Lately you’ve been hearing a lot about clusters, especially in relationship with regionalization. I’ve had folks ask, “So is clusters just a cheaper way to provide services?” Well, in some ways, yes, clearly it is less time consuming for staff to provide the same workshop once to a cluster than to two or three different churches in that same cluster. But it’s more than staff time. It’s also about the effect of having different people with different experiences at different churches does to change the dynamic of the workshop. It suddenly becomes more participatory and interactive, less lecture style – which is a good thing!
Clusters provide opportunities for congregations who do not have the volunteers, or the critical mass of a particular age range to be able to make a program or a social justice project available to their congregants. Think about it – one small congregation rarely has the necessary volunteers and number of junior high students to make a Our Whole Lives class go. But two or three small congregations geographically close to each other band together and suddenly they have plenty of students and volunteers. Often a congregation would like help with a food pantry but don’t have the volunteers to staff it for a month. Several congregations together would, have those volunteers.
Clusters do other sorts of things too. Ministers might do pulpit exchanges, giving members an opportunity to hear another leader. Several clusters in our districts have worked together to offer Healthy Congregations/Smart Church Training to their leadership. The OMD Southern Cluster held a revival a couple of years ago. The Pittsburgh Cluster is planning an Assembly day in November, offering workshops on a variety of topics to their members. Each of these activities would not be nearly as easy to accomplish by one congregation.
When we come together for a common purpose – an RE class, a social justice project, sharing of resources – we get stronger. Our congregants benefit. We don’t burn out our volunteers as quickly. It’s win-win for everyone. That’s why your staff think clusters are so important.
What programs could your cluster collaborate on?
OMD District Administrator and CERG Communications Consultant
Rev. Joan Van Becelaere
CERG Congregational Life Staff Lead
What is our core business – as congregations; as a faith community? There is a lot riding on how we answer that question.
Remember Kodak? It was an industry giant. Many of us still call memorable events “a Kodak moment.”
Kodak went bankrupt a couple of years ago. Many analysts say that the company was killed by the rise of digital photography. Ironically, Kodak actually invented digital photography in the 1970’s. But the company’s leadership saw digital photography as something unimportant, even frivolous, rather than the wave of the future. They didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize their primary business – which they saw as film sales.
Kodak made great film and knew how to market it well. But in a digital age, no one buys film, no matter how great it is. If Kodak has defined its primary business as ‘imaging’, they might have been the leaders in the field of digital photography. But they defined their business and focused all of their resources in a way that could not keep up with technological change. And they went bankrupt.
Are our congregations and Unitarian Universalism facing our own “Kodak moment” now? In light of deep social and economic change, how do we define our core business? Where do we ocus our congregational energy – our Time, Talent and Treasure?
Are we in the building maintenance and preservation business? What do our budgets say? Or are we in the business of helping heal disconnection and creating new connections among people – no matter where that takes place?
Are we in the Sunday morning classroom business? Or are we in the business of raising children with UU values and identity, wherever and whenever they might have the opportunity to learn?
Are we in the musical production and Sunday event business? Or is our core business to change the world and build Beloved Community?
What is our real business? There is a lot riding on how we answer that question.
One of the most significant changes in the life of a congregation is a change in professional ministry. It can be a time of grief, possibility, confusion, anxiety or some combination of emotions.
We on your UUA/OMD/SLD/CERG District and Regional staff are committed to assist congregations though these times of transition. We also encourage congregational leaders to educate themselves about best practices so that we can partner together to find the best fit for your congregation.
In the past couple of years, the UUA has developed some helpful resources to aid congregational leaders to educate themselves during a ministerial transition.
These new resources are in addition to the resources on the UUA website:
UUA Ministerial Transitions Website http://www.uua.org/careers/ministers/transitions This site includes links to information on Interim Ministry, the Settlement Handbook, benefits and compensation (including a compensation calculator), part-time ministry, recommendations concerning screening of ministers and all staff and other safety issues.