So the leaders of the UUA have identified the “nones” as a possible growth area for UU congregations. Now what? What is the UUA doing to reach out to the “nones?”
The first thing to realize is that this is an emerging challenge that doesn’t have any ready solutions, and all religious denominations are in the same boat. The population of the “nones” has a lot of variety (from new-age spiritual to atheist) so no one answer could be the answer. There is no “program” that will “fix” this challenge.
We do know that congregations need to re-think aspects of how they “do church.” We do have some bits and pieces of information from current studies. In other words, this is a classic adaptive challenge where we need to function as a learning community, with high-learning, low-risk experiments.
That’s why the Congregations and Beyond initiative may be disappointing, maybe even confusing. We are expecting a program. We are hoping for a program. Instead we have a framework and tools that are helping us to creatively address the challenge with innovation and cross-pollination.
The 2014 General Assembly theme of “Love Reaches Out” will provide an opportunity to continue the conversation. The GA Program Application (Due November 1) instructions specifically asks for innovation:
Because this is an adaptive challenge, there is an understanding that there are no easy or sure answers, so we encourage the spirit of experimentation, e.g. learning from mistakes as well as from successes. Workshops that share examples of something that you are currently trying are encouraged—even if your experiment doesn’t feel “ready for prime time.”
If you don’t want to wait for General Assembly, here are some tools that you can use immediately:
From the information gleaned from the Pew and Barna research (mentioned in the first two parts of this series) we understand there are two areas of young adult ministry that we need to pay attention to. One is facilitating opportunities for developing relationships with other people in the congregation. The other is innovating to provide the engagement and depth in addressing the questions and needs of young adults in today’s context. The UUA Young Adult office has created a handy self-assessment and other resources to help your congregation, especially in the relationship-building area.