When did you first feel a sense of belonging in your congregation?

For many people, this feeling is a sign that they are ready to join, to make a commitment, to be an active part of a community. They see how the church impacts their life, and how their presence makes a difference.

Visitors and relative newcomers are not usually concerned with belonging when they first come through our doors. They want to know where to find coffee and bathrooms, how to get to the sanctuary, and whether anyone will talk to them after the service. The task of visitors is to make connections, and the task of the congregation serving visitors is to create a hospitable environment for those connections to be made.

If connecting is the task of visitors, belonging is the task of members. 

This is what it takes to move from being a visitor—someone who comes from somewhere else, receives what the church has to offer for a while, perhaps moving on in short time—to being a member. Members know, “I am part of this community,” and they act by making a commitment of time, energy, talent, and/or treasure.

Faith Forward: From Visitor to Leader is a guided path for Unitarian Universalists, helping them navigate from building connections early on, to finding their sense of belonging as a member, to serving as a leader and boldly living their faith. We say that Faith Forward teaches how we “do” church and what it means to be a member of a religious community. This is a valuable message for people from other religious backgrounds as well as the “nones” or the un-churched.

Knowing "who we are" reinforces UU identity and helps a member find their place and purpose.

The goal of Faith Forward’s CORE Path (the first in the 3-part program) is to help participants connect with others, get involved, and explore their faith and spirituality so that they better understand Unitarian Universalism, their congregation, and how they fit… or belong. But we don't stop there. In worship and other venues, we state cleary, and often, "who we are." The last step in the CORE Path, Your UU Elevator Speech, invites participants to form their own statement about “What is Unitarian Universalism?,” further growing their religious identity.

None of us can do this alone. We need companions on the path—others in our situation, and those who have found that sense of belonging and their call to leadership. What part will you play? Let’s join together in building communities which help people discern and grow as Unitarian Universalists.