- We passed the Statement of Conscience on Peacekeeping.
- We failed to choose a new Study/Action Issue. Apparently even though there was a clear favorite emerging with the understanding that immigration is the big issue right now, and the anti-slavery group throwing their support to it, no study/action issue got a clear majority, so there will be a run-off election at the next plenary session. The prediction is that immigration will sweep the run-off.
The next meeting was bringing together Midwest leaders and interested parties to talk about the struggle that Midwest congregations have had in the last search round in finding ministers. I was there with my hat as Heartland UUMA President again. There were a lot of theories about why this happened, and a lot of suggestions for churches. Some that resonated with me (obviously chosen from a minister’s perspective):
- Even though the Midwest is a less expensive area to live in, with many churches with a lower “geo index” than the churches on the coast, it’s helpful to consider that a minister’s spouse will have a harder time finding a job, even if they find one at all. Therefore, ministers will look to churches that pay a wage that will, by itself, support a family, and where the church expresses a supportive culture that understands that spouses may not find employment. Also, remember that student loans don’t change by geo index.
- Similarly, incentives are allowed—a deal for paying student loans, signing bonuses, etc. And these are attractive.
- It’s natural to look upon the idea that a minister who is excited about your geographical location because of family reasons or other reasons might not be really looking at your church for the gem it is. However, it’s also true that ministers who have that kind of support network around them will be happier, and more likely to stay for a longer tenure. I’ve personally seen several ministers who I knew didn’t like the Midwest and really wanted to be either South or West or East, and, well, they’re gone. That happened in my own church, as well, where average tenures after the locally-grown minister Ruth Smith retired became short and shorter as ministers left to “go back home.” I am home, and, well, have the longest tenure since the Rev. Ruth Smith.
- Promote, publicize, market your church!
- While churches’ search committees don’t know who is in search other than the ministers who’ve selected to apply, that doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to look around at ministers and recruit. Using GA can be a wise thing to do—many ministers are there, and you can see them preach, lead workshops, or argue for their perspectives in plenary, and you’re allowed to talk to them! One church talked about taking this approach. One church’s members stood outside the Berry Street Lecture handing out slick cards about their church. This definitely got noticed, and in a good way!
Another emerging theme is this: Unitarian Universalism saves lives. More on that another time when I have time to write a lot more on it.