be sure that someone from your congregation is bringing the banner.
  • Download & review the Program Guide ahead of time.
  • Plan out what workshops you want to go to, but don’t be wedded to the idea.  Pick a few you certainly want to go to, but be open because you’ll change your mind at least once while there.
  • 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 find your 2nd choice. (Also, at some GAs, the rooms were too small and you could find yourself unable to attend your 1st choice because it was full.)
  • Pack comfy shoes.
  • Bring a bag you can carry comfortably for days, like a backpack.
  • If you’re asked to carry your congregations banner, figure out how the poles/carrying PVC pipes go together before hand.  I still think my congregation was hazing me last year…
  • 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 and questions they might have, especially if your congregation has a very limited budget and will be under-represented by delegates. It is even nicer when you reach out to area congregations if your cluster is composed of smaller, less financially able congregations, and see how you can help.
  • 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.
  • Download the official UUA GA 2014 Mobile App:
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id874590675
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=me.doubledutch.uuaga
  • Don’t wait to download the app until GA, do it now and play with it so you’re oriented to this tool and ready to go come General Assembly.
  • 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/introverted type, GA is really kinda overwhelming in the sheer mass of people and having a drink with some familiar faces can be really nice.
  • If you are the only one you know going to GA, start making friends with people in the UU Growth Lab at GA Facebook group and via the GA app.
  • If you really want to hang out with your former minister that you haven’t seen in ten years, email them now and ask them to breakfast.  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.”  If you wait until GA to ask, the answer will almost certainly be the second one.  Ministers are really busy during GA.  I’ve found that breakfast is the meal they are most likely to be free.
  • Prepare your elevator speech about what Unitarian Universalism is and why you are one. Folks ask questions; be prepared to answer.

UUA General Assembly 2014 in Providence, RI

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 do still 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.
  • If you’re on a budget, check out the map for what part of the Exhibit Hall you need to avoid
  • Avoid picking up paper – use digital notes whenever possible (they’re tending toward less paper now any way)
  • Say “hi” to people & don’t be shy to tell them that you’re a first timer.
  • Whatever you do, go to the Service of the Living Tradition on Friday night (updated)  & the Sunday morning service.
  • Having a meal with other UUs from across the country can sometimes be more valuable than going to a workshop
  • 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, grab 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 our faith. Many people in and around the convention center and downtown area will be meeting their first Unitarian Universalists. This is another chance to make a good impression, invite folks to check us out, and show what great community members we can be. Pick up trash. Be kind. Be generous. You are not a tourist. You are not a business conventioneer. You are an ambassador of and for our faith

Joining the GA Choir

  • If you love to sing, GA Choir is your cup of tea. Rarely do we belong to congregations that can boast so many great voices or musicians.
  • You need to register to sing in the choir. Plan to be there for registration as soon as possible, every year it is different but it does fill up. This year (2014) it says “GA Choir registration will be held Tuesday 2:00pm– 6:00 pm and Wednesday 12:00 pm – 2:45pm at the kiosk in the West Prefunction lobby on the fifth floor of the Rhode Island Convention Center. Singers may register and pick up their music (for a $10 music fee). There will be a waiting list kept at the first rehearsal for spaces that may open subsequently.” Note all the rehearsals in the schedule. You may miss something else you’d like to do. You can’t do it all. Choir is a commitment, but worth it. I’ve heard the same about being a volunteer.

Before GA, make time to play — with the mobile app!

UUAGA 2014 App

If you’re going to the UUA’s 2014 General Assembly conference in Providence, RI this June and have a smart phone or tablet, you’ll want to make sure to download the brand new UUA General Assembly app. I just gave it a test drive and it is fabulous.  But don’t wait until GA, you’ll want to downloaded it now and start using it so come General Assembly, you’re good to go!

The UUA General Assembly 2014 app   is the official interactive mobile app for the annual meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Inspirational worship services, informative workshops, entertaining programs, and a bustling exhibit hall help make GA an unforgettable experience for the thousands of Unitarian Universalists that attend.  (From iTunes App Store)

Before GA, make time to PLAY!

The UUA General Assembly 2014 app is LOADED with features.  So many, in fact, that I think you need to spend some time with the app before arriving at General Assembly. You don’t want to waste valuable GA time getting oriented to the app — do that in advance.

This mobile app allows you to:

  •  View schedules, explore sessions, and find after parties.
  •  Create your own personal schedule and access location and speaker information.
  •  Access interactive maps and find local places.
  •  Check­in to sessions, meetings, keynotes, and exhibitor booths.
  •  View an entire feed of the event activity, including attendee check­ins, photos, and more.
  •  Earn points, badges, and prizes for being active on the app and at the event.
  •  Expand your professional network and have fun!

