CONGREGATIONAL FOCUS GROUPS
The UUFCO Ministerial Search Committee (MSC) held four congregational focus groups in September and October 2016 with the goal of gathering input from the general congregation about the minister we seek. The attendance was 42 members and friends total. The participation was low relative to the size of the congregation, but 160 people had already completed the congregational survey and many people had participated in interviews in committee and task force meetings.
Focus groups were facilitated and comments were recorded by MSC members. In each group, five questions were asked. Comments have been distilled into kernels of meaning from the notes that were taken. Many comments were similar, and others were singular. In the spectrum of comments, some may be counter to another. We have not attempted to place them in order of importance according to our committee opinions, nor to otherwise censor.
1 A) How would you describe our congregation today?
Growing, dynamic, liberal, open and friendly, transitioning from a pastoral church, a seeking and welcoming community. Diverse religious beliefs. Sermons are more intellectual than not. Demographics changing, more young but still predominantly older; not racially diverse but reflects our area in that respect. More economic diversity than some may think. Increasing variety of programming. Lot of involvement by laity. Welcoming of children. Inflow of newcomers. Outreach to community through monthly collections. Abiding interest in social justice.
1B) Visioning forward 5 years, how would you like to describe our congregation in 5 years? How would it be different?
More focused on our mission; better known by outside community, wider use of facility for outside groups. Will have better sense of our direction. More transparency, increasing good humor and patience. Growing youth program and number of young families. Support provided for inner journey work. Truth seeking on large issues—evolution, religion, intellectual exploration. Building on UU principles from bottom up. Not being led, leading from lay level. More diverse in all respects. Growing sense of community. Larger congregation, but same spirit; two services; welcoming community, reaching out to minorities of all types. Continuing and increasing social action in community. Increased paid staff; greater attention to pastoral care.
2) What qualities in a minister are you looking for at UUFCO? What qualities in our present or past ministers have you liked, or have found inspiring (here or elsewhere)?
Integrity, compassion, kindness, humor, humility, open and vulnerable. Courage to create intimacy. Establishes trust. Interpersonal skills. Leads from bottom up; comfortable with other leaders in congregation; believes in shared ministry. Collaborative; changes made by joint agreement. Experienced in governance by policy. Works well with committees and staff; good constructive “boss.” A facilitator as administrator; not a micro-manager. Leadership qualities critical. Helps develop leadership within congregation. Strong, capable, speaker. A humanist; but speaks from heart as well as head. We like the intellectual (some); speak from the heart (others). Has post-sermon discussions “once a month.”
3) Looking back after a minister has been with us for a year, what achievements will make you say you’re glad we have our new minister? What will be your measure of success?
I experience personal spiritual growth. Have desire to attend on Sundays; inspires. Comfort level. See an intellectual/spiritual depth in minister. Can help us achieve a dream that seemed too far. Knows us. Congregational growth continues and involvement of congregants increases. Exhibits integrity; and UU principles. Reaches out to community. Interfaith contacts are more in play. Smart leadership–not “forcing” change. We get along well, and any conflicts are handled as adults; with leadership from minister. We are helped in seeing new ways to look at things. Mutual bond within congregation. The congregation accepts that no one person can be all things for all people.
4) What makes a Sunday talk compelling or inspiring for you?
Sermons that feel personal. Enjoy personal life stories; sermons that show self-disclosure but where privacy is still respected. Poetic language, but also humor. Grounded and heartfelt. Conversational style. Speaking ability important. In style, not pinned to the pulpit. Creates emotional connections, personal growth. Uses stories to engage and illustrate. Strong sense of metaphor. Balance of spiritual/religious/intellectual/personal. Likes services that are unified (sermon, music, etc.). Willingness to be open-minded on service styles. Memorable; is remembered later; helps us feel motivated, and to grow ethically.
COMMITTEE, BOARD, AND STAFF FOCUS GROUPS
During the information-gathering phase of the search process, members of the Ministerial Search Committee facilitated discussions with four staff members and 15 different groups (committees and the board) engaged in the shared ministry of the congregation. Among other questions, each group was asked to discuss the qualities of a settled minister that would be helpful to them. The following comments are distilled from the meetings that were held with these constituency groups; comments are presented in no particular order.
Q: What qualities in a settled minister would help you in your work?
Creative; enthusiastic; open to adventure; positive. A visionary. Versatile and flexible—willing to change ideas midstream. Grounded when there are conflicts and challenges; calm and reflective in the face of challenges. Courage to speak hard truths, yet committed to, and skilled in collaborative dialogue. Genuine willingness and interest in working as a team. Knows how to establish trust; values relationships; a communication style that fosters open, clear relationships. Great communicator in interpersonal interactions, whether that be in speaking, writing, or non-verbally; at ease with public speaking. Skilled in good group process; knows how to facilitate productive discussions. Good listener, who is open and receptive to other ideas. A comfortable “open door” policy. Willing to be vulnerable, to say “I don’t know” and to ask for help. Authentic; warm; open; friendly; approachable; appreciative of others’ efforts. Respects and honors the competence and experience of lay leaders and staff, and our ability to accomplish the mission. Good organizational skills. Speaks from the heart; relatable at any and all levels; engaged and comfortable with people across generations; inclusive. A spirit of joy. Emotional maturity; wisdom; perspective; good judgment. Takes responsibility for his/her own actions. Humble; knows the limits of trying to change others. A healthy sense of self; someone who has done inner work and knows him/herself. Kindness. Sense of humor and sense of fun. High integrity.