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Discussion Guide: Congregations and Beyond

Introduction

In February 2012, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Peter Morales asked congregations to reflect on the changing nature of religion in contemporary society. He noted that there are growing numbers of people who are “spiritual but not religious” or who identify as Unitarian Universalist but do not participate in a congregation. Social media allow for ever-more sophisticated ways for people to connect with one other, forming virtual communities that are woven into the fabric of day-to-day life. People have responded to these changes by “doing church” in creative and innovative ways, including creating ministries that open the doors of the congregation, lower the walls of the congregation, and flow out into the community in a variety of ways, both virtual and face-to-face.

Congregations and Beyond is an initiative that helps Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations and groups develop capacities and position themselves to respond to these changes by shifting and broadening the way in which we view our faith and our ministries. Congregations and Beyond calls us to think of Unitarian Universalism as a religious and spiritual movement and not simply as an association of congregations, and to figure out how we might meet the challenges and opportunities of our own time.

Unitarian Universalism has always been a living religion—able to grow to meet the needs of the current world. To meet the needs of our own time, we must first have a clear picture of the world around us. Then we may ask ourselves:

  • What role do I play in responding to new challenges and opportunities?
     
  • What role should my congregation play?
     
  • How is my congregation or group already meeting the challenges and opportunities of our time?
     
  • How can we develop and support more effective responses to those challenges and opportunities?
  • How can I increase the transformational capacity for love and justice in the world through my faithful actions?

Congregations and Beyond seeks to renew our consideration of what it means to be Unitarian Universalist in the 21st century and to bring that renewal to our congregations and our communities through a wide variety approaches to religious life, within congregations, among congregations, and in the communities beyond the walls of congregations.

This discussion guide comprises plans for three 60-minute sessions to facilitate conversations about the Congregations and Beyond initiative. It invites not just a passive “discussion” about the initiative, but also plans for formulating next steps in your congregation or group. Session 1, which introduces the initiative, can be used alone, and might possibly be used multiple times in your congregational or group setting, so that as many people as possible can take part. Session 2 focuses on possibilities for greater connection through new technologies for communication. Session 3 explores ways to increase connection through creative ministry within and beyond the walls of the congregation.

Sessions

  1. Session One: Introducing the Congregations and Beyond Initiative
    This session introduces participants to the basic concepts of Congregations and Beyond. It is the foundation for future sessions.
     
  2. Session Two: Connecting Through New Technologies
    Sessions 2 provides opportunities for participants to design specific action plans to implement their own creative ideas of how to increase opportunities to connection to people in congregations and beyond. In this session, participants explore ways to use technologies for communication, particularly social media, to connect in new ways.
     
  3. Session Three: Connecting by Lowering Congregational Walls
    Participants will explore the ways in which creative ministry can connect our Unitarian Universalist movement to more people in congregations and beyond.

Leader Resources

  1. Social Media Reverse Quiz Game
     
  2. Contemporary Religiosity Facts: Technology
     
  3. Find Out More
     
  4. Contemporary Religiosity Facts: Innovative Ministry

For more information contact conglife @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, September 26, 2012.

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