Unpacking the Big Complex Meeting


This week full time district staff of the UUA gather in Boston for their annual meeting.  Over time this meeting has come to be called the “Big Complex Meeting” or BCM for short.

I can’t wait to see what comes out of this meeting.  It is the first Big Complex Meeting with the Rev. Peter Morales as UUA President.  It is the first meeting of this kind since the staff restructuring resulting in the Rev. Harlan Limpert being named vice president of Ministries and Congregational Support.

You may recall that growth was one of the pillars of the Peter Morales campaign.  His campaign platform document said the following about growth:

Our congregations are surrounded by the spiritually hungry and religiously homeless. Growing our movement is the moral equivalent of feeding the hungry and housing the homeless. Growth is not something that is merely organizationally desirable, growth is a moral and religious imperative.

If the need is so great and what we have to offer is so vital, then why have we failed to grow? Why have our growth initiatives proved ineffective? We have failed to grow because we have misplaced our attention and our energy. Growth will not result from ambitious media campaigns or costly efforts to start mega-churches. There are no gimmicks or magic bullets. We will grow our movement primarily in our existing congregations. We must grow our
movement one Sunday at a time, one relationship at a time. This is how our fast-growing churches have always done it. They grow because they are welcoming, because they have a sense of mission, because they insist upon quality, and because they are passionate.

Being the new growth consultant for the Ballou Channing Distirct I’m eager to see what kind of growth oriented ideas, energy and collaborations come out of this week-long meeting.  Rev. Morales said he would do the following as UUA President:

  • Create and sustain a sense of urgency throughout our movement. We will grow by unleashing the commitment and idealism in our congregations. Our president must be both a bold visionary and a practical realist.
  • Work in close partnership with our fastest growing churches. These are the people who know how to grow our movement. I would challenge them to use their knowledge to help us grow our movement.
  • Focus growth efforts by ensuring that the Association’s staff is an effective partner to our congregations. Our field staff must focus their efforts on working with congregations committed to sharing our faith and serve as capable consultants who help unleash the congregation’s potential.
  • Reorganize how we deliver services to congregations so that we are more agile, more versatile, and more useful. There is broad consensus that we should move to a more flexible regional model. Much work has been done already by the Congregations Come First Task Force. As president I’ll put high priority on leading the design and then implementing a new service delivery model informed by this work.
  • Start new congregations in growing and underserved areas, using new approaches that build on the expertise of our leading congregations and seize opportunities of modern technology.

These points tie in very closely with what I’m trying to do through this blog and the new UU Growth Podcast launching in December.   My hope is that this blog will help keep more of us – leaders, ministers, consultants – focused on congregational health, growth and vitality,  facilitate the sharing of knowledge, and together figure out how to serve more effectively.  As I said, I can’t wait to see what comes out of this meeting.

Clarification:   Just received an email from a UUA Staffer who read this and was excited I’d be at the meeting. Sorry this post wasn’t clear.  I’m excited to see what comes out of this meeting because I’m not scheduled to be there as a part time consultant. As I understand it, the BCM is for full time staff.

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