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A stone statue of of a man sitting on the grass in a park.

Our Unique Approach

Thoughtful leaders 

ponder the future.

  • This theme-based ministry project was launched in September 2012, four years after the Rev. Kirk Loadman-Copeland launched theme-based ministry in 2008 as the Senior Minister at the First Universalist Church of Denver. Our mission: Equipping and growing liberal, progressive congregations. In this, we know that membership growth is not a goal, but an outcome of attending to a variety of things well including

  • Covenant: Covenant is a congregation’s promise to love, to care, to walk and work together, to embrace, to learn together, to grow together, to laugh and grieve together, to build the beloved community together. It also includes the promises that the congregation makes with the world.

  • Mission: Emil Brunner said, “The church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning.” The mission defines why a church exists and for whom. A consultant observed that a church is owned by its mission, not by its members. Consider the idea that a Unitarian Universalist church exists to transform people who will help transform the world.

  • Vision: This is the North Star for both the minister and the congregation. It describes who the congregation seeks to become. A biblical writer asserted, “Without a vision, a people perish.” Is the vision big enough and bold enough to be worthy of the congregation and the world?

  • Social Entrepreneur: Given the changing religious landscape, congregations must be innovative. Ideally, the congregation becomes a valued partner in that community. Through adaptive leadership, the minister and lay leaders work to build a strong, sustainable congregation. As one consultant asked, “If your congregation went out of business tomorrow, who in the community would even notice?”

  • Emotional Intelligence: A congregation is well served if the minister, lay leaders, and members have a high EQ (i.e., emotional quotient).  In human relationships, EQ is far more valuable than IQ.

  • Relationships: Cultivating relationships is the first task of a minister and congregants. The outcome is relational authority, which enhances positional authority. The difference is reflected in two statements: “This is the minister of my church” versus “This is my minister.” The former is silver, the latter is gold. As important, if not more so, newcomers come to church for community, which, is a web of relationships. 

  • Leadership: Shared ministry involves shared leadership. As the effectiveness of leadership increases, “church work” (organizational effectiveness) and the “work of the church” (pursuit of mission) are enhanced.

  • Shared Ministry: As a UUA Commission on Appraisal report noted, “One key aspect of Unitarian Universalism is our belief that ministry of the congregation does not belong exclusively to ordained clergy, but to everyone.” The synergy of authentic shared ministry is profound. It multiplies the gifts of the ordained minister by the diverse gifts of the laity. The result is a vital, thriving congregation.

  • Whole-Church: A whole-church orientation understands the value of being a multigenerational community that continually weaves connections among every age and stage. This lifespan approach asks, “Give us the spirit of a child?” and “Give us the wisdom of an elder?”

  • Community Outreach: Inward facing congregations struggle to grow. For outward facing congregations, membership growth is secondary to working to impact the life of the community by engaging with matters of consequence. Such outreach combines a spiritual center with a civic circumference.

  • Social Justice: Unitarian Universalism is a justice-seeking faith. James Luther Adams described a congregation as a “prophethood of all believers” and Richard Gilbert stressed the importance of the prophetic imperative. The work of justice is a further means of being a congregation that is outward facing. It honors the external covenant that the congregation has with the wider community.

Photo Credit: Stone sculpture, photo by SEN, February 19, 2017, (CC BY-SA),

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