I Didn’t Even Know That Was Going On

THIS is the bane of every organization in America–heck probably the world.  How do we get our congregants, customers, clients, constituents, stakeholders, etc. to pay attention to US?  I was just in a meeting this week and the otherwise helpful, lovely folks there mentioned more than once that if only we did a better job of communicating about events, more people would attend.
That sounds right, doesn’t it?  And so we publish three (3!) weekly e-newsletters (worship, TLC and upcoming events), we repeat the upcoming events in an insert on Sundays, we post items to our Facebook groups, we hang posters, we print additional inserts, and we interrupt worship services with special announcements.  And still, no one knows what’s going on.
Because one of my roles on the staff is to oversee communications, I think about this a lot.  There is, of course, no answer as the phenomenon afflicts all sorts of organizations, including all churches.  And the more things that go on in a church the worse the problem gets.
Last year we upgraded our calendar so more information is available on it with a click on the event title.  The events are also sortable by subject.  We’re about to update our website (where there is a LOT of information that no one knows is there–sigh…..) and create a smartphone app that will also help us highlight events.
But like I said, I’ve been thinking about this and I’m not at all sure the original premise is accurate.  I don’t think it’s necessarily true that if we did a better job of communicating about events, more people would attend.  (Ignore the fact that I cannot think of how to do the job “better.”)  People make decisions to attend events for untold number of reasons, and although it’s true that you’d have to KNOW about something to choose it, “knowing” is necessary but not sufficient.  There’s interest, desire, time availability, health, and an entire flock of things that make people choose NOT to attend. Turns out “no” is much easier than “yes.”
So, two things: 1) If you have any ideas on how to communicate “better,” let me know (it cannot involve much staff time) and 2) Whenever you see an event that interests you, whether or not you are personally choosing to go, let your friends know about it.  YOU are a reader (because here you are) and your friends may not be!

Curiosity and Sin (audio only)

Sunday, May 26, 2019
Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development
As the biblical story of Adam and Eve shows, all people are curious about what it means to be a sexual being, but our hypersexualized society and the shaming that often comes from how people read that story makes it hard to talk about. Come hear how this is an important reason why Our Whole Lives (OWL) is an integral part of Faith Development for all ages at UUCA.


That was my response when I heard how many volunteers were participating in the Religious Education (RE) teacher dedication ceremony at UUCA during one of my first worship services last year. Over seventy-five individuals volunteered to support the faith development of our children. Wow! I have been serving as Minister of Faith Development for almost a year and am grateful to know that children and youth programs are so important to UUCA. As the year draws to a close and Summer Magic Sundays begin (Yay, Hogwarts!) we continue our efforts to recruit volunteers for next RE year. I invite you to consider joining one of our teaching teams. What? You have questions about what that means? Read on….

Questions, Myths and Facts about Volunteering in Religious Education at UUCA
Compiled by Jen Johnson and Kim Collins

Question: How will I know what to do?

Fact:  You are provided a scripted curriculum (for most classes), plus other ideas, tools, and support from the RE staff and your team.

“Thank you for making my first teaching experience such a positive one. You made it so easy. The resources you provided for activities and discussion questions were simple, creative and fun – it was hard to choose just one. At first I was a bit apprehensive about volunteering. I don’t have any teaching experience and I wouldn’t call myself artistic, but I’m so glad I did. Listening to the RE stories and watching the children engage with the lessons has deepened my own understanding of our heritage. It was a gift to be able to explore our UU principles through the eyes of our kids. Thank you for the opportunity.”
                                                                                                   — Gina Phairas

Myth: I don’t need to volunteer in RE because that’s a job for the parents.

Fact: We need all sorts of people of all ages and all life experiences to volunteer in RE. In order to become a truly multigenerational congregation, we must get to know each other and develop relationships across all ages. We take care of each other better when we have deep connections with each other.

“For my children, the adults who teach them are the adults they know. I am happy that my children get to form relationships with a variety of adults in this intergenerational community- not only with the parents of their peers, but with the elders in our community as well. In today’s world, you cannot have enough adult mentors in your corner!”
                                                                                                  — Melissa Murphy

Myth: Volunteering in RE is just busy work or babysitting and isn’t spiritually fulfilling for me at all.

