Cottage Meetings

The MSC held 11 Cottage Meetings in October 2016, with about 85 total participants encompassing members and friends. At every meeting, we asked the same two questions:

  1. What we're looking for is the best fit possible for our church. What attributes in a minister do you think are a good match for us? How might we imagine this ministerial candidate in the life and future of our congregation?

  2. What congregational issues are likely to be most pressing with the next 2-3 years?

One MSC member facilitated every meeting, and another acted as a scribe, taking notes. Both the survey and cottage meeting results will be shown to prospective ministers. Read our takeaways below, and please be sure to participate in the next round of cottage meetings in September 2017!

Cottage Meeting Takeaways:

Our congregation is looking for a minister who is a good preacher, who wants to be on the pulpit and whose sermons make us think. It’s important that they are happy to be part of our community and want to be at UUCCH, rather than using us as a stepping stone, and are transparent about their long-range plans. We want someone who is progressive, open-minded, caring, compassionate, empathetic, inspirational, humble, intelligent, and down to earth. We must be able to easily approach them during office hours or at coffee hour. People skills are a must; the minister should model good communication skills through interpersonal interactions. Their self-awareness and sense of humor should be apparent. The minister should be an organized manager with good administrative and leadership skills, as well as a team player and partner. The minister must understand UUCCH’s past problems and take on a problem-solving role, recognizing our needs versus desires. They need to be willing to listen and able to help resolve our differences within the community.

Secondary qualifications include the ability to empower the community. Sermons should focus on relationships and actions that are practical, personal growth, and the minister’s own personal stories, while honoring the diversity in our congregation. The minister should be a beacon for UUCCH in Cherry Hill, the region, and the world, and a member of the larger community, focused on engaging and supporting social justice action locally and internationally. He or she should be able to engage everyone by attending committee meetings and meeting individual and congregational needs, engaging congregants in an honest but respectful way. One of their goals should be to grow our membership.

Within the next two to three years, our next minister likely will face several issues at UUCCH, the most pressing of which is our budget/financial stability. Our impressive building/grounds and property need to be maintained and taken care of. In addition, our congregation needs to build further trust in leadership and expects transparency. We’d like to maintain and even increase membership, especially among young adults, perhaps possibly by reaching out to members who have left. We also would like to be a presence in South Jersey, helping the world and living our principles through social outreach. We need more volunteers, requiring more active members in church. We hope to create a united community and dialogue in the midst of diversity by talking with each other, facilitating conflict resolution. We’d like for there to be clear ways for problems to be presented and resolved, perhaps through Right Relations. Finally, we’d like a more stable Religious Education program for both children and adults.

Survey

In the fall of 2016, the MSC created a survey for members and friends, and distributed it in October 2016. We received 129 responses, and every single one of them was extremely helpful to the MSC in knowing what UUCCH wants in a minister. Both the survey and cottage meeting results will be shown to prospective ministers. Read our takeaways below, and please be sure to participate in the next survey once we distribute it in May 2017! 

Survey Takeaways:

Thank you to all 129 UUCCH members and friends who took the MSC survey in October 2016. Almost a third of the participants have been with the church for at least 21 years, but those who only have been associated with the congregation for two or less years made up about 22 percent of the survey respondents. About half of respondents were in their 50s or 60s, and 98% are white. In addition, two-thirds of the survey-takers are female, 32% are male, and one respondent is transgender. In addition, about 82% of respondents identified as heterosexual, but others identified as gay/lesbian (6%), bisexual (6%), and other (6%). About 46% of participants have their Master’s degree.

Half of the survey-takers said that their affiliation with the congregation and/or UUism is a source of strength or comfort for them. The reasons for which respondents come to church was very diverse, with celebration of common values being the highest-rated reason, closely followed by intellectual stimulation, sense of belonging, and personal reflection and meditation. In addition, 55% of participants would like the minister to preach three times a month, with 33% preferring nearly every Sunday. The congregation feels that the sermon is the most important item of the Sunday worship service, with the most important sermon topic being personal growth. The most important objective for Sunday worship services is to build community, followed closely by promoting a supportive environment for developing and sharing. Respondents feel it is most important for our next minister to be a spiritual leader, then an intellectual leader. It is vital for them to present stimulating and challenging Sunday services, as well as to foster a sense of community within the church. The majority of our congregation (77%) would like to see growth in order for more people to benefit from our church and UUism in general.

Our congregation feels our strengths to be maintained/developed in the future include commitment to action, empathy and volunteerism, our Religious Education program, and a strong sense of community, almost as a family. Issues or concerns that may be pressing in the next few years include our ability to dialogue around our needs and feelings, membership – both in terms of growing and our ability to reach out to new visitors, lack of communication, misinformation regarding committees, lack of stability, and fear of change. The worst mistake a new minister could make is not listening, not learning about our church before making changes, alienating us, and being insensitive to diversity.

In the next one to two years, the congregation would like: to find a solid, dependable and strong minister, a stability of leadership, spiritual growth, improved right relations, community building, growth, and financial stability. In the next three to five years, respondents want: a community to belong to, continued growth, to become a beacon of hope in the community, more community outreach and social justice programs, a more vibrant Religious Education program, and continued love for our church community. In the next five to ten years, survey-takers would like: union around a meaningful mission, recognition as a liberal religion in the area, continued growth, and long-range planning.

In screening ministerial candidates, the congregation wants the MSC to equally consider their character, empathy, and professional competencies. For the most part, participants would be comfortable with a minister of all types, with the exception of a politically conservative minister; 88 of 129 respondents said they would be uncomfortable with a conservative minister. The congregation would like the MSC to find a good preacher who is a mentor, collaborative in worship, and is able to build cohesiveness both in the congregation and in staff.