The Power of Asking Big Questions from Rich Young

Over the last six months, your Board has begun considering some provocative questions about this church and its future. What matters most to our congregation? How can we assure that our members find meaning and purpose here? Who belongs among us but is missing? What needs in the wider community are we uniquely able to address? What responsibilities do our size and success among UU churches confer upon us, and are we meeting them adequately? How can we ensure that our lay leaders are prepared to do what we will ask of them? How can we best accommodate the ongoing growth we are experiencing? What can we do to ensure that our leadership remains in touch with the evolving will of the congregation? How should… well, you get the picture. This time of transition has asked of the Board, and the congregation as a whole, a great deal of introspection and contemplation.

In late fall, this conversation was distilled into a set of outcomes that this board hoped the church would produce under its leadership and in the years to come. A few highlights among them were:

Foothills Unitarian Church becomes a “Flagship” church in Fort Collins

  • We discover and act on our large church identity;
  • We have the structure, staff, and capacity to serve the size we are as well as the size we are going to be;
  • We explore multiple campuses and address our building needs with a capital campaign;
  • We are welcoming to all who would seek a liberal religious home in Northern Colorado
  • Organic growth in committed membership allows us to better fulfill our mission;
  • We are known in the UUA both as a result of stronger ties with other UU congregations, as well as from our leading practices;
  • We ensure a vibrant home in Fort Collins for future Unitarian Universalists.

Our church touches souls through expansive and excellent worship, lifespan religious education opportunities, and a clear path of leadership development within and beyond the congregation.

  • Leaders are equipped and supported in their roles in the congregation – before they begin and during their service
  • Excellent worship occurs in multiple settings, including on campus through an expanded and strong campus ministry
  • There are robust and diverse opportunities for spiritual growth and religious education for all ages – small groups, classes, spiritual practices – including within our campus ministry program
  • People know how to serve and get involved in our congregation – and do get involved and serve
  • Our program for children and youth keeps growing, even doubling in the next few years
  • Our leadership development program is offered to all the UU congregations in our area and we are a leader and resource within the cluster, District, Region and national UUA

Through community leadership and service, we turn our faith into action to address injustice and human need.

  • Foothills Unitarian Church is known in the community for its generosity and leadership, especially in involving congregants in social justice and spiritual growth;
  • We have a meaningful impact on homelessness and hunger in Northern Colorado, addressing the roots causes in addition to routine service;
  • We leverage the resources of our congregation to engage issues of environmental justice and climate change;
  • We build on our work with immigration justice and serving our neighbors;
  • We take our OWL program and bring it out into the community, including into PSD and the CSU campus;
  • We change society’s conscience so that it addresses the inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • As a large church, we have a meaningful impact on multiple issues.

As you can see, it was a sweeping vision for the future of the church. It had its roots in the hopes and dreams of all of us on the board, pulling from our many friendships in the congregation, our many years of experience with the church, and our diverse backgrounds and social justice interests. And it was exciting to talk in such detail about what Foothills could become.

More exciting still was what happened next: Revs. David Keyes and Gretchen Haley took this laundry list of our dreams and aspirations for this church community, and they transformed it from a collection of wishes into a plan. Every vision on the Board’s list was attached to activity by at least one of the ministers or staff, was given a timeline, and was framed in a way that it was easy to imagine knowing whether or not it was being carried out successfully. This strategic plan for the transition period was delivered to – and enthusiastically approved by – the Board in late January.

In the time since, we have seen the work outlined in the transition strategic plan begin. Campus ministry is growing and taking shape. Our participation in the One Village, One Family homelessness support initiative has begun. We’ve begun exploring multi-site options, launched a ministerial search committee, and we’re wrapping up another successful stewardship drive. We will soon begin exploring the feasibility of a capital campaign, relaunch our partner church program, and continue to explore the history and importance of our own church and the larger movement of Unitarian Universalism. Big things are happening here.

As these big things happen, or perhaps occasionally fail to happen, we will review our progress; contemplate whether the original vision might stand to be revised or clarified, or has perhaps evolved; we’ll engage with the congregation to ensure we stay in touch with our sense of mission and purpose; and we’ll begin conversation with community partners on ways we can refine our church’s participation in the work we share. The strategic plan that the board adopted early this year should become a living document, subject continually to our scrutiny, our discernment, and our common ingenuity.

What I want to convey to you is that this is the way your Board intends to govern in the future: by listening to the congregation, surveying the need around and among us, casting a big vision informed by these inputs, and finally working with the ministers and staff to carry that vision out. It is in this way that we hope to fulfill the promise that we began this transition period with: retaining what is special about this church community, while working for a world transformed by our values.

See you Sunday,

-Rich Young, Board President

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