Becoming a Congregation or Covenanting Community

UU chalice

Part of The Congregational Handbook

An Online Guide to Congregational Health and Vitality

Being a Unitarian Universalist is all about interconnection!

If you don't have a UU community nearby, you may want to join the Church of the Larger Fellowship, which has a robust online presence.

If you have a local group who are interesting in creating your own UU community, here are some resources:

Holiday concert at First Parish in Bedford, MA.

Options for New UU Communities

The UUA bylaws require a minimum number of 30 adult members to apply to be a member congregation, but there are other ways to connect to the UUA and get advice and support.

  1. Contact your regional staff. They have experience and can be a thought partner with your leaders.
  2. Consider becoming a Covenanting Community, which can be a first step, or be an option for housing co-ops, groups in retirement homes, or other non-congregational ways of being a community.
  3. Consider applying for 501c3 status.

Intentionality for New Congregations

Decisions made in the early years of a new congregation will influence its future for years to come. An organizing approach should include the following:

  • A long-term vision and understanding of purpose.
  • Inspiring lay and ministerial leaders who are knowledgeable about organizing a new congregation.
  • Knowledge of previous efforts and strategies known to work.
  • An assessment of the geographic area, including needs of the population to be served.
  • A carefully crafted plan.
  • Adequate financing and resources.
  • Support from the larger UU community.
  • More on Developing a New Congregation (PDF)
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Additional Resources for New UU Communities

  • The UUA Commission on Appraisal studied membership in UU congregations in their 2001 report, Belonging: The Meaning of Membership. There are interesting findings about membership and commitment at that time, which have informed congregations to ask for a higher level of member commitment since then.
  • The process of starting a new congregation can be informed by community organizing methods. For some tips, read Sustainable Action: Planting the Seeds of Relational Organizing.
  • Learn about the how the Wellsprings Congregregation (YouTube, 10:59) in Chester Springs, PA was an intentional church plant that was founded in 2008 and has grown to over 250 members.