In the 1980's and 1990's the primary wisdom was that it was best for denominations to start congregations intentionally in those places with the greatest demographic prospects and give to these select locations sufficient support and resources so that they could quickly become large or, at least large enough to support a full-service program: minister, building, religious educator, music program, and so forth. The strength of this point of view coincided with the religious and cultural power of the emerging evangelical Christian megachurches -- who for a time provided many of the most important innovations in congregational life. The big UU experiments in this type of congregational start were -- and are -- North Dallas and Pathways (near Philadelphia).
In recent years, there has been an increasing realization in the evangelical Christian world (still the leading innovators in this area) of the limitations of what might be call the "big, fast" approach. A younger generation of Christian evangelical leader is setting out to start smaller more "organic" religious communities -- in coffee houses, in peoples' living rooms. For long-time UUs this news movement is very much reminiscent of the Fellowship Movement of the 1960s. The organic approach to starting new congregations departed radically (as each generation is inclined to do from the previous one) from the fast and big approach. In the organic approach seeks to study almost as an anthropologist might what form of religious community might be natural to a given location. In the wake of the fact that the UU experiments with big and fast start-ups and their failure to meet expectations, it has led many UUs including many who work assisting UU congregations toward a renewed interest in the diverse ways congregations start and grow -- and the diverse ways we might assist. In speaking to the UU ministers at General Assembly in 2006, the UUA President Bill Sinkford said: 'what we need now are a 1000 experiments in helping congregations to grow.' (paraphrase)