UU Online Ministery For The 21st Century

February 12, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Posted in Online Ministry | Leave a comment

Four simple principles drove me to create an online church for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA, aka UUCAVA:

  • Many UU congregations encourage members to know each other better. Social technology inspires relational cultures
  • Our UUs churches produce volumes of compelling social media content.
  • Our members mix with the general public online and are the best marketing tools we could hope for.
  • Viral propagation online of Unitarian Universalism makes the typically distasteful aspects of evangelism moot.

My name is June Herold, and I’ve been envisioning, creating and launching community and social technology along with online media for 15 years. And what I’ve done for the UUCAVA satisfies me more than many of the joys from years inventing and building products at America Online, Discovery Communications and companies that make software for k12 schools. I consider what a do to be a form of social action and also ministry.

I’m a new UU, although I’ve practiced our principles all my life. I joined UUCAVA in Feb. 09, 2009 after attending one month. My partner, Heather Crombie (a 15-veteran of web service and product design), and I flirted with the religion at various UUs in cities where we lived over the course of 20 years. Arlington is the first congregation we’ve joined. Before jumping online, I was a journalist for more than a dozen years in the Midwest and East Coast at major media companies. I rarely write these days. I prefer building and programming digital environments where people collaborate and communicate to further knowledge and spiritual life.

I intend to share here some of my experience in developing UUCAVA’s online church and to answer questions from other UUs about it. I don’t speak for UUCAVA or any UU organization. This blog represents my ideas.

I will also share my initial thoughts on development and growth for UUism through a product marketing filter. The blog’s title is a double entendre: I’m a new UU, but I believe that there are demographics and expectations of people 54 and under today that define who the “New UU” is. I don’t know what a New UUism would be. I suspect a New UUism would arise from the New UUs.

We aren’t a business. But product marketing approaches can help us face many of the disturbing trends and realities of today’s UUism. Michael Durall’s, book,The Almost Church Revitalized, outlines strategies inspired by product marketing principles. It’s very good food for thought and action. Members of my church are reading it now and meeting to discuss it.

UUCAVA is a large congregation with about 1,300 members, friends, and interested new comers. Size does matter when it comes to social networking and collaboration. A critical mass of people is necessary to create enough user-generated content to show UUs in action and for a site to compell viewers and users to adopt habitual usage of it. But small churches can benefit from a similar strategy. And I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about them and talking to members of a few of them as well.

I’m looking forward to an ongoing conversation with all those who are interested not only from UU congregations but from any religious folk who want to engage in a meaningful dialog.

I’m embedding here a Oct. 25, 2009 homily I gave on the spiritual aspects of UUCAVA’s new site and also a 21st Century adaptation of Woody Guthrie’s song, Mail Myself to You, which was a fun way to introduce social networking terms to the UUCAVA congregation.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you join me in thinking about:

  1. What a Church Without Walls means?
  2. What can online ministry be?
  3. And how do we use #1 & #2 to stimulate member acquisition, member retention, and branding; church services of all kinds; and church life as a whole.

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