The Power of Collaboration


Teams 001 – Collaboration on a New Scale.

The way folks have traditionally operated a UU church– you would think we never heard of the interdependent web.

In the old model, say– there are 3 UU congregations in geographic proximity, to some degree. Everything they do is separate– operations, administration, finance, tax compliance, music, sermons, lifespan faith formation . They do this in triplicate– week after week, month after month, year after year.

All of the work necessary to do UU church well, but– multiplied by 3. And are all 3 churches equally good at everything they do? Of course not. Why wouldn’t you have the church best positioned to do say– bookkeeping– do it for all 3 congregations? Why should 3 nearby UU churches have 3 different part time bookkeepers using 3 different systems? That doesn’t make much sense, does it?

Apparently, we prefer duplication and triplication of effort. Why?

Perhaps it is that we prefer hands-on control to potential excellence, increased productivity, and simple coherency.

I understand people don’t want to “lose control” over parts of their church. But is that what church is supposed to be about– that you get to control something? Would it be worth losing “control” if you could achieve a new level of success that has been heretofore unavailable to you?

Think of it this way: what if– these three congregations worked together? There would be an economy of scale. There would be a standardization of chart of accounts, procedures for money-handling, tax compliance– all of that. And you could use the best bookkeeper rather than the most available one. You could consolidate the best practices for Operations & Administration– but at 3 locations.

And that’s just for the “back of the house” stuff. That’s the power of administrative collaboration. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s more!

What if you could leverage the power of creative collaboration? Again, consider the current model of 3 local UU churches.

  • 3 ministers hole up for half a week, thinking up a sermon– on their own.
  • 3 religious educators, producing & organizing content– on their own.
  • 3 sets of leaders– doing leadership development, canvass, facilities management, governance, speaker recruitment– on their own.
  • 3 sets of bookkeepers, each with their own software, procedures, chart of accounts, and ideas about how to receive, save, and spend money.
  • 3 sets of wildly variable skills, competencies, and abilities.

Now imagine, that if you looked at these 3 congregations as a network– or an interdependent web, if you will– you would see that they are doing a huge amount of work– in triplicate– especially the lay leaders (who could otherwise be free for more traditional ministry).

What if we went further– and combined these churches? What if we were one church in three locations? What if instead of duplication or triplication– we put people to their best & highest ministry?

The ministers & educators could collaborate on monthly sermon themes, and content for sermons, for children’s faith formation, and for adult faith formation. Different people with different strengths could use them better for a larger group of people.

That’s what’s in it for you. That’s what’s in it for all of us. That’s the power of collaboration.

That’s what we’re doing at the First Unitarian Church of Houston. I’ll have more to say about the creative weekly process we use and our 42 day countdown to producing sermon and faith formation content in a future post.

Are there churches near you that might be open to either administrative or creative collaboration? Think about it.