Q: I am wondering what it would take to start a new congregation — the closest one to me is just too far!
A: We are glad that you’re looking to connect with Unitarian Universalism, and we understand the longing to have a congregation near to home. Please know, though, that starting a congregation can be a lot of work. In order to be an “official” UUA congregation, you need to have a minimum of 30 people who are not members of any other UU congregations, and who are willing to sign on as charter members.
However, there’s nothing to stop you from finding similar minded folks and getting together for conversation and/or social events. Generally it takes 3 to 6 years to create a congregation, and we can point you to resources. Sadly, we have no funding to help with the creation. We also suggest that groups smaller than 30 join the Church of the Larger Fellowship and use their materials to help you hold informal gatherings.
Q: How do I find like-minded people, or others who might be interested in starting a UU group, however informal?
A: We suggest that you can do a variety of things: post a notice in the local coffee/tea shops, libraries, bookstores, and community centers, with a number/email at which to contact you. Also, we know that some folks have had success finding people through sites like meetup.com, and gaining interest through those kind of social media sites that help you find people in your community.
Q: Can we use the UUA logo?
A: Yes you can—although we ask that you don’t hold yourself out to be a congregation until you are in the process of affiliating with the UUA as a formal congregation. You could say that you’re a group of people uniting around common values and common identity, or a group exploring UU identity and community. We hope that the UU branding will help people find you.
Q: Where can I find more information?
A: There are materials on the UUA website at http://uua.org/growth/index.shtml that talk about growth—and they can give you a good sense of how to be welcoming and hospitable that will help you attract and retain interested people. If you want to find out what’s involved in official affiliation, then check out this link: www.uua.org/uuarelations/new/34675.shtml. You can also contact the MidAmerica staff at firstname.lastname@example.org for more conversation.
Q: How do I begin?
A: Begin by talking with friends and neighbors about their values, and whether they would like to join in a community of those seeking deeper connection. Use meetup.com, and other social media tools to find folks. Meet for coffee/tea in a friendly place some evening or weekend. Talk about what you’d like to see—and remember, becoming friends is often the first step in creating something new.
You might also contact a UU congregation that is somewhat close to you to see if they are available to offer any support, or if they might want to explore possibilities of sharing staff or recorded/broadcast services. Phil Lund (email@example.com) of our MidAmerica staff team is particularly interested in helping congregations think about growth through starting smaller branches or other types of relationships with new groups.