Tag Archives: Dana Greeley

The habits of graceful growth (and decline)

Fourth and last in a series | First post in the series

There are two common threads running through the first three post in this series on growth. While I never stated the first of these threads explicitly, attentive readers will have noticed that whether you want your congregation to stay the same size gracefully, or decline gracefully, or perhaps even grow gracefully, I believe you must (1) know what your congregation stands for, and (2) provide steady and consistent management for your congregation.

While some Unitarian Universalist congregations have a clear sense of what their congregation stands for, in my experience the vast majority of Unitarian Universalist congregations do not provide steady and consistent management over a period of years and decades. This is half of the reason why most congregational surveys are a waste of time — you go through all the work of doing a survey, and within months lay leaders have gone on to other things. This is also why it’s often a waste of time to bring in an outside consultant — you spend all that money on an outside consultant, and a year later the consultant’s recommendations have been essentially forgotten. More than once, I have found myself in a situation where, as a staff person, I’m still trying to implement the recommendations that came out of a survey or a consultant’s visit a year before, only to find myself taken to task by lay leaders and other staff people who want to move on to something new. “That old consultant was a waste of time,” they’ll tell me, “and his recommendations didn’t work. We need to do something new.” That old consultant’s recommendations didn’t work because no one actually did the long-term work to implement them.

This reality — for it is a reality in most Unitarian Universalist congregations — has to be faced before long-term, consistent, and graceful growth can take place. So why are Unitarian Universalist congregations unable to provide steady and consistent management for graceful growth (or for graceful decline, or graceful steady-state, if that’s the way you need to go)? I can think of several reasons: Continue reading

Still true today

Dana Greeley, the first president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, wrote the following in 1970:

“I once preached what I thought was a pretty good sermon on ‘The Methodological Conservatism of Theological Liberals.’ We have to be as inventive with our money as we are with tools or medicine or private enterprise. And to me it is more important, and more natural, for liberal religion to be bold, and to grow, than for IBM or some new computer company to be bold or grow. The worst complacency in the world is religious complacency.”