Monday, December 29, 2003
The church of Utne readers.
Matthew Gatheringwater condemns the talk of building a Unitarian Universalist growth campaign on marketing efforts targeted to "cultural creatives" (otherwise known as Utne readers). There's some devastating further commentary at Paula's House of Toast about the cultural creatives Web site.
I recently attended a day-long session on Unitarian Universalist growth strategies — more on this in the next week — and my impression is that a marketing-based approach simply won't work. Plus, it's much more expensive than the methods that already do work. Peter Morales studied Unitarian Universalist growth patterns over the last ten years, congregation by congregation, and his findings suggested a few important conclusions:
- The rate of growth of the UUA's adult membership is one new member per congregation per year. One way to look at this is that we could double our rate of growth simply by doing a better job of welcoming one additional visitor in each church. We don't have to go out looking for these people — every church has visitors. We just have to be more welcoming when they show up. Morales put it more directly: If we could simply stop repelling visitors, we'd double or triple our rate of growth. But that's not the suprising conclusion.
- Almost all the membership growth in UUA congregations over the last ten years has been concentrated in a fraction of congregations. Sixteen congregations account for 24% of the UUA's growth. (These 16 churches grew by 200 or more members over the last decade.) Forty-six other churches added between 100 and 199 members each, and are responsible for 40% of the UUA's growth. In other words, 62 churches account for 64% of the UUA's growth over the last decade. The remaining 950 or so congregations accounted for only 36% of the Association's membership growth.
In a followup post, I'll list the fastest growing churches. I suspect that these congregations did not grow by self-consciously pursuing Whole Foods shoppers and ecotourists, but by being excellent and welcoming churches.
Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 29 December 2003 at 11:04 AM