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Here’s a reconstruction of the post I lost yesterday…

The Prairie Star District’s mission statement has four ends: healthy, vital congregations in the District; strong related UU organizations; an interconnected web of Unitarian Universalists; and a world which lives by the UU principles. Now I get the first three. I understand how my work as the district’s program consultant can help congregations become healthy and vital. I see how I can assist in strengthen UU organizations in the District. And I know the importance of connecting Unitarian Universalists across the District and beyond. But a world that lives by the UU principles? Just how the heck are we supposed to make that happen? Well this weekend has shown me one good way.

Right now I’m in Des Moines, Iowa, helping with a combined Junior High/Senior High OWL (Our Whole Lives) training. As you may know, OWL is the successor to the UUA’s pioneering comprehensive sexuality education curriculum know as About Your Sexuality. AYS may well have been the most successful curricula ever developed by the UUA, and OWL has built on that reputation by completely revamping the material and applying it to all ages, not just middle school (hence the name, Our Whole Lives). There’s even been a recent addition that covers young adults. What’s more, while AYS was strictly a UU affair, OWL was developed in conjunction with the United Church of Christ.

Okay, so what does this have to do with a world that lives by the UU principles? Everything. See, because OWL was a joint project with between the UUA and the UCC, the training of OWL facilitators has become an increasingly multi-denominational process. For example, here in Prairie Star we alway make sure that every OWL training we offer has one UUA facilitator and one UCC facilitator. And we promote them to congregations in both of our denominations (and yes, I realize that we’re technically an association–but there’s no need to go into that here). An unintended consequence (but not a crazy random happenstance) has been that denominations other than the Congregationalists have started to become interested in OWL. And that’s where this weekend comes in.

Right now, as I’m writing this post, at the Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa‘s David & Elizabeth Kruidenier Center in Des Moines, a group of 24 people are being trained to become OWL facilitators in their home congregations. And while there are mostly UUs in attendance, there are folks from three other denominations as well (and that’s not counting the participants from Planned Parenthood co-sponsors). We have on person from the UCC, three from the Mennonites, and one more from the Disciples of Christ. I have to say that this is the most religiously diverse OWL training I’ve ever seen. And since OWL is the premier faith-based, abstinence-oriented, comprehensive sexuality curricula in the country, the probability for more progressive religious organizations becoming involved seems pretty high. And that’s where the fourth end of Prairie Star’s mission statement comes in. If helping people become sexually healthy beings is one of the ways we express our first principle, then involving other denominations in that work is one way we can definitely more toward a world which lives by the UU principles.

Mary Louise Smith Resource Center
Dean, Pat, Sherry, and Ben preparing for their presentation at the combined Jr. High/Sr. High OWL Training in Des Moines.

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I just finished writing a very long post about this photo. A post which I saved several times as I edited it. And when I finally pushed “publish,” it disappeared. This has never happened to me before with WordPress, so I’m both surprised and distressed. Oh well! I’ll say a few words about the photo and I’ll try to reconstruct the post a little later once I’ve calmed down. I took this picture this morning at the Mary Louise Smith Resource Center at the Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa’s David & Elizabeth Kruidenier Center in Des Moines. This is where we’re holding a combined Junior High/Senior High OWL (Our Whole Lives) Training this weekend. The resource center is the largest comprehensive sexuality library in Iowa, and the Kruidenier Center is a ideal spot to hold a training. Now, if only I could remember what I said in the post that’s disappeared….

Last night three members of the Mid-America District Staff Group (Prairie Star, Central Midwest, and Heartland) presented our first shared online workshop. It was part of a series we’re doing called “Ten Good Ideas.” In this case, it was “Ten Good Ideas about Getting Your Church Ready for Fall.” Things went extremely well! Dori Davenport Thexton, Ian Evison, and I used the Persony software that’s available from the UUA to show a PowerPoint presentation on our Ten Good Ideas on participants computers, and we were able to give our oral presentation telephonically using a bridge line. I was in Saint Paul, Dori was in Wisconsin, and Ian was in Illinois. The participants came from all over the Prairie Star and Central Midwest districts: Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri (unfortunately, no one from Heartland was on the call). We shared our ideas and heard some good ideas from the participants–which included a minister and a lay leader from a UCC church who found out about the workshop via Google–and at the end of an hour and a half, the general consensus was that the technology and the topic worked well.

As I mentioned, last night’s workshop was just the first in a series–in fact, we’ll be repeating it next week. Other workshops in the series will include Ten Good Ideas about: Effective Meeting Leadership; Multigenerational Worship; and Adding a Service. Registration is limited to about 22 participants per workshop, and each workshop will be presented twice. You can find out more and register here.

And to give you a taste of what the workshops are like, here’s the presentation we used last night, along with the list of our Ten Good Ideas. (And thanks to Tandi Rogers Koerger for six of them. We swiped them from her article “Thirteen Steps to Start Your Church Year Strong.”)

Good Idea #1: View greeting as a ministry.
Good Idea #2: Review your webpage with the eye of a newcomer.
Good Idea #3: Keep track of who visits and, even more important, who comes back.
Good Idea #4: Look over your facilities with the eye of a newcomer, starting with the sniff test in the bathroom.
Good Idea #5: Do a Facilities Audit with your Buildings & Ground Committee AND some members of your Board.
Good idea #6: Check that sound system, check it again, and make sure people know how to use it.
Good idea #7: Take the extra trouble with details—this is what says you really care.
Good idea #8: Fill the pamphlet rack with a good selection of introductory information about Unitarian Universalism and about your local congregation.
Good idea #9: Give a gift. Giving a gift establishes a connection.
Good idea #10: Create a team—formal or informal—to see how other congregations greet newcomers (UU congregations and non-UU).
Bonus Idea: Good Idea #10: Make use of the great free resources from the UUA.

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