Monday, June 25, 2007

A new motto for UPC

Most of the people who read my blog are members of my church, so I'd like your input on some work my leadership team has been doing to come up with a new motto for UPC. And if you don't go to my church, your input would be helpful too - maybe even more so.

First, some background. My team is called the Congregational Life Team. Our charge is to help UPC equip adults for spiritual maturity and create authentic community. One of the things that became apparent in our early meetings was that UPC has tons of good things going on, but that these things are not always connected with each other or aligned with the mission of the church. Many people do not even know what the mission of the church is. We have a long mission statement but we do not often refer to it.

Also, people who are new to the church often do not see a clear path to follow for spiritual growth or know what is expected of them. They may not know where to look to find places of connection and service. We need to do a better job of communicating what we want people to do and what we hope they will experience.

So my team thought that a new motto, or slogan, would be an important first step to help create an atmosphere where people "get" who we are and what we want them to do and experience.

Up until now, our motto has been "Transforming Lives in a Changing World." That's an excellent motto. But we think it does not adequately communicate a process for spiritual growth or tell people who we are. So we came up with two ideas. Each one consists of a headline with three bullet points.

IDEA #1: "UPC - A Community of Grace"
Knowing God...Loving Others...Serving People

IDEA #2: "UPC - A Family of Grace"
Knowing God...Connecting with One Another...Serving the World

Last night, my team hosted a meeting of UPC ministry leaders. We presented these two ideas to the group, and led a time of discussion and brainstorming to get their input. Out of that meeting came

IDEA #3: "UPC - A Community of Grace"
Knowing God...Growing Together...Serving People

Obviously, you can wordsmith forever, and no motto will perfectly say everything that might be said about an organization. But as you look at these ideas, what are your reactions? Which phrases do you like and dislike? Put yourself in the shoes of people new to the church and in the community. Do you see where we're trying to go, and do you think we're on the right track?

If we do come up with a new motto, my team believes it needs to be more than just words on a piece of paper. It needs to be integrated into and used consistently throughout the church. So what ideas do you have about how the motto can become an integral part of the life of UPC?


Matthaeus Flexibilis said...

We talked some about the virtues of "family" versus "community" last night, but if the concern is to come up with something that makes people think of UPC when they hear it (a purpose David D. mentioned), I think we might do well consider pithier or more unique alternatives. Many of other churches have "community" and/or "grace" in their name, and like you said last night, "family" sets the bar pretty high and makes someone slipping through the cracks feel even worse (besides, it also sounds a little hokey to my ears, not to mention harder to break into and somewhat mafia-esque).

Maybe it's not a major concern that our word choice will be rather ordinary, but I daresay "A community of grace" won't make someone immediately think of UPC in the same way "Just do it" does for Nike (David's example). Perhaps that's not a realistic goal anyway, considering that we will be aiming for a much smaller audience and will have much less publicity of our church and its motto.

As for the bullets, I like the ideas we discussed last night. Perhaps rhyming would be of some benefit: know, grow, show or know, grow, go (as in out in to the world). Dropping the objects has the benefit of making it more concise and giving multiple meanings (know God and each other; grow in Christ and with one another; serve God, one another, and the community). Keeping the objects makes us sound less Gnostic (know what exactly?), but it's also bulkier. In any case, I would simply suggest that we make them parallel -- all have objects or none do. Also, I think we should definitely avoid the cannibalistic connotations of "serving people" (mmmm... people).

Anywho, as was mentioned, the motto won't make a bit difference if the integration of the ministries and people doesn't happen. I've voiced my opinions about the wording above, but really it's small potatoes and, IMHO, we shouldn't put too much stock in branding at the scale we're working at.

James said...

“Also, I think we should definitely avoid the cannibalistic connotations of "serving people" (mmmm... people).”

I probably would’ve missed that, myself, but come to think of it you probably SHOULD leave that bit for a Catholic Church.

You crack me up, Matt.

All humor aside... I really agree with Matt that this sort of thing is small potatoes. I’ve never picked a church based on its motto, mission statement, or logo. I don't know of anyone who has.

That said, I think the ones you guys have sound good to me. They at least communicate who you are and the process you’re in.

As a final thought, I have to say, I think the fact that you’re willing to post the question on your blog, and thereby let just about anyone in the world have some input on this thing, is going to do more to make people feel loved and appreciated than any ole tagline you could come up with.

I live exactly 599 miles away and I feel like there's an outside chance you might actually care what I think. So ... you're doing something right.

Mike said...

Whew, James - I'm glad you fell within the 600 mile radius, because outside that line we don't really care what people think.


pfundenburg said...

Shame on you Mike. You know we extended the radius to 700 miles.

Jill said...

Great thoughts already!
I too thought the family thing was a bit hokey. And what about the connotation of dysfunctional families - ha!
I like the idea of community of grace! God is revealing that in my life a lot lately - the importance of community and that it means more than just going to church on Sundays (or how some people go even less than that). But really "doing" life together! Kind of like Mark preached on Sunday (which I loved, by the way).
I, too, do not think the motto changes much of anything in and of itself. But it is a great launch for other plans that we come up with to really live this out! I believe we need to have some sort of "New People Life Group" one night a week which would start the path you mentioned for spiritual growth. I also think we should have a church-directed regrouping of Life Groups. Maybe have several groups, especially those that have been together for more than a couple of years, split and add new people. I know it is hard to split, but if you divide up and have 1 or 2 others with you from the former group, then you can continue to develop those relationships but give other people an opportunity to be a part of such a community. Whereas right now, as a friend described it to me, it's like a vault to get in one.
So, those are my thoughts. Hope it helps.

orangejack said...

a community of grace = a place you can get away with anything


I like "community" better than "family". But both of those words, along with "grace" seem to be thrown around a lot. There's nothing outstanding about those words. But it is warm and fuzzy.

If you're going to stick with grace (which is fine, really!), what about leaving out the 'group' words and get a little edgy with "UPC - Grace is Greater" or "UPC - You're Welcome" or "UPC - We all need Grace" or something like that.

Mike said...

Jill & Rob - great suggestions. Thanks!

Pam said...

I'm tracking with Rob on this. I feel like I've gone to a dozen churches that are "Communities of Grace." In the end, though, I'm flexible and can get on board with most things. :)

Herb said...

For some ideas you may want to visit We are trying to be creative in moving forward. This Spring a new program was born “Imagine3:20”. Read about it and our "Purpose Statement" at our website.