Listed features include:

  • Update ­ — a quick way to share photos, comments, where you are, and which session you’re attending
  • Activity — ­ keep your finger on the pulse of the event. See what people are doing, view photos from the event, find trending sessions and topics, and “like” and comment on other attendee check­ins
  • Agenda — ­ view the full agenda and related information (session time, room number, speaker info, etc.) Attendees ­ see who’s at the event, and connect with them on the app
  • Exhibitors — ­ find exhibitors and sponsors, check­in to leave comments and feedback
  • Profile — ­ your official app profile, highlighting your name, profile photo, title, and organization
  • Leaderboard ­ — see who has the most points at the conference and climb your way to the top with check­ins

See? It’s loaded… So, do take time to set up a profile,  figure out how to navigate to events and venues,  share photos, and follow people you want to connect with at GA before you arrive at GA.

A Word of Caution
We don’t want to have thousands of UUs gather for General Assembly and then have all social media traffic for General Assembly get redirected into an app that only people at GA can see.  GA should be the most active UU social media week of the year, not a time when Unitarian Universalism goes silent.  Use the app, but don’t hide in it…

Keep it Social
Make sure that if you use the app, you still Tweet and share Facebook and other social media updates.  The app lets you connect Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to the app and select which updates get sent out via those channels.

Tag it #UUAGA
Don’t forget to include the #UUAGA tag in any update you post via the app that you are also sending to Twitter! The app does not hashtag for you.

Don’t Forget Your Friends
While this app allows us to connect with others at GA in powerful ways, much the way Twitter & Facebook connect us year round,  we need to make sure we don’t totally abandon those who are not plugged in!  Keep your heart open and your eyes out for those who are not digitally connected at General Assembly.

Photos of Public Witness
The app does let you take and share photos. However, if you take and share photos of public witness and and use the app to send them to Twitter, they appear as links in your tweets, not automatically displayed Twitter photos.   During public witness I’m going close the app and focus on sharing Twitter photos and videos made with Vine — that will get more reach.

Peter Bowden at #UUAGALet’s Connect!
You can connect with me, Peter Bowden, on the GA app and on Facebook & Twitter. During General Assembly, this year I will be focusing on talking ministry & media with all of you.

Also, look for my Leading Congregations ad in the GA program book. That’s the home for my interfaith congregational consulting practice . At General Assembly I’m going to be booking the rest of my speaking, training and coaching for the year. If you wanted to work with me in 2014-2015, make sure to connect with me at GA. I expect to be booked for year by July 15h.

Download the UUA General Assembly App:

Collaborative Mulitmedia Piece for Sunday Morning GA Worship

Photo by Jake JacobsonFriends, we are working on creating a multimedia piece for Sunday morning worship at General Assembly to the reading “Beatitudes for Justice Builders” by the Rev. Lindi Ramsden.

In order to bring this message to life, we are looking for additional photographs of people engaged in many different kinds of activities: social action, worship, meetings, tender moments, service, working, playing…

Do you have photos to contribute?  Please share them with us by this Friday, May 16th. Logistics and copy of the reading are below.

Our vision is to create a visual presentation that is colorful, creative, fun, and moving. In addition to being part of  worship at General Assembly, if all goes well, this piece will be available after GA for congregational use.

In the Spirit of Collaboration,
Amy & Peter

How to Submit Photos

1. To contribute photos:

  • Email: For one or a handful of  photos, please email them to us here.
  • If you use Flickr and have lots of photos to share (more than 5) post them to the UU Stock Photo group and letting us know via email that you’ve shared them there.
  • If you use Dropbox, email Peter and he can share a Dropbox folder with you.

2. Photo size:   Photographs are going to be included in HD video presentation at 1920 x 1080, so please only share photos at that can resolution or larger.

3. Please only submit photos that you have permission to share online or that are already publicly available online such as on congregational Facebook pages.  We do not want to spend time hunting down photo permissions and so prefer images already online.

4.  In sharing photos with us you are granting us permission to use them in the multimedia piece at GA, which will be live streamed, permission to use in an online video, and affirming that you have permission of people in the photo to share it.  Permissions are not needed for photos taken at larger public witness events.  Not sure if you have the okay to share?  Please do not share with us or ask those in the photo first.

5. Please include the names of photographers to include in credits.    We will be sharing names of contributors in a slide at the end of the piece.

The Reading

“Beatitudes for Justice Builders” by the Rev. Lindi Ramsden

1 Blessed are you who can question your own assumptions and listen with an open mind; you will receive new insights beyond your imagining.

2 Blessed are you who build friendships as well as justice; even when you lose an issue, you will have strengthened the foundation of your community.

