Imagining a UU Blue Ocean Strategy

I’m reading the book Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant (Amazon Link), by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

This is a great read for anyone trying to re-imagine congregations for the 21st century.  The authors map out a specific strategy for looking at approaches to doing business (or church) in a crowded market place and then challenge us to change our rules,  models, and move forward in ways that differentiate us from the competition.

Specifically, they suggest looking at the various dimensions of your model and then ask,  what can be reduced, removed, increased and added changing the “value curve” for your business.

Seems simple, but its a big challenge.  Think about Unitarian Universalist congregations.  We have some pretty hard core rules about how to do church.  Perhaps you’ve slammed up against it from time to time.  No, that isn’t a wall, its just our big ol’ rule book.

What do we offer or do because its always been done that way, our colleagues do the same, the UUA supports the approach and so on?   Imagine making a map or outline of your core approach to “doing church”  in your congregation.  I bet you and a team could map it out over a single cup of coffee.

A few quick examples to get you thinking.


  • What if you reduced the number of times you expected your minister to preach per year  and instead had the charge be to see that the most amazing worship services were offered including using the talent, voices and experience of your members and friends?  Think primary worship leader, not solo preacher though we do like great preaching.


  • Do you need an order of service?  Could you eliminate that completely?  What if you removed all paper from your sanctuary?


  • What if you raised your expectation for what youth could accomplish?  No, I mean really raise them. Imagine if you had the expectation that every youth leave your congregation a seasoned small group facilitator (one semester of leadership minimum over four years), attended at least one General Assembly conference, and that primary leadership of your youth ministry is led by  advisors who are youth with adult coaches/mentors.


  • What if you added 5 new staff positions?  Don’t worry about budget.  You can have part-time volunteer staff, you just need to give them respect, responsibility, job descriptions, titles and enough power/authority to actually do the job.  You think that mega church down the street relies on paid staff alone to accomplish their work and ministry?  Not a chance.

Go “UU Blue Ocean” with me

April 2011 UPDATE:  Since writing this post the UU Growth Lab was created. This is where I’m having this sort of conversation.  If you’re on Facebook, join us!

I’d love to give you all permission to have some fun with this. That’s right, play!  This site is a place where we can experiment and explore.  What do you think we can change?

Think about it. What could we reduce, remove, increase or add to our way of doing church and simply being Unitarian Universalists in the world that would allow us to unleash our potential?

You can leave comments on this post,  on the UU Growth Blog’s Facebook Page, and/or tweet with the tag #uuBlueOcean.

6 thoughts on “Imagining a UU Blue Ocean Strategy

  1. Of course, becoming a “Blue Ocean Leader” is one of six leadership competencies mentioned in the Faith Formation 2020 book for designing, implementing, and leading FF2020 in a church.

  2. Wow! You and I are on such similar wave lengths! I was looking at Blue Ocean Strategy thinking last month, trying to figure out how I could integrate this into my work. We should definitely sit down to talk soon.

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