Thursday, February 27, 2014

An Annual Check-Up

Back in 2005, the Alban Institute posted an article about "Every-Member Ministry."  (The Alban Institute, founded in 1974, has become the go-to source for the most up-to-date and creative thinking about issues facing congregations today.)  This is an area that I'm particularly interested, and one that I think Unitarian Universalists have not yet even begun to fully and deeply explore.  I see a truly radical understanding of shared ministry, but that's a topic for another blog post.  (And, perhaps, eventually a new book!)

But in this 2005 piece Patricia Hayes shares what she calls an model for an Annual Spiritual Check-Up.  I love it, and in a recent conversation in one of the FaceBook groups I follow I suggested that something like this might be a way to measure "success" in our congregations -- how are people doing in their annual "check-up" over time.

Being reminded of this piece led me to think of sharing it with the TJMC community.  So here goes:

A Model for an Annual Spiritual Checkup
Here are ten questions any person could use as an annual review of his or her discipleship and ministry:
  1. Prayer
    How has your prayer life been this year? Blossoming? Fading? Faltering? Open? Routine? Is this an area that needs more focus for you?

  2. Learning
    What have you studied this year (formally or informally)? What have you learned?

  3. Worship
    Are you worshiping at least weekly? How has that time been? Highs? Lows? Are you taking time to prepare or "just showing up"?

  4. Leader Skills
    Do you sense that your capacity to lead has increased? Are you observing the leadership of others? What are you learning?

  5. Community Building
    How are you helping your congregation to thrive, formally and informally?

  6. Action
    Where have you been visible in your faith? What blocks you from action?

  7. Serving Others
    Where have you served God this year?

  8. Sense of Growth
    Where do you feel you have grown this year-spiritually, emotionally, in terms of relationships, or in terms of knowledge?

  9. Balance
    How is your sense of living a balanced life? Do you keep sabbath?

  10. Growing Edge - Stretching Beyond the Comfort Zone
    If we accept that we are not living in the fullness of the kingdom, where are you called to focus in the coming year?

So ... how was your check-up this year?


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thank You

I have said before, and often, that this is one of the best church staffs it's ever been my pleasure to work with.  What a team!

And one of the things that impressed me deeply when I first came on board was a practice they'd apparently had in place for quite some time.  You may not know it, but Alex, Caroline, Leia, Scott, Trish, Wendy, and I meet each week on Wednesday morning.  And the first thing we do, after checking in with each other, of course, is to name people in the congregation that we appreciate.  Lovely, right?

So each week the staff of TJMC lifts up people we've noticed who've done good things, or hard things, or a lot of things, in the previous week.  Sometimes we simply want to make sure that other people notice too.  And sometimes we all sign a "thank you" card.  We send a lot of cards.

The Board has started doing this, too.  (Thank you, Amy Wissekerke for this new Board practice!)  At each meeting some blank "thank you cards" are passed around and each Board member is encouraged to take at least one and send it to someone they are feeling particularly appreciative of.

There are so many "unsung heroes" in this community, so many people quietly doing so many good things -- for other members, for the congregation as a whole, and in the wider community.

Maybe you've gotten one of these cards.  Maybe you haven't (yet).  Yet either way, do know that folks are noticing.  Our antennae are up.  We're aware of what you're doing.  And we thank you.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Moving Into The Digital Age

Yesterday I wrote about the resurrection of our church blog, The Talk of TJMC.  Yet this isn't the only way that our community is trying to make use of the (no longer quite so) new technologies of what's come to be called, "the digital age."  Like it or not, the days of a church secretary running off copies of the church newsletter on the mimeograph machine are gone.  And while it's certainly true that not everyone in our community is computer savvy -- or, for that matter, even has a computer! -- it's also an undeniable fact that more and more of the folks finding their way here are immersed in this digital world.  Studies show that the majority of visitors to a congregation today have already spent a fair amount of time getting to know the church through its website.  And its blog.  And its FaceBook page.  And Twitter feed.  And the question that needs to be asked of and by congregations that are looking to make outreach not only to their own members but to folks who are searching is this:  are you prepared to meet people where they are?  Do you have a presence online that supports and reinforces the presence you have in the world?

