Theme Based Ministry Comes to Religious Exploration! By Sarah Ahrens, DRE

Several years ago, I heard about “Theme Based Church” while at a professional development conference and was immediately hooked on the idea. I was hopeful at the time that our incoming settled minister would feel the same way. Gratefully when Rev. Seth came on board, he was just as eager as I to implement this approach at FUUFHC. I am thrilled that we are now able to integrate our monthly worship themes into our Religious Exploration programs for 2017-18 and wanted to share a bit more about the value Rev. Seth and I feel that it brings to our congregation.

According to the UUA, here are some key elements that make Theme Based Ministry (TBM) so worthwhile:

  • TBM helps to create multigenerational connections, as people of all ages explore common themes in age-appropriate ways.  And theme-based ministry extends faith development beyond Sunday morning. Families can continue the conversation in the car ride home or over the dinner table; small groups that meet during the week can go deeper with the theme.
  • TBM unifies and strengthens community. It connects all aspects of programming which in turn creates the experience of the entire congregation going on a spiritual journey together each month.
  • TBM offers depth. When religious exploration programs for both adults and children/youth share the same monthly theme as the worship service, they become a way to explore the worship theme at a deeper level.
  • TBM takes our theology seriously. Spreading themes across all of our congregational programming reminds us that we are not a cafeteria religion, offering people random experiences, but instead a rich tradition that promotes distinctive values. TBM can be tailored to the rituals, history, and mission/vision of our congregation to help develop our unique FUUFHC identity. TBM also provides seasonal and spiritual grounding to the liturgical calendar and can be flexible to incorporate and address the issues that may arise in current events.
  • TBM fosters collaboration. When all staff and lay leaders are working on the same theme, it allows them to share ideas and support each other at a whole new level. This results in an opportunity for leaders to explore a deeper level of internal spiritual work as well.
  • TBM builds the architecture of our associational interdependence. Theme-based church allows congregations to follow the same themes and break out of our congregational silos. When different congregations follow the same themes, staff and lay leaders can more easily reach out, share ideas and collaborate.

Our congregation has chosen to join Soul Matters Sharing Circle, a group of over 200 UU congregations who follow the same monthly worship themes, so we can more easily share resources for worship and music, small group ministry, and religious education programming.  To highlight the benefits of participation in the sharing circle, their website references a reading from our UU hymnal, “Alone our vision is too narrow to see all that must be seen, and our strength too limited to do all that must be done. Together, our vision widens and our strength is renewed.” This quote highlights the benefits of working with religious leaders from across the country to curate and utilize the best worship and educational materials possible. I am very excited to explore these materials with our K-5th grade RE ministry teams. I am hopeful that in doing so, we will bring a greater depth of meaning to our Time for All Ages, our children’s programming, as well as our Intergenerational services.

If you have any questions about Theme Based Ministry, I’m happy to serve as a resource. Additionally, more information can be found on the UUA’s website:

http://www.uua.org/re/themes/help-theme-based-ministry

We are actively searching for the eight members of our K-5th-grade Theme Based RE team for the 2017-18 year. If you would like to know more or are interested in volunteering, please contact me at dre@hunterdonuu.org.