In thinking about the issues of attracting and then tracking Young Adult (YA) members from a church's perspective, I was thinking that maybe churches should have a membership program that works more like your local YMCA and less like, well, churches. Here's what I've been thinking about this...
First: Income/Pledges. Now, every UU church I know of, even if they have a minimum expected pledge, will waive that pledge for financial hardship, but it's often awkward to ask for or to have to explain, and many people fell put-out by being asked for money in churches. There's a big issue around pledging in churches, because people have negative experiences from other churches sometimes, as well. At the Y, on the other hand, they have a very set guidelines of what membership costs, and you pay it, and if you don't you're not a member. They also have a philosophy that everyone should be able to be a member, and therefore they will work on a sliding scale. This could work particularly well for young adults, to have a specific "young adult rate" annually for membership, that could be waived in case of need. It could come with certain additional perks, like if you have a thriving adult RE program but you charge for your adult RE classes, the young adult membership could come with three free RE programs.
Second: Transience. I think a lot of churches think, secretly, that having young adult members is a negative because not only do they not get as much income as they pay out in dues sometimes, they also have trouble tracking the young adults because they're transient. Churches often don't have a good way of noticing if a member has moved away and neglected to resign his or her membership. At the Y, on the other hand, membership is for a set period for which you've paid your membership fees. If you neglect to pay your membership fees, your membership lapses. If you want to become a member again, you pay your fees again. This could be a great way for young adults to become members where the church would know that they wouldn't have to go tracking the young adults down later to see if they want to retain membership or not. In some ways, I think this would be a great way for the church to deal with all members. Just like you renew your gym membership, you renew your church membership.
Obviously this is quite a bit different from the way we think about church. But maybe the reasons that membership at churches is done the way it is are no longer valid. People move around a lot more today than they used to. We no longer have, in most UU churches, a way we transfer membership from church to church or denomination to denomination. You can join more than one church if you want.
So should UU be more like the Y?
You tell me. I'm interested in knowing what you think. This is just a wild tangent I've been on, so I'm not wedded to the idea, by any means!