Fact: Many of our volunteers report that serving in Religious Education is extremely spiritually fulfilling. Our volunteers also learn a lot from both the curriculum and our kids.

“…Because it is what we do in RE, I end up taking a deeper look at myself and my own beliefs and discussing meaningful ideas with adults and youth than I would otherwise.  And the kids themselves have literally taught me things that have changed the way I live my life.  I’d be a poorer soul for having missed all those experiences!”
                                                                                            – Coming of Age teacher

Myth: If I volunteer for RE, I will never get to go to the service.

Fact: You will still be able to attend services! Most of our volunteer positions have a commitment of serving in RE 1-2 times per month in rotation with your teaching team. Some folks even come for the early service on days they are volunteering at 11:15, or vice versa.

Myth: Sometimes attendance is inconsistent, and I would be wasting my time teaching just 3-4 kids on a given Sunday.

Fact: Time that kids spend with adults in an RE setting is valuable for those kids. Think of the impact you can have with a small class!

“Religious Education is a ministry of loving children and youth.  The curricula are clear and easy to follow.  You as a teacher may learn a great deal about UU history and beliefs.  You will certainly have fun with our children who are without a doubt “above average.”  The greatest qualification you need is to be able to love.  These bright young people may not remember all of our excellent lessons about what our great historical UU’s have done or when we merged from two religious branches or the teaching from other world religions.  They will always remember that here in our UU faith they were loved, they were appreciated for the unique individual that they are and the incredible potential that they bring to this world.  We are growing UUs in the love of this community.  There is no better feeling for me than to come on Sunday and love these students.  Just like a hug, we both benefit.”                                                                   — Long-time RE teacher

Question: So I have to love being with children if I volunteer in RE, right?

Fact: We have several volunteer positions available that allow you to serve without interacting with children or even having to be present in RE on Sundays. You know those awesome activity packs and coloring materials we have available for all ages Sundays in the Sanctuary? Someone has to replenish those, which can be done on your own time.  Same for organizing rooms and closets!

“Our youth need a religious foundation so that they can explore their own beliefs.  RE curricula provide that foundation. Learning about our UU tradition, our UU principles, and other religious traditions helps lay this foundation, helps foster respect and understanding for others in our community and our world, and helps create the responsibility we have to making our world a better place.  What is more important than that?”
                                                                                  – RE Parent and Teacher

Contact Kim at LREC@UUasheville.org or Jen at LREasst@UUasheville.org with questions or interest. We look forward to having you be part of our team.

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

Being Open and Inclusive Means Being Thoughtful

UU churches are a place of diversity (which we already know) and a church that is visited by folks that are either disillusioned by their previous religious background or un-churched. We often have newcomers coming to us in search of “something different.” And the “something different” definition can be an entirely different thing for each and every one of us. So how do we meet and greet newcomers in a sensitive and inclusive manner?

I recently attended a UUAMP (UU Association for Membership Professionals) conference where we spent a great deal of time discussing hospitality and how to meet and greet our newcomers when they stop in for a look-see. By practicing hospitality we are modeling our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of each person. When we pre-judge a newcomer by our standards we miss out on the richness and depth of the individual. So let me share some ways to meet and greet our newcomers when they have opened themselves up to us.

Say this “Hi. I don’t think I’ve met you. My name is ….”

Instead of “Hi! You must be new.”

Say this “Is there any kind of group I can connect you to? We have a huge variety.”

Instead of “Come meet our other transgender (or LGBTQ+, black, German, young adult, etc.) person!”

Say this “What lovely children. Let me introduce you to our RE staff.”

Instead of “Your children don’t look like you – are they adopted or foster children? We have several parents in the same boat.”

Some other tips on welcoming would include being an intentional listener. By intentionally listening we can enjoy the gifts our newcomers bring to us. Be sure to greet everyone that comes through our doors, not just the new people. Ask open-ended questions and respect people for choosing not to answer. Refrain from asking personal questions, including theology. People will share when they are ready. Or start a conversation from a shared experience like the morning’s service. Remember that our newcomers made an intentional decision to come and visit our “home,” let’s be sure to welcome them in an open and inclusive manner.