Showing posts with label organizational functioning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label organizational functioning. Show all posts

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Why do UU congregations fail?

There is something wrong with the operation of the Unitarian Universalist denomination.

The three churches that I have attended over the last decade have been through pastors like shit through a goose. These churches range from one of the largest to the smallest so it is not a matter of size. Size is not the problem. The problem is the governance model. UUs have overdone this idea of democracy.

The fifth of the seven principles, "to affirm and promote the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process with our congregations and society at large" has caused big problems and cripple the denomination.

In Unitarian Universalism every person seems to think (s)he has the right to run the show. It seems that if (s)he doesn't like something (s)he gets to complain, withhold operating support, and the congregation collapses or is seriously wounded.

Where is the pastor in all this? Where is the bishop? Where is there some higher organizational authority to help resolve these conflicts? There isn't any. The mob rules. The church is screwed.

To be accurate and honest, this kind of democracy doesn't work will in sustaining organizations. Management by consensus is a disaster.

Where is the pastor in all this?  Often there isn't one. UUs love "pulpit fills" and temporary pastors. There is no consistent pastoral presence to sustain congregations for any period of time and no good method of succession. What congregants need is a pastoral presence they can count on who they know will be there for them in good times as well as bad, but that pastoral presence is often contaminated by critics and the fight is on with no recourse to a higher authority and so battered and beaten the pastor is forced out and the congregation again is befert of leadership until they can find another pastor to find fault with.

Most UU churches I have observed like to play games albeit unconscious ones called, "What will be wrong with this one" and "Our problems are because of her/him and we'll be better off when (s)he is gone." Unitarian Univeralists play games with one another rather than focus on implementing the principles of their faith.

The vetting process for new pastors is a process of idealization and once arrived, the de-idealization and demonization sets in because pastors, after all, are human and imperfect and do things not to everyone's liking. With this frame of reference, the question can be asked, "How does the Unitarian Universalist denomination deal with the idealization and de-idealization of pastors?" The answer is nothing. They leave the process to the individual congregations themselves. This is a model for failure, distress, suffering, and deadly disillusionment leading to organizational failure.

The purpose of the Unitarian Univeralist faith is to facilitate the covenant  to affirm and promote the seven principles so that saints can be developed. This mission is much more important than congregants liking of the pastor. Many UU churches, in order to better carry out the mission, need to change, and change is hard and often resisted. In such situations, without higher administrative support the pastor is a sitting duck ripe for skewering.

Let's change the way pastor's are called to congregations. Pastors should work for the Association, the big church, and not for the local congregation. Their assignment to congregations should be decided by the association with input from the congregation. With this model, the UUA could grow and congregations could better carry out their mission with higher quality leadership.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Lack of security contributes to UU unhappiness

Dear UU A Way Of Life:

I don't find UUs an especially happy group. If anything I find them the opposite. They seem ready to argue over every little thing and they aren't good at resolving conflict which often degenerates into passive aggressive game playing and leads to schisms. It seems to me that the reason that UU congregations are so small is that people become unhappy and then walk away. I don't know what the answer to this is for individual churches and for the denomination. I am curious what you might think given your current theme promoting the ideas that UUs are above average in intelligence and happiness.


Tom Kowolski

Dear Tom:

Your observations are accurate and the data supports your concerns. The problem, as is usually the case, is multidimensional. In other words, there is not a single answer, no silver bullet, no magic key. However, having said that, I think, we might say that the problem lies in the lack of security in UU congregations, and the lack of security comes from no clear agreed upon rules, and the lack of nerve when it comes to enforcing the rules.

In any sport, there are rules and a referee who calls infractions. The players agree in advance to abide by the referees decisions and if players or coaches disruptively object they can be ejected from the game. Without a referee and rules, professional sports could not exist.

 Unitarian Universalism suffers from a lack of accountability. Nobody seems to be in charge and so the fight is on for power, control, and dominance. UUs have been encouraged to believe that if they think it, feel it, want it, then their thoughts feelings and desires are as good as anyone else's and they should not have to defer and if they have to in the moment, they carry on resentfully, and aggrieved until they leave or a schism occurs.

The UUA has been derelict it its duty to not develop and implement accrediting standards and hold its member congregations accountable for quality operations. Unfortunately, this has not happened and the denomination and most of its churches continue to suffer like the Israelites wandering in the desert. Security comes from knowing where one stands and who's in charge. In UU, there is very little accountability and guidance and so people flounder, are confused if not perplexed, and then become aggrieved. These UUs are not very happy people, and unfortunately, the denomination is not a very functional organization contributing to its small size and dwindling membership.

David G. Markham
UU A Way Of Life
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