TJMC is, indeed, moving quite creatively into this "brave new world."  Here are some of the ways we are:

  • We have a website, and it's easy to be kept informed of updates.  Minutes of the Board -- including financial information and reports of staff and committees -- are posted there each month; information about our various groups, committees, task forces, and projects can be found;
  • Our weekly sermons -- or "explorations" -- are recorded and podcast online.
  • We have a FaceBook page which currently has a membership of 383.  (Our formal membership count is about 450 +/-)
  • Our lead minister has his own blog, A Minister's Musings, and there is this blog for the sharing of the story of our beloved community.
  • We now have a QR code which links directly to an online copy of each Sunday's Order of Service so that you can go paperless, saving trees and affirming our commitment to eco-justice in the process!
  • During the service --during both the time of Prayer and during the Offering -- congregants are encouraged to use their portable electronics to reach out to someone who isn't in the sanctuary yet who might benefit from knowing they were being thought about, or to reflect on something in the service or in their life.  We even have our own hashtag!  #TJMCUU.  (This is, of course, in addition to the myriad of UU Hashtags already in existence and use.)
  • You can learn about our Scrip program online -- this is the incredible fundraising effort which gives the church a percentage of, for instance, your weekly grocery shopping at absolutely no cost to you!  (You can even sign up online by following the links on our website.)
  • You can even make your financial pledge to support the work of the church online!

Coming soon will be experiments with online faith development offerings, and even a real-world class co-led by RevWik here and Rev. István Török from Romania via Skype!

If you can think of other ways we can increase the effectiveness of our digital presence, please contact me ( to share your ideas.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Supporting What We Love ...

It's been a while since the last posting to The Talk of TJMC.  A little more than two months ago, in fact.  The plan had been for this to be an ongoing and engaging new way for our faith community to communicate within and among ourselves.  There is our website; we have our monthly bulletin and our weekly email (both the one from the Church Office and the one from our Religious Education program); and there's the insert in our Sunday Order of Service, and our bulletin boards in the hallway near the Social Hall.  And there's a pretty lively FaceBook page (383 members as of last count!).  Yet all of these, save the last, are avenues of one-way communication.  "The Church," the institution, reaches out to the members of the community.  And when you add all of this "outreach" to all the other email, junk mail, texts, and phone calls we all have to deal with ... well ... it can be a little overwhelming.

So the idea of The Talk of TJMC is that this would be a place to tell the story of our beloved community -- rather than just the facts of it -- and a place where we could talk with one another.  Since I was already blogging, and since I believe in the power of this idea, it made sense for me to take on primary authorship.  The plan all along, though, was that at times Leia, or Alex, or Scott might contribute a piece.  Or maybe a Worship Weaver who had had a profound insight (or at least something worth mulling over) could share their reflections.  Or one of the many poets in our congregation.  Or someone from the new writing group, or something that came up during an Adult Faith Development program.  And no matter who it was who originated the posting, there would be a way here for everyone to add their own thoughts and reflections.  The Talk of TJMC could be a place for talk of, by, and for the TJMC family.

Perhaps not surprisingly I resurrect our congregation's blog the week that we begin our 2014-2015 pledge campaign -- Supporting What We Love.  The kick-off Sunday saw a tremendous outpouring of love and affection -- and gratitude -- for what this community offers.  The garlands of hearts that now festoon our hallways are just one testimony to the power of this place and these people in our lives.  I come away from this campaign -- already! -- with a renewed sense of commitment in many areas, and especially in the area of seeing that the story of TJMC, the story of this faith community, is told.  It is a life-giving and life-changing one.


PS -- if you want to be informed about updates to our website content, click here.  If you want to receive the weekly email from the Church Office, email  If you want the weekly email from the RE Office, contact