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Lighten Up

I have always been fascinated by why some congregations grow and thrive while others decline and struggle. I have read any number of studies on the subject.

Lately I have noticed something that healthy congregations have in common, something that I don’t see talked about much in the literature or in workshops on membership. It is almost too obvious to notice. Thriving congregations have a lot of fun.

With dog puppet “Theodore Barker” in UU Church of Bloomington, IN.

With dog puppet “Theodore Barker” in UU Church of Bloomington, IN, a 2009 Breakthrough Congregation

Fun? Yes, fun. Yes, our finest congregations (of whatever size) have great worship, a terrific religious education program, good music. Yes, they are engaged in public witness and work for justice. And yes, they have small group ministries and good governance. All of these things are important. And so is having fun.

I know, “fun” does not sound very religious or spiritual or deep or profound. Religion, after all, is about life’s big questions, about our ultimate commitments.

Yet as I attend congregations that have been named a Breakthrough Congregation or are known in their region as healthy, I always hear laughter. In fact, these congregations typically have a “silly” edge, a playful childlike quality. It isn’t that they don’t take their ministries seriously, for they do. But they don’t take themselves seriously.

Fall Family Retreat with members of Jefferson Unitarian Church, Golden, CO

The key is that our best communities are places where people love being together, where they form deep friendships. Spiritual friends share from their hearts, they work together, and they play together.

The best churches I know make time for fellowship. They create spaces for picnics, stewardship musicals, family outings, and lots and lots of informal gatherings.

Think about it. Is your congregation having enough fun? If not, get busy playing.

I hereby issue a powerless presidential edict: Lighten up. That’s an order. 😉

Permanent link to this article: http://president.blogs.uua.org/ministry/lighten-up/