CARBONDALE UNITARIAN FELLOWSHIP
2011-2016 STRATEGIC PLAN
To fully live out our Unitarian Universalist seven principles.
Create a spiritual home for our congregation to be:
A light to welcome the community
A space to amplify the value of all activity within
A center to celebrate life in all its diversity, richness and sorrows
Empower out congregation to:
Educate one another, both young and old
Enlighten and challenge one another to grow spiritually, intellectually and socially
Discover and create a caring, supportive and healing environment endowed with a sense of religious roots and wings
Encourage out congregation to:
Share our beliefs with others
Become an active presence in our community for the common good.
Strengthen all beliefs with our outreach and engagement
- Reaching out to our community
- Welcoming Newcomers
- Engaging new members
- Becoming a committed Member
- Reaching our to our community
- Developing leadership
- Increase visibility of the Fellowship and Universal Unitarianism in our community and region
- Empower and encourage intentional personal outreach
- Create an atmosphere of community, welcoming to all who visit
- Staff a welcoming team
- Intentional communication with all visitors who live in the community
- Help visitors find their way to membership
- Make the process of engagement inviting and meaningful
- Recognize and celebrate the dedication and service of members
- Enhance opportunities for growth in service and spiritual development
- Review and improve governance roles and structures
- Intentional leadership mentoring Young AdultsIncrease campus visibility and presence
- Young Adult oriented social media presence
- Open service/social action opportunities on campus
- Welcoming programs on campus as points of connection
- Create several YA small group options offering spiritual exploration and connection through service
- Identify and nurture alternative tracks to UU long-term commitment
- Develop YA leadership renewal program
- CUF Leadership in active relationship with YA
Families with Children
- Host workshops and programs for parents and families
- Intentional outreach to multi-racial families
- Organize intentionally to have families welcome families
- Develop family-focused program of orientation to CUF and Religious Education
- Support family to family connections
- Assess families’ needs and access relative to current offerings (e.g., childcare)
- CUF Leadership in active relationship with Fellowship families and minorities
- Encourage increased youth leadership
- Present (or host presentation) of Life Transition support programs.
- Identify and address access issuesIdentify pathways from support groups to CUF opportunities
- Explore support and leadership roles in Life Transition programs
- CUF Leadership in active relationship with Fellowship “elders”
The Context of This Plan
Rev. Richard Gilbert, a retired Unitarian Universalist minister, has presented a model of congregational life in four main dimensions: caring community, religious education, social justice work, and worship. These are interdependent, yet each can be considered on its own. The comments shared at cottage meetings held in February, 2011emphasized that we value our caring community, and regard it as significant – sometimes central – in our individual lives. Therefore, we want to work actively for its growth in numbers, diversity, and depth. The other three dimensions – social justice, religious education, and worship – are equally important and are currently being undertaken with success.
This plan connects with other Fellowship plans that are being or have recently been developed: Religious Education, Communications, Building and Grounds, and Landscape. We hope that it inspires and informs ongoing efforts in each of these other dimensions, and we are confident that it identifies important work we can do to strengthen and expand our Fellowship’s caring community.
A Process Leading to a Goal
Beginning in 2001, the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship (CUF) has developed 5-year strategic plans to set a direction and chart a course into its future. These plans have been remarkably successful in thinking through a process of growth, breaking out from a small, but remarkably vibrant, lay-led congregation in a deteriorating building, to one led by a permanent Minister, part-time Religious Education (RE) Director, and other staff meeting in a beautiful and highly functional new building on a four-acre site.
In early 2011, a Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) was formed, co-Chaired by members Miriam Link-Mullison and Chris Lant, and including members Joe Schmit and Carrie Vine, Student Minister Paul Oakley, RE Director Roy Sumner, and Minister Bill Sasso. In early 2011, the SPC met with over 40 adult and 10 RE members in cottage meetings to assess the state of the Fellowship and member’s hopes and concerns for its future. From these meetings, a clear picture emerged of a congregation that is vibrant, and that meets the needs of its members of all ages, who most often grow more and more committed to the Fellowship through their years of engagement. While any organization will lose members who move or pass away, CUF loses few members due to voluntary disengagement, a clear sign of a strong community.
These meetings also revealed, however, that the efforts of the Fellowship in reaching out to the wider community need to be strengthened. This is partly revealed by a recent loss of momentum in membership growth. Renewing this energy through deliberate and effective action is not only key to maintaining our sound financial standing; it reinforces the mission of CUF and Unitarian Universalism more broadly.
