04 July 2007

Congregational Goal-Setting -- All Souls Board and Council Retreat

Last Saturday (30 June 2007), I attended my congregation's annual "retreat" for the Board and Council. Here are my notes from today's Board and Council Retreat.

The word "retreat" is in quotes because only Unitarian Universalists would take a word that usually means an event where "one takes time away from everyday life, often in order to reflect or meditate" and use it to describe an all-day working meeting.

On Friday night (29 June 2007), the departing and newly elected board members met without the council members. Their group process included "SWOT analysis" where the board members brainstormed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the congregation:
Top Five Strengths
1. Physical Building and Grounds
2. Innovative and Substantive Programming
3. Religious Education
4. Sense of Freedom
5. Caring Community

Top Five Weaknesses
1. Financial Shortfall
2. Diffuse/Confused Identity
3. Membership Retention
4. Small Membership
5. Religious Education

Top Three Opportunities
1. Response to Violence
2. University/Artistic/Professional Communities
3. Religious Alternatives

Top Three Threats
1. Downturn of Local Economy
2. Negative (or Non-existent) Community Perceptions
3. Out-migration of Youth/Families
Next, we looked at our congregation's mission statement:
Mission Statement
We, as a loving and caring spiritual community, resolve to:
  • Promote diversity through free expression of ideas and beliefs
  • Encourage intellectual and spiritual growth, and
  • Provide an environment for social activism and community service
We believe the search for truth is a journey, not a destination. In this spirit, all are welcome. -- (Written by the All Souls Congregation on 25-27 January 2002, approved by congregational vote on 17 February 2002)
The "top rank objective" in our mission statement is " to encourage intellectual and spiritual growth" -- this should explain why we are here as a church and the other objectives in our mission statement are the "how" that help us achieve this intellectual and spiritual growth.

Here are the goals that came out of the board's discussion on Friday night:
1. Sharpening the profile and identity of All Souls as a religious alternative

2. Membership
  • Recruiting from University / Professional / Artistic communities
  • Retention of Members
3. Balance the Budget

4. Develop a Response to Community and International Violence
On Saturday, the group facilitators talked about items 2 and 3. During the discussion, we decided that they were "means" and not "ends" that our goals should be "ends" that we are working towards.

The Saturday discussion was to re-examine the long-term goals of the congregation and to categorize them into the following two categories:

1. Product Development

2. Organizational Maintenance and Development

The following discussion resulted in the brainstorming of sub-goals that would fit within these two major goals.

1.0 Product Development Goals

1.1 Inspiring Sunday Worship That Transform Lives

- support and enhance music in worship

- lay reader skill development

- encourage reverence

- continue diversity of worship services

- minimize "business" on Sunday mornings (e.g. active recruiting of volunteers) -- see UUA Drive Time Essay on this topic

1.2 Focusing, Refining, Embracing, Our Common Identity

- sermons, classes, other content on our commonality

- covenant of right relationships

- enhancing connection with wider denomination (connections, resources, etc)

- appreciation of our heritage

- build more denominational bridges

- increase denominational event involvement

1.3 Nurturing All Souls Community

- Healing on Welcoming Congregation issue and other tough issues

- Creating a "Calm" Committee

- Reconstitute Food/Folks/Fun Committee

- Small Group Ministry and Covenant Groups

1.4 Continue Ministry and Service to Community

- Develop a response to violence to community and international violence (Alternatives to Violence Project would be a good start for this)

- "Give Away the Plate" on second Sunday of the month

- Division over social justice issues -- goal 1.3 would offer solutions for this

- Interfaith involvement - World Religion Day, other interfaith groups addressing racism and other issues in our community

- Build relationships with sister churches/organizations (Zion Community Ministries)

2.0 Organizational Maintenance and Development

2.1 Membership Growth and Retention

- Continue orientation meetings

- RE class for new members

- Establish plan to target university, artistic, professional communities

- Find strategies for creating engaging youth programming

- Add sexuality education info to the web site as a marketing strategy

2.2 Fiscal Stability

- Improve planned giving efforts

- Strengthen fund-raising strategies that require minimum investment of member time and also draw funds from outside the congregation

- Implement "steps" pledge drive program

This discussion summary is not the official record of the retreat. Eventually, our congregation will have the complete info posted on the congregation web site.


Robin Edgar said...

Looks like Montreal Unitarians just set another goal for themselves. . . How low will U*Us go?

Robin Edgar said...

Here is my response to your comment on LT's blog. It may be "memory-holed" as my first comment was so I am posting it here.

Well said Steve. Needless to say I am intimately familiar with the "bullying tactics" of a certain unmentionable U*U minister and an equally unmentionable U*U congregation. . .