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I was in Lawrence, Kansas over the weekend to do a presentation at the Unitarian fellowship there. It was basically a day devoted to getting the congregation on board with Our Whole Lives, the UUA’s (and UCC’s) comprehensive sexuality education program. I delivered a reflection at their early “spiritual” service, then did a presentation on what OWL’s all about. In between the two services there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the fellowship’s new addition, and after the second service there was a potluck, featuring some pretty tasty barbecue pork. After the potluck I participated in a panel discussion about the congregation’s commitment to the OWL program, and it looks like we’ll be offering a training for combined Elementary OWL in Lawrence next year. It also looks like there may be an adult OWL class in the fellowship’s future. All in all, it was a fun weekend (you can see a photo set from Lawrence here.)

As part of the presentation, I did one of those mock church sign photos you can do online ( www.churchsigngenerator.com). It got a pretty big laugh when it showed up during the PowerPoint presentation. Can you tell me what’s wrong with this picture?
We’re the Church That Teaches Comprehensive Sexuality Education

…and religious educators and lay leaders and parishioners. Jackie Huba at Church of the Customer Blog recently blogged about Capt. Denny Flanagan, a United Airlines “rogue pilot” who has developed quite a “word of mouth” following.

  • He mingles with passengers in the gate area
  • He makes gate announcements himself, updating passengers about weather conditions and sets realistic expectations for delays
  • He uses his cellphone to call United operations to ask about connections for passengers
  • He passes out information cards to passengers with fun facts about the plane; he signs two of them, whose owners will win a bottle of wine
  • He snaps pictures of animals in the cargo hold to show owners their pets are safely on board
  • He writes notes to first-class passengers and elite frequent fliers on the back of his business cards, addressing them by name and thanking them for their business
  • He personally calls parents of unaccompanied children to give them updates
  • He instructs flight attendants to pass out napkins asking passengers to write notes about experiences on United, good or bad
  • He orders 200 McDonald’s hamburgers for passengers if his flight is delayed or diverted

The motivation behind Flanagan’s actions is simple,”‘I just treat everyone like it’s the first flight they’ve ever flown,’ the very smart captain told the WSJ in a highly valuable front-page story. ‘The customer deserves a good travel experience.'” Of course this immediately got me thinking of what a similarly motivated minister might do, things like:

  • Mingle with parishioners in the foyer before the service
  • Let folks know about exciting opportunities for faith development and spiritual growth from the pulpit
  • Pass out information cards to visitors with fun facts about the congregation
  • Personally call parents of new children in the religious education program
  • Visit each of the religious education classes at least once a year

You know, little things like that. I know that some of our ministers already are doing these and similar sort of things. But I also know of ministers who are so busy on Sunday mornings with the work of the church that they don’t have a lot of time left over for personal touches like these. I heard once, however, that Sunday morning was for visitors. And if all the leaders in our congregations (lay and ordained, volunteer and professional) were to treat everyone as if this were the first time they visited a congregation (including the children), then we’d probably be generating more positive “word of mouth” about our congregations. Just a thought.

I’m still finishing up with my notes from last month’s presentation in Dallas, Texas. I mentioned Dr. Ed Hallowell’s book Connect: 12 Vital Ties That Open Your Heart, Lengthen Your Life, and Deepen Your Soul during the presentation, and I wanted to give you a quick update on a resource I found that lists those twelve ties in an abbreviated–but useful–form. It’s from Dr. Hallowell’s website. The twelve ties are:

  1. Your family of origin. Are you as emotionally close to your family of origin as you would like to be?
  2. Your immediate family. Do you treat one another with love and respect?
  3. Your friends and community. Do you see friends and neighbors on a regular basis?
  4. Work and activities. Do you feel a sense of mission at work?
  5. Appreciation of beauty. Do you make time to enjoy a favorite art form?
  6. History. Do you feel the power of the past in your daily life?
  7. Nature and special places. Are there special places that speak to you in ways no other place can?
  8. Pets and other animals. Do you seek companionship from your pet or other animals?
  9. Ideas and information. Do you feel that you know how to get the most out of your brain power?
  10. Institutions and organizations. Do you take pride in group membership?
  11. Greater truth or spiritual faith. Do you continue to seek the truth by whatever means make sense to you?
  12. Yourself. Do you feel comfortable being who you are?

It’s a down-and-dirty list, but it clearly shows how one can make connecting a spiritual path. Which is something I think we need to do if we’re truly going to make our congregations the kind of connected communities our children and youth need.

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