Thus the goal of this Strategic Plan is to strengthen all dimensions of outreach and engagement. This means not simply setting membership targets, the achievement of which is only partly under our control, but committing to a reinvigorated and more deliberate process through which people who are not now part of the CUF community can find it, explore it, and perhaps join it. It also means identifying and maintaining the programs that deepen member’s commitment and refining the process through which congregational leaders are developed.
A draft of this plan prepared by the SPC was made available to the CUF membership for comment in May, 2011. Comments received were incorporated into a final Strategic Plan presented to the Board of Trustees for approval at the May 22, 2011 Congregational Meeting.
Strengthening Five Stages of Outreach and Engagement
Becoming a Unitarian Universalist is a continuous process that has identifiable stages. The first is becoming aware of UU principles and the fellowship that is available at CUF. The second is coming to Sunday Service or a CUF event, perhaps as a personal experiment or shopping for a spiritual home. The third is becoming a member and seeking to engage the CUF community. The fourth is a deepening commitment as a long-standing part of the CUF congregation. The fifth is becoming a congregational leader. In general, CUF is currently remarkably strong at guiding the 3rd and 4th stages of this journey, needs some refinement in the 5th stage, and some deliberate strengthening in the first two stages. Certain groups of people, such as young adults, are perhaps less well served than other groups, such as families with children and seniors. This Plan focuses on strengthening this process as a whole by building on the qualities we now possess.
Stage 1: Reaching Out.
CUF is a visible presence in the region. Through the following new outreach initiatives it will become more so.
Examples of what we’re doing now.
- Events like Darwin Day, the annual benefit for AIDS/Africa project, and Cardboard City achieve high visibility in the local media and convey a sense of us as an active congregation working to live out our Unitarian Universalist values.
- Our presence as a Welcoming Congregation, including our central role in the formation of Rainbow Café, has led to an ongoing series of requests that we host GLBTQ events, including, the annual Rainbow Café Partay, the Rainbow Café Gala, CCHS Gay-Straight Alliance events and others.
- We continue to reach out in support of the emerging Unitarian Universalist congregations in Mt. Vernon, IL, and Cape Girardeau, MO, with assistance for programming and training.
- Our Religious Education program invites youth from other faith communities to participate in the Our Whole Lives sexuality education program.
- We are leaders in local interfaith work, including the Carbondale Interfaith Council, the Ralph Anderson Interfaith Dialogues, Church Women United, and other events.
New initiatives to strengthen outreach.
- Develop a training program for all CUF members on the “elevator speech” on UUism, how to invite a friend to service or a UU event, and how to best engage with visitors during coffee hour and elsewhere. Board of Trustees
- Develop a next generation website that allows one to request being added to mailing list (see Communications Plan). Website Committee
- Maintain an active schedule of cultural and educational events (e.g., Darwin Days). Program Committee
- Build a wayside pulpit. Board of Trustees
- Install road signs at key locations (e.g., intersection of Hwy 13 and New Era Road/Old 13). Building and Grounds or Outreach Committee
- Recognize and focus recruitment attention on specific groups (e.g., Rainbow Café, SIU staff, faculty and students, arts and music groups) and local public places frequented by people with an orientation compatible with UUism (e.g., Varsity Theatre, Food co-op, Yoga classes, Carbondale New School, the Science Center, Club Traz, Harbaughs, Longbranch). Outreach Committee
- Explore outreach to increase diversity, such as programming oriented to multi-racial families. Outreach Committee/Program Committee
- Explore opening and advertising social action and RE activities (e.g., Cardboard City, skating, Civil Rights Museum) to children beyond the CUF membership, especially in summer. RE Committee
- Encourage the use of new media to make CUF more visible, especially among youth (e.g., text your friend campaign, put CUF on your Facebook page). Website Committee
- Renew and sustain a Registered Student Organization (RSO) at SIUC. Form committee initiated by Student Minister Paul Oakley
- Open support groups focused on specific life transitions (e.g., divorce and separation, retirement). Minister
- Connect with the elder hostel program and assisted living facilities, especially through offers of transportation. Outreach Committee
Stage 2: Welcoming Newcomers
Every non-member who walks through the front door may be searching to make UUism a part of his or her life. It is our members’ role to help them find it.
Examples of what we’re doing now:
- Visitors’ information available at the visitors’ table.
- Greeters present most Sundays to welcome those who are visiting.
- Voicemail message includes information about service and RE times, location of the Fellowship.
- Website includes much information of interest to visitors.
- Visitors welcomed specifically each Sunday near the end of the service.
- Minister attempts to speak with each person as (s)he leaves after the service.
New initiatives to welcome newcomers.
