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Embracing Family Ministry with Laura Beth Brown


In this Facebook Live conversation with Laura Beth Brown and Peter Bowden we discuss “Embracing Family Ministry” based on Laura Beth’s popular workshops and role as Director of Family Ministry at Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation is Summit, NJ.

We discuss how her congregation’s approach to family ministry is drawing inspiration from the book “Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age” by Juana Bordas
and what some of the resulting changes look like.

From my discussion with Laura Beth in preparation for our interview, I learned that she leads workshops related to volunteer/stewardship strategy and creating a spirit of generosity and therefore, sustainability in our congregations.

Scroll down for more on Laura Beth Brown and links to people and resources mentioned in this video.

You may also watch this on my UU PLANET Youtube Channel.


Laura Beth Brown is a 500-hr Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance, an amateur grill chef, and the Director of Family Ministry at Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, NJ.

She is primarily a vinyasa and prenatal yoga instructor with a therapeutic yoga lens and has certifications in Prenatal, Children’s Yoga, and Off The Mat Into the World (the bridge between yoga, self inquiry, and effective community action). As a singer/song-leader and harmonium player, she also leads call-and-response community singing known as kirtan, a form of Bhakti yoga, or the yoga of devotion. As a yogi, Laura Beth leads workshops in Bhakti Yoga, Prenatal yoga, and Conscious Activism.

In role as a religious educator, Laura Beth has led 12-hr workshops on Embracing Family Ministry with her Ministerial Supervisor, the Rev. Emilie Boggis, at this year’s Center Institute for ministers, and then again on Star Island for religious educators. Just last month, she presented at LREDA Fall Conference as well. She also leads workshops on volunteer strategy called Stop Recruiting, Start Retaining as a means of collective sustainability for congregations.


Kim Sweeney and Courageous Faith Consulting

The blog by Rev. Emmily Boggis “Reflections on Parenting in the Pew” may be found on the home page of the Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation  website.

The Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA)

Peter Bowden’s UU PLANET Facebook group for Unitarian Universalist congregational leaders, staff, and religious professionals.

As always, please share this post with others who might appreciate this conversation.

How UU Reston added 101 new members in 2 years

In this session, I’m joined by the Rev. Dr. Debra W. Haffner, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston, Virginia.

We discuss her congregation’s incredible membership growth — 101 new members over the last 2 years!

Many of the strategies they use are ones your congregation can implement.

Rev. Debra says that if they can do it, you can do it!

Here are a few highlights:

• They use a SIMPLE COMMUNICATION CARD to collect name and email of visitors, as well as a few other details.

• The week after a person visits and fills out a communication card, a PRINTED NAME TAG (blue for newcomers) is waiting for them.

• The minister greets people outside the sanctuary and strives to GREET NEWCOMERS BY NAME by their third visit.

• There is a MONTHLY COFFEE WITH THE MINISTER following the service for visitors and newcomers. Instead of a more substantial orientation twice per year, they’ve shifted to monthly Coffee with the Minister events with these promoted throughout the month.

There are many other things they do to streamline the path to membership. Watch the video to get those details, including how they approach pledging.

Please share this with your staff, membership committee, and any leaders interested in membership growth.

Have related ideas, strategies, or success stories?  I’d love to hear from you.

Related Links:

UU Reston website

About the Rev. Dr. Debra Haffner

Rev. Dr. Debra Haffner’s books on Amazon

Recorded Oct 31, 2018 via Facebook live in my UU PLANET Facebook group for UU religious professions, staff and lay leaders.

Helping website visitors have that “These are my people!” experience

In this UU Planet Facebook live session, I share a brief case study on tweaking congregational website text to help people have that “these are my people!” experience.

Recently I visited two UU congregational websites back to back. The difference between them was staggering.

One was “Eh….” The other? I was instantly drawn in, inspired, and had a deep sense that “Ahhhhh, these are my people….”

There are lots of little adjustments we can make online which can impact whether people stay on your website or immediately bounce. We don’t want potential visitors bouncing off your site, we want them to stay, to learn, to connect, and eventually, to visit.

UU Holiday Service Planning

Happy UU Holidays! 🎄
Well, not quite. But it is time to start planning. That’s why in this session we’re talking DECEMBER HOLIDAY SERVICES and things congregations do that keep holiday guests from returning. I’ve included some take away points below. If these ideas inform your planning and you have a related story to share, I’d love to hear from you. Happy planning! ~ Peter


During holiday services, if your approach and message don’t represent what your congregation and Unitarian Universalism is like the rest of the year, you’re making your congregation less compelling to your guests.

