The Or-Else Church, part 1

A mental exercise, in the spirit of a bad 1980s film. I must organize a church — the promise of a fairly successful church — by Sunday . . . Or Else.

The reason for this exercise is obvious. Unitarian Universalists (and other liberals) aren’t good at gathering churches, even though successive generations of new churches are necessary for a healthy ecosystem and are the best way of attracting newcomers. We treat them as the sort of thing we just have — little wonder; next to the Episcopalians we probably have the largest number of state-sponsored church foundations in the United States — or which spontaneously arise from groups of well-cultivated laypersons. The sun has set on both phenomena, and today we grow churches that limp towards a membership of thirty or forty, but rarely more. Indeed, those that don’t shrivel on the vine simply rot. So . . .

First, I pull out my address book and call my friends (many ministers; some not), asking for prayers, seeing if any would be willing to be an initial incorporator — no way I’m going to have an unincorporated church — and see if they would be willing to consult on the project. Then, as church organizer, I browse to the state- (or District-) appropriate page on the Legal Guide of the Citizen Media Law Project, to see what the incorporation and other requirements are. Fortunately, there are often more lenient options for churches than media organizations. So I work through the list and get the Federal Employer Identification Number and download incorporation details.

I brainstorm some names — running them past my friends for feedback, with a consideration of how it would be abbreviated — and register the appropriate .org of the best two or three using a domain registrar like NameCheap. I get a handy email address from Google, and with it email the UUA District Executive and an insurance agent like one from Church Mutual, and introduce myself. I use the email address to get accounts, using a short-format version of the church name, on Facebook and Twitter for later outreach use.

Next, I consider where the meeting Sunday will take place. On such short notice, I would pick the best I could afford: convenient in the mode of transportation I imagine people would use, and no farther than an average workday commute from the group I’m trying to reach. A hotel meeting-room will suffice.

And more tomorrow.

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