- Conduct a survey of newcomers and new members to assess how they became aware of CUF, how they decided to attend and become a member. Outreach Committee
- Assign an RE greeter and enhance the adult greeter process. Team of greeters formed by Board of Trustees
- Gather contact information of newcomers through a brief face-to-face meeting that seeks to build rapport, understand that person’s viewpoints and interests, points out small groups to join (e.g., image spinners, supper club) and invites them to come back. Team of greeters formed by Board of Trustees
- Develop a list of frequent newcomers and follow up with frequent communication (e.g., CUF links). Office
- Connect each newcomer with an established member in a mentoring relationship. Minister
- Contact parents of children who participate to inform them of RE programs and activities. DRE
Stage 3: Engaging New Members.
The decision to join as a CUF member brings with it a desire to become part of the community through engagement with some of its programs and assuming a role and responsibility in the congregation. In general, this has been a strength of CUF.
Examples of what we’re doing now.
- ”Welcome to UU” (orientation for prospective and new members) offered multiple times each year.
- Many CUF activities, from singing in the Choir to helping at “Feed My Sheep” to participating in a workshop like “Building Your Own Theology” to intergenerational potlucks provide points of entry and connection for new members.
- Basic information about membership is available in well-organized “Prospective Member” and “New Member” packets.
- Formal recognition and welcome of new members in Membership Recognition Sunday service each May (sometimes also in December, depending on how many new members have joined).
- CUF Links articles introduce new members to the larger congregation.
New initiatives to engage new members
1. Connect each new member with a long-term member. Membership Committee
2. Periodically update the photo directory with high quality both on the website and paper. Fellowship Connections
3. Maintain a CUF event calendar on the website. Office
4. Maintain information on each member’s talents, interests, and roles. Membership Committee/Office
5. Initiate spiritual exploration, service, and social options attractive to young adults. form committee
6. Initiate a program on parenting a UU child. DRE
7. Organize carpooling to Sunday service, especially for seniors. Caring and Sharing
8. Further engage seniors in social action and small group activities. Social Action and Program Committees
Stage 4: Becoming a Committed Member.
CUF has often excelled in drawing members deeper into UUism and the congregational community.
Examples of what we’re doing now.
- We celebrate significant membership anniversaries as part of Membership Recognition Sunday each May. We are not aware of this practice in other UU congregations.
- Members regard themselves as stewards of the Fellowship, providing generous support for the work of the congregation in terms of their time, talent, and financial resources.
- A variety of small group interactions – from discussion groups to service projects – offer significant opportunities for personal growth and the development of a deep sense of community.
- Sunday services gather the Fellowship and provide opportunities for deepening, renewal, celebration, and inspiration.
New initiatives to deepen commitment.
- Train all members in UU messaging and welcoming, so that all members are recruiters. Board of Trustees
- Expand “Why/How I became a Unitarian” segments in Sunday Services. Minister
- Formally celebrate CUF’s most dedicated servants. Minister
- Hold a fair to present all the member-oriented activities at CUF. Board of Trustees
- Ensure child care is offered at UU event for adults. DRE
- Plan a Memorial Garden as part of a Building and Grounds Plan. Landscape Planning Task Force
- Expand intergenerational activities. DRE
- Explore opportunities for spiritually deepening in specific theological frameworks (e.g., possible Christian spirituality group, analogous to recently formed Wiccan group, Buddhist and Humanist groups).Facilitated by Minister
Stage 5: Developing Leadership.
CUF has been blessed with congregational and social action leaders. However, some specific measures are needed to develop new leaders more deliberately.
Examples of what we’re doing now
- Formal committee charges expanded to more committees.
- Irregular leadership meetings and informal leadership development.
- “Job descriptions” for CUF Board members
New initiatives to develop leaders.
- Clarify the role and purpose of each committee in a board-approved document (e.g., about one page per committee). Board of Trustees
- For key leadership positions, such as Stewardship Campaign and committee chair positions, recruit a person who will succeed the incumbent and mentor them in the responsibilities of that position. Officers/Minister
- Re-examine the CUF governance structure, especially the sequencing and term of vice-president/president-elect, president, and a possible past-president position. Board of Trustees
- Create more leadership opportunities for high school students and young adults. RE and YA Committees
- Explore ways to reorganize the Stewardship campaign to increase effectiveness while decreasing workload. Board of Trustees
Note that this list of specific initiatives can and should shift based on new knowledge of what works and is effective and on what outreach activities individual members have a talent and enthusiasm for. It is the goal – to strengthen all dimensions of outreach and engagement – that is important.