YES! Holiday services should be about the holidays, but do your service planning knowing that there will be many guests. What does your service communicate about Unitarian Universalism?


For holiday services, think twice about going long. During the regular course of the year, our services tend to be an hour. We don’t want people leaving apologizing to their guests saying, “I’m sorry. It isn’t usually this long. Services the rest of the year are very different.”

Instead of going long, consider going short. I consume a lot of church growth and outreach books, articles, and other material. Again and again, I see recommendations for Christmas Eve to stick to the regular service length or be on the shorter side. Instead of going long, deliver a fantastic service in 45 to 60 minutes so people can celebrate, have a great experience with their guests, and leave to continue their celebrations.

I sometimes joke that the only time a service should be longer than an hour is when someone is being ordained, or someone has died. That’s a little cheeky and kind of harsh, but I say it in defense of the people who are regularly subjected to poorly crafted services that go too long.

The majority of the time I see or hear about UU services going long, it is by mistake, not by design. In most cases, I think the overtime has a negative impact on your message. Of course, there are exceptions! Just be intentional. And if it is designed to be longer than an hour, include the start and end times in your communication.


When guests come for holiday services, plan on offering them more than just the holiday message. Offer them a vision for what you can accomplish as a community. Think about the mission of your congregation, the impact it can have on their lives, your community, and invite them to participate.

I encourage you to make designing corresponding January worship services, public events, and other programming an integral part of your planning. Plan for December Holidays + January.

I DO NOT recommend pushing announcements during the holidays. But you can deliver a message that speaks to the state of our world, upholds the challenges we are facing (in the context of appropriate holiday message), how we are called to action, and explain that is WHY your congregation is committed to _____ and over the coming month you’ll have services and programming on ______.

You can do that in a way that supports and amplifies the message of the holidays and upholds the mission and vision of your congregation.


How do you communicate with guests attending holiday services? My favorite strategy is a print flyer. When people leave, hand out a well designed high-quality flyer that is an invitation to upcoming services, programs, special events. You can minimize talk of announcements during the service but have ushers, and other volunteers hand out a flyer as people leave.

Is your congregation’s ministry team in the holiday planning stage? Know someone who would appreciate this conversation? Share this post with them.

Social Media Webinar for Canadian Unitarian Congregations – Dec 8, 2018 at 12:30pm EST

UU Leaders – I’m offering a live training (webcast) on social media and membership growth for congregations, sponsored by the Canadian Unitarian Council, on Saturday, Dec 8th, 2018 at 12:30pm EST.

We’re talking congregational social media strategy, outreach, and membership growth!

Register for the Webinar

Can’t make it? Register and I’ll send you the recording. 

Grounded in core concepts from my congregational Social Media and Membership Growth trainings, this webinar will be customized based on a review of CUC member congregation websites and social media channels.

Sponsored by the Canadian Unitarian Council

Social Media and Membership Growth
for CUC Congregations

Presentation by Peter Bowden, a Unitarian Universalist consultant specializing in congregational growth, outreach, and media. Peter has trained thousands of leaders across the United States and globally through his online programs.

Social media is fundamentally changing how people connect, learn, and make important life decisions.  This includes how digitally oriented people are trying to connect with, research, and join congregations. This challenges us to integrate social media with our membership development efforts. On December 8th, Peter Bowden is offering a free webinar for Canadian Unitarian Council member congregations based on his popular Church Social Media and Membership Growth trainings. Peter is a Unitarian Universalist consultant specializing in congregational growth, outreach, and media. Over the past 15 years he’s trained thousands of leaders across the United States and globally via his online trainings. This program will include a 45-minute presentation followed by 30 minutes for questions. Everyone who registers will receive a link to the recording of the presentation.

Join us for this free webinar for CUC congregational leaders!

Further information and registration: Register for this webinar

Peter Bowden

Known for his work with congregational growth, outreach, and media, Peter is a popular Unitarian Universalist speaker, trainer, and coach. He has lead trainings across the United States and globally through his online programs.  In addition to his work with congregations, Peter frequently consults with denominational leaders, nonprofits, and independent justice leaders.


VIDEOS: Valve Turners and expert witnesses talk #ClimateTrial verdict following their acquittal

The valve turners were acquitted today, which means the trial will not move forward with expert witnesses being able testify on the impacts of climate change and urgency of our taking bold and immediate action.

Watch live stream videos below for statements immediately following the verdict.

Shut It Down – Climate Direct Action Live Stream Video 1:

Shut It Down – Climate Direct Action Live Video 2:

Shut It Down – Climate Direct Action Live Video 3:

Additional video by Leonard Higgins: