Looking at the data for worship since 2008, we realized that we have been regularly hovering at or near 80% full for the majority of the last 8 years. Importantly, we understand that once we hit 80% of our capacity, people get the subconscious message that there is not enough room for them, and begin to self-select away from attending. The only way to solve and address this is to create more capacity – more space – on Sunday.
Attendance this fall is greater than it has been for at least the last four years, but if we want to retain this growth, we need to make the space for those who long to join in community.This means that our primary goal is to make the space to serve more people on Sunday morning, grounded in our mission to unleash courageous love.
Our secondary goals include:
- Experimenting and learning so that we can prepare for a longer term 3rd service effort
- Practicing doing something hard (but right) together
- Growing a culture of shared ownership and reducing our “consumerist” orientation
- Norming feedback as regular and non-anxious and keeping us in a learning/experimentation mode
We will consider this experiment a success if we learn a lot – which requires that we make some mistakes, and that we have a process for regular feedback and dialogue along the way. We don’t want everything to go right – we want to learn and try things, and experiment.
We will consider this experiment a success if we are able to hold the tension and discomfort of this effort in a positive/creative way, if we can keep our sense of humor and our overall openness to learning and growing together.
We will also consider this experiment a success if we are able to have a net positive in attendance in comparison to the same period in prior years. This is a lesser goal because it usually takes about a year to re-stabilize and yield a net positive.
The 3rd Service experiment will run February – April (12 Sundays). In May, we will return to two services, with times to be determined, that will continue through August (maybe September as well). We anticipate returning to 3 services in October; the times and format for these may not be the same as this experiment – because again, one of the main goals of this experiment is to learn (and we may learn what we don’t want to do!).
The service times will be 8:00, 9:30 and 11:30.
There will be nursery and preschool through 2nd Grade (in a single classroom using the Spirit Play model) for the 8:00. The high school youth group will continue to meet at 10:30, which will allow for greater potential for youth involvement and participation in the 11:30 service. The other services will be as they are for the 9 and 11.
While we agree that a Saturday or Sunday night service might be a good and important addition, we do not have the staff to support a Saturday night – full-time staff need to be able to take a day off, and our music director remains only ¾ time.
For now, our main goal is to create more capacity to serve the people who are already coming on Sunday, and to keep them coming. The Sunday evening options, however, would attract mostly a different crowd than who wants to attend on Sunday morning, and so this would not meet our primary goal of creating more space for those who are already attending.
We looked at many different options, and ultimately landed on these for a few reasons. Since we are in the middle of the church year, we do not want to disrupt children in their classrooms too much, we tried to make the options for their religious education not too much different. At the same time, we need the times to be different enough to motivate a large number of adults to choose a different service (see question 8). This seemed to be a good compromise.
8:00 a.m. is considered one of the most popular Sunday worship times nation-wide, appealing to those who would like to have the large majority of the day still available after gathering for worship. In our very active community, we thought that this might resonate very well.
In order to gain the necessary capacity, we need to move about 50 people from the 11:30 into the 9:30 (or 8) and between 70 and 100 from the 9:30 into the 8:00. This would mean (based in Nov/Dec numbers) we would see about 100 in the 8:00 and 140 in the 9:30 and 11:30. We will need most of these changes to come from the adults without children at home due to lesser support of RE in the 8:00 service.
Attend a different service than usual – the whole experiment if possible. But at least a good portion of it. Especially if you’re an 11:30 service attendee.
Attend worship at least as much as you would regularly, and ideally, even more often. A good experiment needs lots of active participants. We need to feel what it feels like to have a good portion of our community gather 3 times over the course of Sunday morning. Not to mention, hymns are way less enjoyable with lower turn out!
Volunteer to greet, usher, or make coffee at least twice during the experiment – we’ll need a whole other set of volunteers to make this work! Help others in the community know about these FAQs or other information you are aware of.
Give regular feedback about the experiment to the person who has responsibility you have feedback about. Seriously, we can’t learn without regular dialogue!
The choir will likely sing at just two of three, though we will switch up which ones, and we are considering different forms of the choir to sing at different services, as well as use of small groups and special music.
Generally, yes. Because our goal is to serve those people already attending on Sunday, we are not trying to expand our reach – which is the main goal when you try to specialize in types of services. For this reason, we are attempting a generally “controlled” experiment, keeping the services mostly all the same, just at different times.
We are still working out all these details, and will follow up by early January with a plan for these sorts of programs.
There will remain 2 times for fellowship; the first one will be short – 9-9:30; the second one will be like our current one, 10:30-11:30. There will be newcomer-welcome oriented programming after the third service, but no official social hour. The longer second coffee hour will allow us to still offer some programming between the 2nd and 3rd services. The increased hospitality needs will require that we move forward with our paid staff member to support coffee, especially for the 1st coffee hour. We are working out our plan for what tables will be available during which social times.
We are all very conscious of the added workload that this will mean, and also the reality that it will take away from our capacity to do some things during the week as more hours will be worked on Sunday. It will require a greater number of regular volunteers for Sunday, something that is already stretched. Beyond volunteers, there will be some additional costs of this experiment – additional childcare and religious exploration staff, hospitality staff, special music costs, and other costs we haven’t yet anticipated.
Great questions! The need for a bigger church space has been on people’s minds since around 2007, when leaders in the church last looked into options for expansion….until the economic the crash of 2008 put these plans on hold. In the past few years, conversation about the need for a larger building have again been resurfacing. Still, occupying a new building (however that may happen) is not a short term process – more like 5 to 7 years! In the meantime we need to welcome in the people who are already here, now.
The question of “starting a new church” is a complicated one – but asks us to consider questions like, who would go to the other church, and why? People don’t tend to pick churches just for which one is closer, but rather based in where their friends are attending. For that reason, it’s unlikely we could persuade a random division of members to attend a different campus. On the other hand, the population of northern Colorado is growing exponentially, and so we should be thinking about additional sites that could gather and connect Unitarian Universalists across our area who aren’t already attending Foothills, but might appreciate a Unitarian Universalist gathering in their neighborhood. It’s just that this is a both/and issue rather than an either/or.
Please contact the Board or staff right away – don’t wait! This needs to be something where we are all working together to welcome in more people. Period. It will take all of us learning, growing, talking, trying things out and talking things out together, the whole time. You can reach the board at firstname.lastname@example.org, and then staff is available at their first name plus @foothillsuu.org (except Eleanor who has a v after her first name!).
The Committee on Shared Ministry (COSM) will be hosting regular feedback circles for dialogue and shared learning throughout the process, including with the staff team and other leaders.
Beyond the COSM, we encourage everyone to speak directly with the staff member most directly involved in the element that they have feedback about and/or with whom they have a relationship. We are all learning together, and are grateful for the feedback, ideas and conversation along the way so that we can better shape our longer term experience on Sundays.
Yes! With only some minor differences in music.