One of the programs I was committed to bringing to St. Lawrence was the Commissioned Lay Leader (CLL) program. This is an awesome leadership development training program that takes a committed and trusted volunteer of the church to a new level of personal and institutional development. People who are known and trusted in their churches, select a particular, focused ministry to which they feel drawn, and develop that ministry in collaboration with a mentor driven training program.
Perhaps you have served the worship committee, and want to develop a sermon or two. Or have a desire to reach out to the homebound people in your congregation. Maybe you’ve grown frustrated by the membership path, and would like to experiment with a new model of membership inclusion, or just love to officiate at weddings and memorials. Whatever path you see for ministry expansion in your church, can be developed with a mentor and your magical touch. This programs works alongside of professional ministry, it does not replace it. In all of our congregations, we see opportunities to expand our reach. There is enough ministry for everyone who wants to serve.
This program aims to develop that path in lay leaders who are willing to take the time to apply to the program, develop a covenantal plan of action with their board or minister, (Depending upon which serves as the supervising body) work with a mentor to develop the program, and then complete the requirements, including a long reading list, before becoming commissioned to do the work they feel drawn to doing.
With call in our faith to go beyond our congregations and into the world, it is possible that the commissioning may be with an interfaith justice group, or expanding our denominational resources through cluster development. It may be working with the young adult group, or teaching healthy congregations at multiple congregations. Whatever idea you have, let’s hear it. This is a time for innovation, interconnection and impact, so multiple ideas can be considered.
The committee is ready to meet so take a moment to view the Commissioned lay leader packet on the website! Contact the committee chair, Jim D’Alosio, if you are interested in applying or being a mentor. I look forward to seeing many interested candidates.
Rev. Chris Neilson
DISTRICT ASSEMBLY 2014
The Spirited Life
Join us March 28-29, 3014 for The Spirited Life with keynote speaker Rev Meg Barnhouse at the Avalon Hotel and Conference Center in Erie, PA.
Details and registration links available on the district assembly pages.
Hurry deadline for registration is March 15th at midnight!
UU NEXT GENERATION: "____-ING" OUR SPACE
Over the weekend of Jan 3-5, 2014, while others were digging out from 1 or more feet of snow and trying to survive sub-zero temperatures, 44 Young Adults (Ages 18-30 yrs old) met at the UU Congregation of Binghamton for their 2nd Annual Young Adult Retreat, UU Next Generation: “___-ing” Our Space. They traveled from all across the SLD District as well as Ohio-Meadville and Metro to come together to discuss how they would like to fill-in the “blank” as young adults in the UU community. Attendees engaged in discussions during workshops, Global Café and worship. One theme that kept coming through is that connecting with each other is an awesome experience but once a year is not enough. They need and want more. Several felt that they do not have a space within their own congregations despite their efforts to try to create that space for themselves. They also feel unsupported by the District since the Young Adult Coordinator position was eliminated and Binghamton’s retreat is not an SLD-Sponsored event. Some feel that when they return to their home congregations they are still treated like youth rather than an adult. Also Unirondack no longer offers a Young Adult weekend.
Surprisingly about a quarter of the attendees did not grow up as UU’s or attend youth conferences. By offering this retreat we are drawing in new people who are “Search-ing” for their space. As Rev. Peter Morales mentioned in his keynote address during the District Assembly meeting last April, there is a growing numbers of “Nones” among young adults in this country. “Nones” are those who do not affiliate themselves with a specific religion but yet often hold our UU values. If we want to grow our UU community and its impact in the world, we need to be looking for ways to attract and retain young adults.
If you would like to help our UU community to grow and support our Young Adults who are “Find-ing”, “Create-ing”, “Define-ing”, “Grow-ing”, .... their space, here are some suggestions:
- Have a Young Adult Coordinator position whose contact information is listed on your website and in your directory. This person doesn’t have to be a Young Adult. Having a Young Adult Ally provide continuity and support for the transitional young adults can be an effective way to start and sustain a group.
- Ask a Young Adult what they would like and/or need from your congregation. Young Adults tend to have crazy schedules and attending worship on Sunday mornings just may not fit.
- Offer a regularly scheduled gathering. This can be modeled after the Small Group Ministry or just a fun social gathering. In Binghamton we offer a small worship gathering on the Second Sunday of the Month at 1pm and a fun social event on the Fourth Friday in the evening.
- Include money in your budget for young adult gatherings.
- Form a carpool for young adults to travel to Unirondack for one of their Work Weekends. There is a group planning to attend the May 31-June 2, 2014 weekend.
- Offer a Young Adult Retreat like Binghamton. The young adults would like to have one in the summer. All you need is the support from your congregation’s leadership, about 5-6 people on a planning team and an open weekend on your church’s calendar. What a better way to grow our UU Community than by offering a fun, engaging, deeply moving, friendship-bond building event!
Do you struggle to keep up with all the changes in your life? Family life and relationships require decisions – some are part of our daily routine and others are life altering. Our congregations are always facing change – new efforts to attract more families, improve our stewardship process, or adding a liturgical element that goes against tradition.
Our UUA is certainly undergoing many changes. Our offices and staff are about to move from 25 Beacon Street to new facilities that areonly a short distance away, but will bring our staff together in one building that will be well designed for collaborating and communicating. The UUA Board of Trustees is now considerably smaller as a result of delegates voting to make this change. We have a new Moderator, Jim Key, and a new Director of Congregational Life, Rev. Scott Tayler, who are both making changes and asking for input on how to make more changes.
Our district is also in the midst of change – very significant change. For the last few years we have been collaborating with the three other districts -- we are jointly known as the Central East Regional Group – CERG. We are finding ways to collaborate that help us be better Unitarian Universalists. Ways that weren’t possible just a few years ago. And your district, regional and national leaders are seeing a brighter, but very different, future. More collaboration among clusters of congregations who come together not just because of their proximity, but because they have a common interest, such as successful small congregations. A regional organization is helping all
of our congregations gain access to professional expertise in leadership, stewardship, lifespan faith development, and growth. There are plans to grow leadership for our lay leaders in an effort to allow them to spend more time on a UU ministry of their choosing rather than the administration of district details. Fewer lay leaders will need to devote their time preparing and monitoring budgets with a regional structure, freeing them to pursue their passions.
It feels to me as though everything in my UU world is changing and that’s difficult to manage and sustain. Yet I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Your district, regional and national leaders, both lay and ministerial, are working to make the world a better place – really. Just as there are struggles in every family when a significant decision needs to be made, we UUs also struggle. We struggle to bring our UU values to the meeting tables and conference calls, trying to do not what I think is best for me or even my district, but best for Unitarian Universalism.
Do you struggle with change? I recommend a couple video programs available to you for free through our regional web site. “Introduction to Adaptive Leadership” by our regional Leadership Development Consultant, Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, “will change the way you think about the internal and external components of leadership and equip you to lead through any change—welcome or unwelcome.” And “Leading Change in Our Congregations” is a presentation Gil Rendle, Alban Institute Consultant, given at the UU University in Portland, Oregon a few years ago. Both are available at our CERG website, in the Videos/Classes and On Demand Learning Center sections.
President, St. Lawrence District
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