Interested in giving feedback? Looking for help with new church

As you may know, I’m planning a new Universalist Christian church, and I’m working on a document that describes it shape and mission, particularly in light of the by-laws revision that passed at General Assembly this year. It’ll take a second passing vote — pretty darn likely — and conceives of non-local congregations within the UUA. (PDF; see page 1, line 131.)

I am, admittedly, thinking of a hybrid. So with the distinct theology that this new congregation brings and a generally dormant culture of evangelism, I thought it a good idea to gather a team to reflect and advise me.

Your thoughts?

Commuting to church: D.C., elsewhere tool

The folk wisdom about getting to church is that people will go as far to a church as they will go to work. That makes commuting data important for church plants, but failing that assume that someone won’t take more than a half-hour to get there.

There’s a new interesting tool that maps how far someone in Washington, D.C. and a few other cities — Boston, Seattle, Dallas, New York and Chicago, among others; and Berlin, London, Auckland and Perth overseas — can get in a certain amount of time on foot and using transit. Important, too, because I have a hard time thinking the suburban “temple in a sea of asphalt” will fare well in a city, or that even near-suburban congregations can depend on this unfortunate staples of American religious life. (That said, it’s been more than a decade since I was a member of church that I had to drive to, so I’m a bit of an outlier.)

Enough for the lead-in; the resource is Mapnificent, or to start directly with Washington, D.C.

Effective evangelism observed

Last weekend, Hubby and I observed a clever and (I think) effective episode of personal evangelism. Take notes.

The up-escalator was out at the Dupont Circle Metro station, so we waited with a small crowd at the elevator, some of whom had been there a couple of minutes. Two women — who had a visiting conventioneer poise and manner — one of whom was talking about a sustainable and spiritually meaningful approach to the difficulties of modern living to the other. Or so I gather from a young man who volunteered that he agreed with her. We boarded the elevator.

The non-speaking woman addressed the young man enthusiastically (but not manically or invasively) that the speaker practiced Small Slightly-Controversial Global Religion (SS-CGR), and that the young man might find it helpful, too. She repeated the SS-CGR’s unusual name, and encouraged him to visit its website. Then the two woman tried to scare up a pen and a slip of paper to write the URL on.

I don’t think the two women were trolling the transit system deliberately to ensnare strangers into their fold. Rather, they found the SS-CGR to be a valuable, meaningful spiritual path and wanted to guide a possible fellow-traveler towards the truth. I mention it because it’s certainly a more attractive evangelism technique than the pamphleteering for “personality tests” a far more toxic group practices in the same neighborhood. Unitarian Universalism can be known by those who live it, rather than its slogans. And the URL is easy to recall.

(Later I did see that there was a SS-CGR conference in town that day.)

I, for one, welcome our new UUA overlords

Fans of The Simpsons will get that title.

PeaceBang opined that First Parish, YouTube from yesterday’s post might be First Religious Society, Carlisle, Massachusetts, but the video meetinghouse is missing Carlisle’s distintive clock. Not that I knew that from sight; instead, I went to UUA.org to get a link to FRC Carlisle’s Web site.

But what should be on the UUA front page?

Putin on Time “Man of the Year” cover, at UUA.org

Y’all know I don’t think the Time campaign is a good use of resources, but didn’t foresee this! Got a chuckle out of it anyway.

UUA using Google Ads

While I still think the Time magazine campaign is a costly mistake, I am heartened to see evidence (among the ads at PeaceBang) that the Unitarian Universalist Association is using Google ads, which would have been my first choice. That ad points to the special welcome page the UUA has set up.

So I wondered, what searches — assuming some are geographically pinpointed; you can do that with Google ads — will make an impression, Google-ese for placing an ad. (The UUA only pays for those clicked, so I refrained from clicking through.) This is the AdWords program.

  • Unitarian Universalist. While counterintuitive, placing an ad for your own name reinforces the authority of the site and steers traffic to you. The sidebar ad that popped up wasn’t for the UUA but the Church of the Larger Fellowship. Good move, CLF. They are also the lone ad for uu, unitarians and (shared with ChristianUniversalism.org) universalists.
  • Liberal religion gives you the CLF and the Center for Progressive Christianity.
  • Alternative to fundamentalism and fundamentalist alternative pulled no ads at all.
  • A variety of ads based on anti-racist brought up no ads.
  • Religious community pulled two ads for Catholic orders. (Fair enough.)

So perhaps the UUA is only running ads through the AdSense program — thus pushing ads into sites that accept advertising — rather than through the search engine.

I would encourage the powers-that-be, after a suitable trial, to do both.

With this post, I begin the long-overdue category Evangelism.