October 2016 – New Minister Startup

Rev. Kenn Hurto, Lead Executive of the UUA’s Southern Region, spent the weekend of Aug 26-27 with us to conduct what is called a “New Minister Startup.” The purpose of this startup/workshop was to help get the minister and congregation off and running together – hopefully in the same direction – and hopefully in the right direction. J

On Friday evening, all were invited to publicly share, in their own words, the congregation’s colorful history. It was a pleasure for me to listen to your stories though at times I must admit, there were a few details that were concerning. For example, several years ago the Board asked the minister to keep a timecard! (What was that about?)

On Saturday, Rev. Hurto led the Board and the Program Council in what could essentially be called a congregational best practices workshop. Through probing questioning and dialogue, we discussed the following:

  • What is the meaning of church? Why do we come? What is our purpose?
  • Is our church structured to fulfill that purpose?
  • How are decisions made within that structure?
  • What does “Growth” mean?

After we hashed out our answers to the above questions and discussed the challenges UUMAN has had in answering them, again and again, over the years, Rev. Hurto offered a picture of best practices for congregations our size.

At the conclusion of the workshop, we (i.e. Board, Program Council & Minister) all agreed that there were some significant gaps between the best practices and what we actually do.


A few of the gaps, are explained below:

UUMAN Bylaws

Apparently UUMAN’s bylaws have grown quite legalistic and restrictive over the years. It was pointed out that our bylaws are longer than UU Church of Atlanta’s bylaws even though UUMAN is only a third of the size.


Rev. Hurto suggested that many of the restrictive elements of our bylaws could be adjusted to refer to UUMAN policies instead. Since we already have many policies in place, and that these policies can be easily adjusted as circumstances change over time, this could bring flexibility to our work.


Church Committees


Rev. Hurto surprised us by saying that an ideal church should have only four committees:

  1. Faith Development
  2. Worship
  3. Social Witness
  4. Care

In this model, many of a church’s existing committees/initiatives would fit into one of these categories. (For example, a Racial Justice Committee would fall under Social Witness.)

It goes without saying that UUMAN, and most churches, are a long way from this model.


No changes have been made here at UUMAN although these are topics we all need to think about and discuss.

We all need to keep in mind that any changes made will be with the intention of empowering individuals and committees to act. By removing restrictions, empowering individuals (and hopefully minimizing time spent in meetings), it will be easier for us to fulfill our mission and vision.


Take care and be well.