Meeting existing congregants’ spiritual needs is a first priority in many Unity ministries. However, in this day and age, when more and more people are awakening to the limitations and consequences of worldly pursuits, the priorities of Unity ministries may need to change.
In Nelson Searcy’s book, Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups, he addresses the need for ministries to re-evaluate their focus.
Take care of those on the inside first.
Groups who focus on serving their own members rather than reaching out to others quickly become inwardly focused and stagnant.
Is it time to reassess our ministry’s mission statement and see if it is inward or outward focused? As followers of Jesus, we may need to take a new “Unity look” at his Great Commission Statement: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” Matthew 28:19-20. Do we now need a greater focus on meeting the needs of the new people who come to us, those that Spirit sends us? And, if so, what are those needs?
• Need: Spiritual Growth—Becoming conscious of the presence of God as the essence of one’s being and discovering and developing the capacity to live one’s spiritual purpose and potential.
• Need: Community—Connecting with people in positive, life affirming, supportive relationships.
• Need: Service—Finding a meaningful role in fulfilling the mission of the Unity ministry.
Is there a need to reorganize ministries so that our first priority is to reach out and serve new people by focusing on their needs? Can we do that and continue to serve our existing congregation? It may be useful to look at how we might serve people at different levels of involvement in our ministries.
Level One: Exploration/Receivership
This includes all first-timers. These are people who’ve heard about us, are interested, curious or attracted to our message, and have taken the time and effort to check us out. Many of these people will also have a desire (often unspoken) to be an important part of an important organization, one that makes a difference.
Or, they are people who come to Unity seeking to be spiritually fed, nurtured, and supported. Some will stay on the periphery. Often they are seeking spiritual solutions to negative or fearful life circumstances, conditions or experiences. They may leave Unity once the outer circumstances have righted themselves, or if they feel that the spiritual practices did not bring the desired change. This group, and those who feel that the ministry and teachings aren’t a good fit, are often referred to as the “revolving door” congregation.
We best serve them through a ministry that focuses individualized attention on each and every new person, supporting them in meeting their spiritual needs through involvement in the ministry. To do this effectively requires a commitment to the idea that no one falls through the cracks. It requires us to track new people’s progress, to be very sensitive to their needs and desires while at Level One, and to tailor our interactions with them accordingly. Every individual or family stays on the Level One radar screen until: (a) they have entered Level Two, (b) they have indicated in some way that further attention is unwanted, or (c) they have stopped coming to Unity.
Level Two: Membership/Ownership
We serve people at this level by providing ongoing opportunities and support for spiritual growth through deeper involvement in the ministry and its transformational message. We inspire them to seek full membership status so they can join with others in taking responsibility for the future of the ministry through meaningful and satisfying service and support of its mission.
Level Three: Service/Leadership
People at this level are served when the ministry intentionally helps them take on service and leadership roles that inspire, support, and/or organize others in expanding the ministry’s capacity to fulfill its mission.
One way to accomplish this is through the development of a ministry of spiritual support groups (small groups). A ministry of well-organized spiritual support groups can bring about the systemic/cultural changes needed to consistently meet the needs of new people. The advantages of this approach are presented in Searcy’s book. The book is admittedly written by an author/pastor who has a much more traditional Christian theology than Unity. When read with an open mind, many great ideas and strategies can be found that would help create an outward focus for a Unity ministry; a focus that would support more and more people in discovering and living their spiritual purpose and potential.
Organizing ourselves to focus on the needs of new people might be the key to our future and to fulfilling our vision of being the fastest growing transformational spiritual movement in the world.