Survival, Denial and the Evolution of Unitarian Universalism


What is Unitarian Universalism going to look like in 2020?

A growing number of UUs are starting to talk about this, a discussion fueled by the “Faith Formation 2020 National Initiative” of  LifelongFaith Associates (lifelongfaith.com).  From my first review of this material it is  a Christian initiative facilitating the process of asking the hard questions, doing the research, and creating the urgency many Christian leaders feel is necessary for the way they do church to evolve.  I think we can put this on the required reading list for UU leadership working with growth.

Phil Lund, Program Consultant for the Prairie Star District of the UUA, writes about this initiative on his blog. He brings our attention to two documents related to the intitiative,  “Thirteen Trends and Forces Influencing the Future of Faith Formation in a Changing Church and World”  (PDF) and “Four Scenarios for the Future of Faith Formation in 2020” (PDF).

Take a look at these trends and scenarios:

Trend 1. Declining Participation in Christian Churches
Trend 2. Growth in No Religious Affiliation
Trend 3. Becoming More “Spiritual” and Less “Religious”
Trend 4. Influence of Individualism on Christian Identity and Community Life
Trend 5. Increasing Social, Cultural, and Religious Diversity in the U.S.
Trend 6. Growing Influence of Hispanic/Latino Religious Faith
Trend 7. Identifying a New Stage of Life: “Emerging Adulthood”
Trend 8. The Rise of a Distinctive Post-Boomer Faith and Spirituality
Trend 9. Changing Structures and Patterns of Family Life in the United States
Trend 10. Rediscovering the Impact of Parents and Families on Faith Practice
Trend 11. Living in a Digital World
Trend 12. Educating in New Ways
Trend 13. Increasing Numbers of Adults 65 and Older

Scenario #1. Vibrant Faith and Active Engagement in the Church Community
Scenario #2. Spiritual, but Not Religious
Scenario #3. Unaffiliated and Uninterested
Scenario #4. Participating in Church Activities, but Faith and the Spiritual Life Are Not Important

So what do you think? Relevant? Accurate?  When I read this list of trends I immediate started to wonder which of our congregations will survive the trends, deny the trends and evolve to live another day…  And what role will or should our Association play?   Will our congregations be willing to change?  What new expressions or forms of  Unitarian Universalist “congregational life” will appear over the next decade or so?

Faith Formation 2020.  Strikes me as a great topic for a UUMA chapter, district presidents, or district growth committee meeting.   What’s on your agenda?

4 thoughts on “Survival, Denial and the Evolution of Unitarian Universalism”

  1. Fantastic questions! It reminds me that at the time of merger, the Unitarians brought marketing solutions…and the Universalists brought deep, theological questions. It’s time to address the latter, so that we can figure out not only who we are (as opposed to who we’re not, which has been so central in the past), but what our calling might be in this modern world.

    And in the end…I am a firm believer that the questions must be not only “What must we do/be/become” but also “What is no longer working/serving/present.” It may be that we change significantly in order to come into our strength and future.

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