Getting ready for “Church Shopping”


Changing Calendars

This morning I read a short article about the Mount Vernon Unitarian Church in  Alexandria, VA.

A brief Mount Vernon Gazette article, Unitarian Church planning for ‘Shoppers’, shares that for the first time in since the 1950’s the congregation’s minister will preach in late August.  On August 29th the Rev. Kate R. Walker will be preaching about Pete Seeger, a popular folk singer and famous Unitarian Universalist.

According to the article, this change is being made because the congregation recognizes that people are “church shopping” before September.

Are Busy Lives Driving Early Church Shopping?

I too have noticed that the “September spike” in attendance  shifting earlier.

Maybe it is the complexity of peoples’ lives and their extensive programming and planning.   If someone wants to try something new or add something to their busy line-up of activities, it makes sense that they are going to do their research and check it out before things get busy in September.

Have you noticed any changes in visitor patterns?

No Vacations for Life, Church and Hospitality?

More and more of our congregations seem to be recognizing that our congregations need to be open and engaged in ministry year round.  I know many ministers who have changed their vacation and study leave schedules to be distributed more evenly throughout the year.

The once fairly common practice of having no summer services evolved into lay led services during the summer.  Now it seems a growing number of congregations  are shortening the period of time when they offer alternative services.

Regardless of your Summer service schedule,  now is a great time to prepare for visitors.

Beware of Church Shopping!

A quick note that while we are heading into a prime “church shopping” season,  we shouldn’t adopt that consumer mindset.  Our faith, congregations and communities are about far more than a line-up of programs and services people can select.  At least they should be.

Once upon a time there was no such thing as “church shopping” as we know it.  People were local, stayed local and knew the local faith communities.  But now people are mobile, there are more kinds of faith communities, and a thriving spiritual marketplace.

That does put a shopping spin on the quest to find a spiritual home.  Don’t let that spin and consumer language skew how you talk about your congregation, your ministry and our faith.

Welcoming, Hospitality & Membership Resources

The UUA’s website offers many resources to help with your hospitality, welcoming and membership.

The Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship offers a page of resources for membership professionals. These are great resources for all congregations regardless of staffing. Whether you have a membership staff member or not, someone needs to be taking membership seriously. These resources can help.

The September UU Growth Webinar Series includes two sessions on these topics,  From Member to Visitor and Congregations Count! Both of these are open to UU leaders from across the UUA.

4 thoughts on “Getting ready for “Church Shopping””

  1. At my large congregation, we’ve had August church-shoppers for years now. Lots of families want the church question resolved before school starts. Plus, many, many university students are here by mid-August with a little time on their hands. August oftens means seeker services from a minister or experienced, well-rehearsed lay people.

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