Big Questions for moving Unitarian Universalism Forward?

Question Mark (c) Istockphoto

This Saturday at the Ballou Channing District Spring Conference I’m facilitating an open forum on the “BIG QUESTIONS” we need to be asking in order to move Unitarian Universalism forward. Over the past few months people have had the opportunity to share their big questions via an online form and with me in the UU Growth Lab. Below are the questions with duplicates mostly removed.

Do you have a favorite question from this list?  Another one to add?  Feel free to comment on this post.

Big Question Submissions

  1. What do ALL UUs believe?   Is it theology or values that we gather around?  Seems more talk toward a UU theology, but that isn’t why I came. I came for values and the principles.
  2. How do we keep our youth in the church?
  3. How can we collaborate between congregations versus acting like we are in competition?
  4. How can we heal our members’ religious wounds so we can move forward as a religion?’
  5. Should we intentionally continue to frame our organization and services as “faith”, “church” and “worship”?
  6. How can Unitarian Universalists respond in the right way to changes in the global economy and in the global environment?
  7. Why are we almost completely estranged from the Judeo-Christian tradition?
  8. How can we become good stewards?
  9. How can we let people know what we are about?
  10. If you could have the leadership from all of our congregations discuss one question/have one conversation about adapting our ministry for the future, what question(s) would you have them wrestle with?
  11. How are you preparing your community and your theology for the enormous and expanding income gap between rich and poor that has already defined revolutions elsewhere and may soon here? How will we stand on the side of love there with genuine integrity, not hypocrisy?
  12. How will you minister to the needs of different generations while maintaining intergenerational programming?
  13. How can we be truly diverse in every way (backgrounds, beliefs, class, cultural, age, abilities, ideas, etc.) and not have conflict (or manage it effectively)?
  14. Why do you continue to have only one, very expensive way to seek ordination? How do you ordain the poor, racial minorities and other disadvantaged econ groups, to serve and preach the good news of Unitarian Universalism?
  15. What is our mission in the world?
  16. Should we abolish the Ministerial Fellowship Committee?
  17. How can we engage very busy people in deeper ways and help them make strong connections so that they’ll WANT to come to church and make it a part of their lives even during the week?
  18. How do we adapt to modernizing our services for the next generation…both to keep our kids from moving on to another church, and to attract new and younger people into our churches? Do we really go with the “overheads” and high tech?
  19. How do we engage other sub cultures within the USA to join us? I speak of Punks, Grunge, Metal Heads and many other often ignored sub cultures within the USA…Most of these people are Good hearted, community minded people who feel rejected by the dominant society and see most organized religions as systems of oppression. How do we engage these radical underground groups?
  20. How do we turn the leadership of this church and congregation over to our members who are now 25 to 40 years old? Within a year?
  21. How do we grow in our faith together and make service we do a natural overflow of the callings of our faith? How do folks stay engaged in this growth process in the age of quick fixes and quickly minimized conflicts?
  22. How do we educate our own members on what it means to be a liberal religion?
  23. What do we offer that will make people say “that totally changed my life”?
  24. What was offered to me, in 1965, were The Principles (were there only 6 back then?) We (spouse and 2 preschool kids) were seeking, and when I read them, I was convinced. Been here ever since.
  25. If we can find ways to be truly welcoming in developing and ordaining our leaders, we’ll bring in new and diverse perspectives that will go a long way towards making our entire denomination more welcoming.
  26. Many of the best “ministerial” leaders in my area aren’t in seminary and want nothing to do with it. The process is a dinosaur and needs to be retired not reformed.
  27. How many young adults does it take to occupy 25 Beacon Street or wherever they’re moving it to?
  28. What if they gave a GA and no one came?  What if an alternative to GA was organized on Facebook?
  29. Imagine an online Unitarian Universalist “Common Assembly” consisting of high quality workshops, forums, etc… in the form of ongoing chats, webinars, video presentations and beyond, all organized at a grass roots level and shared for free.  Could we do THAT as an Association?
  30. How can we create groups of lay leaders whose focus is on faith development and congregational spiritual health, to balance our clergy? UU Deacons? We need these people to make long term commitments, time measured in terms of decades.
  31. How can we educate our lay leaders within our congregations to understand that we are a larger faith movement and to encourage our friends and family to join us in worship?
  32. Most of our congregations are wonderful places, if people happen to find them. What stops us from getting our message out there, and what are we willing to do to actively seek out the millions of potential Unitarian Universalists out there?
  33. How do we stop arguing about “UU Culture”, and get over it? How do we include more people from more backgrounds (be they racial, economic or generational) and give them a voice and help them honestly be a part of something important?
  34. Create a more accessible path for those in seminary who wish to pursue social justice/community ministry or chaplaincy. Currently, we have to go through the exact same process as those training for congregational ministry which is expensive and time consuming. If you aren’t focusing on congregational ministry it’s a huge and unnecessary expense as well as time suck. Social Justice is a HUGE component of who we are as UU’s yet the seminary process doesn’t support those whose call is in this area. Why?
  35. I’m a seminarian with a full-time job and a lot of church work on the side. Seminary is great but the ordination process is a challenge and I am not even convinced that there is a place for me as an ordained UU minister – I have no sense of whether I will be fellowshipped or not. I look at my UCC minister friends who are able to be approved ministers in a wide range of venues and it makes me want to jump ship. Just a little. I really am a UU, not a UCCer, but why does it have to be so hard? (I preach, I write UU music, I accompany services, I design worship, I consult, I pulpit-fill, I create and lead adult RE, I offer pastoral care – not a slacker here!) I realize I did not write this as a question but it could be a simple question: How can those of us with immense dedication but complicated circumstances be brought into ordained ministry effectively and humanely?
  36. Why do we continue to professionalize our ministry, considering them more akin to CEOs and Lawyers than faith leaders?
  37. I would like to see us examine the question of which is more important to achieving our mission: our UU identity, or our values.
  38. What are the best practices for building sustainable systems for the spiritual maturation of congregants that then release them back into the larger life of the congregation to serve, develop and equip new people and aspiring leaders?
  39. Why do we only have church on Sundays? (this might not be true of all areas) Some days I almost wish I was Catholic just so I didn’t have to choose between church and “insert activity here.”
  40. What do we talk about when we talk about church, and how does that limit us? How do we respond to a post-denominational world, and now post-geographical world (been asking that one since the 90s), and post-seminary-trained ordained leadership world? What have been our successes, or what do we know and do well, that will kill us if we keep doing it? Finally, don’t ask this one of ourselves, but ask it of those who are not a part of us, who are active in the world around us: why should we survive, and how, if we disappeared, would it affect the world?
  41. Some forward thinking ministers have been preaching on The Five Smooth Stones of Liberal Religion for the past ten years. It is a tangible, accessible tool for giving voice and language to the principals of Liberal Religion. We need more of this.

3 thoughts on “Big Questions for moving Unitarian Universalism Forward?

  1. Peter,

    How did the conference go? I hope it went well. You are doing such good work in facilitating dialog and conversation re. the big issues. Thanks.


    1. Hi Don, thanks for the affirmation. Always appreciate that. The conference was good, but I’m fining that it is more productive for me to present and then lead discussion, versus facilitating an open forum as was the agenda for the workshop slots we had between worship and our annual meeting. Especially true when we’re looking at the future of Unitarian Universalism.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s