Last night, I attended a dinner where the Revs Peter Morales and Laurel Hallman (candidates for President of the UUA) debated.This is very interesting to me as I'm in a dwindling small church ... a church that does so many things right ... but yeah, we can't offer what the big ones are. I've never heard it phrased as Morales did, but it seems to be very honest and very on point.
Rev Morales discussed UU growth. He described a plan of large churches planting satellite churches. Typically, an established church of 600+ members opens a satellite campus at another location. E.g. a big downtown church opens a suburban campus. The members at the satellite are full members of the mother church. The Sunday worship is video-streamed to the satellite. The events at the satellite are listed in the common newsletter. A junior pastor has office hours (Sundays & during the week) at the satellite. RE programs are available at the satellite, but the trainings etc are done at the mother church.
Later, in the hallway, I talked some with Morales. He said such a satellite takes less than half a full-time position, but can offer the full-featured experience of a large church. He also commented that, in a metro-plex, large churches eat small ones, without meaning to. People attend a 50-member suburban church, join and stay for a while. Then they visit the larger church. They experience the difference between an RE program with 8 kids and one with 100 kids. They try out all the offerings at the larger church. And they decide its worth driving the extra 30 minutes for the better quality. The small church stays small, even tho it is doing a good job for a church its size.
I like the satellite idea, but it seems to me it needs to be that way from the inception of the satellite church. Could a large church "annex" us successfully? I don't think so. It's just a completely different way of doing church.
Meanwhile, I continue to ponder what the heck the solution is for the small church in a big area. Our little portion of the universe is filled with gifted leaders -- leaders who are becoming well known in the larger UU community. But our church isn't growing.
Too much to unpack right now ... I'm still at ICUUW. As someone said this morning, "my brain is so full, words aren't making any sense anymore."