by Sara Lewis, Director of Religious Education and Faith Development

Last Sunday we held a Q&A on Membership Engagement, to get some ideas of how we are doing in this area and what we could do to become even more engaging and welcoming in the future. Those who attended shared their own experiences, what had hooked them in, who had welcomed them, and how they had stayed engaged through the pandemic.

We also reflected on some of the barriers people had faced or are still facing to engagement, which included:

  • Hard to connect with other parents of young kids at first
  • Pandemic hasn’t helped
  • Strife and struggle at congregational meetings was difficult to understand
  • People who are seeking transportation
  • Difficulty remembering names and seeing name cards
  • Drive time
  • No idea what was going on with the recent turnover of ministers
  • Difficult to get here when you don’t drive
  • Difficult to get around in the crowded areas when you use a walker
  • Acronyms are plentiful and took awhile to figure out
  • Raised UU complacency, took it for granted
  • Basically a shy person and found it difficult to connect
  • Shift work, not having Sundays off
  • Not enough space, too crowded
  • Internal barriers around switching to a different faith
  • Had to have stamina to keep going here, because aging has affected hearing and feeling tech skills were a barrier
  • Zoom fatigue
  • Too many good offerings, can’t do it all
  • Hard to meet with people personally
  • Individual connections (not small group) harder to develop during covid
  • Tired from work and parenting
  • Just tired of the ups and downs of COVID and constant readjusting of how to be and act
  • Health concerns
  • Zoom after working on computer all day can be mind numbing

It’s clear that while we are, I believe, a healthy and vibrant community, there are still barriers that folks face that we should examine. Participants on Sunday also were asked what they thought we could to become more welcoming and engaging, and here are some of those ideas:

  • Love to see more diversity in membership
  • Making a point of connecting with those who are new to OUUC
  • Doing more in the larger community so people know we are here
  • Continue adapting to newer forms of technology
  • Show up and be clear about anti-racism work
  • Pronouns and gender awareness
  • Get outside our cultural box and begin to see how we might be off-putting
  • Be more centrally located, maybe downtown
  • Change name from “Olympia” UU to Thurston County or South Sound UU

So where do we go from here? I’m going to be putting together a Member Engagement Team this year, whose mission will be to tend to our welcome and engagement of people before and after membership at OUUC. So many people rank “community” very high in why they are part of OUUC, and creating welcoming and inclusive community is a shared ministry of OUUC. If you are interesting in joining this new team, please reach out to me at faithdevelopmentministry@ouuc.org

Together, we can build the community we dream of.