3 Blessed are you who take delight in people; you will not be bored in meetings.

4 Blessed are you who agitate the placid waters of complacency; you will create waves in the inertia of privilege, and will know the thrill of riding the surf of change.

5 Blessed are you who lead with enthusiasm and confidence, resisting the temptation to shame the apathetic or self-absorbed; you will inspire curiosity and hope in others.

6 Blessed are you who play as well as work; you will have more fun, build more energy, and will draw the powers of the impish to your cause.

7 Blessed are you who ask for help in your role as leaders; you will find teachers at every turn, and your work will remain interesting and alive.

8 Blessed are you who do not demonize your opponents; your eyes and your hearts will be open.

9 Blessed are you who sing and dance; you will find energy and joy to lift you on your journey.

10 Blessed are you who offer thanks and praise five-fold for every critique; your children will want to visit after they are grown, people will want to serve on your committees, and friends will be interested in your opinions.

11 Blessed are you who study the rhythms of history; you will have knowledge with which to shape the future.

12 Blessed are you who work in coalition rather than in principled isolation; you will meet great people, learn things you didn’t realize you needed to know, and have partners for the journey when you are in the lead, or in need.

13 Blessed are you who discover, train and encourage young leaders; you will see your work expand and grow beyond your own time and talent.

14 Blessed are you who can change your mind; you are still alive.

15 Blessed are you who will not let the perfect be the enemy of the good; you will see progress in your lifetime.

16 Blessed are you with an active spiritual life; you will find perspective and comfort in times of loss and betrayal, and will rise without cynicism to meet the challenges of a new day.

17 Blessed are you who live from a place of gratitude; for you will know the meaning of Life.

 

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.

UU Social Media Year in Review for 2013

Like - Social Media

Here are a some thoughts in response to Rev. Daniel Harper’s The year in review: UU social media in 2013. I’ll share more thoughts when I have time. Thanks for kicking off the review, Dan! ~ Peter

BLOGGING
We’ve discussed the issue of UU clergy vs. lay person blogging in the UU Growth Lab and most agreed that the ease of sharing ideas and engaging in discussion in topical UU groups has taken some of the energy away from public blogging. While it is great to have these forums, there was some worry expressed in having these conversations moved behind closed doors.

FACEBOOK OUTREACH & DESIGN
There’s been amazing UU outreach done over the last year via social media, especially on Facebook using combinations of striking visual images and quotes. The biggest contributors have been the page (featured in UU world this Fall) & , and Thomas Earthman’s I AM UU page.

TWITTER
There continues to be growth in the number of UUs and UU congregations on Twitter. The UUA’s twitter account now lists:

128 UU Ministers
50 UU Religious Educators
279 UU Congregations

I don’t have stats on the counts from previous years, though I’ve logged these numbers for future comparison.

Hashtags: Though they are now more mainstream, I don’t see many Unitarian Universalists using them well.  Some do, but not overall.  There’s huge potential to bring our congregations, clergy and other UUs on Twitter into larger conversations using hashtags.  Hard to say if it is lack of technical understanding, or simply lack of intention to reach out.

Gini’s Twitter Lesson: At the UUA’s 2013 General Assembly then moderator Gini Courter gave the full plenary a brief Twitter lesson.  It was great to see this attention brought to social media at GA.

VIDEO
The UU video site I curate, http://www.unitarianuniversalism.tv now has over 2450 UU videos. Alas, many are poorly filmed, and are designed for viewing by existing members chained to their pews. Unless someone is already a member or friend of the congregation, you have maybe 3 to 5 seconds to grab their attention. Many of the sermon videos posted online take 3 to 5 minutes, an eternity for a web video.

Also, many congregations are not titling their videos or tagging with keywords which reduces their value. Titles, descriptions and keyword tags will greatly increase the reach of the videos UUs are presently producing.

I’ve had many inquiries from congregations wanting to take their video to the next level (or to start filming) in 2014, which is encouraging. I still advocate for starting with an awesome podcast and periodic video messages designed for outreach (a message from your minister speaking directly to viewer online), and then getting into video of sermons.

PINTEREST
There are approximately 20 active UU congregations and UUA accounts on Pinterest. A search for “Unitarian Universalist” results in ~35 related boards. Numbers are approximate as some appear to not have been used since creating some time ago.

GOOGLE +
I’m getting circled more often by UU’s but I don’t know if people are really using Google+ more or are just being forced to create accounts to use Google services.  As for congregations, a search for Unitarian results in ~90 UU congregations (with profile photos) on Google+.  Searches for Unitarian Universalist yields fewer number, and Universalist fewer still so  “Unitarian” seems best for tracking the trend at this point.

What are your observations on 2013?
And your hopes and dreams for UU Social Media in 2014?

Share your comments on Dan’s post at
The year in review: UU social media in 2013.

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