Sunday, May 3, 2015

Taking it Home

by the Southern Region Communications Task Force

It’s official. We are building a new way in our UUA Southern Region!

We are grateful to the congregations and their delegates in the region’s districts who shared the vision of new ways to be in relationship with each other. Now, let’s take the spirit of DA back to our congregations. Here are several suggestions on how you can “take it home.”

Relationships – We are better together

  • We have a lot in common with UU congregations in our association, even more so with those in our backyard! At your board meetings, make it a practice to talk about activities with other UU congregations.
  • We need to be accessible in order to develop relationships. Update your congregational contacts regularly through If you have contact information on your Web page, make sure it is up to date.
  • Respond to survey and discussion requests from the Regional Advisory Council and other linkage outreach

Let’s talk about our Elders

  • Start acquainting your congregation with the term, ,” wise leaders of any age and influential members of the tribe, community and society.
  • Talk with the Southern Region Congregational Life Staff and the new Elders Council about recognizing congregational Elders and helping them share their gifts with other UU congregations.
  • Elders can serve at a congregational, cluster, regional or even national level.
  • Elders can serve Unitarian Universalism on boards or councils, as consultant, teachers or small group leaders.
  • Elders can represent the larger Association at ceremonial events, joining as one strong body to evangelize the South for Unitarian Universalism

Bring new approaches to Clusters

  • Clusters are about building relationships between congregations. Let’s ask:
  • The Cambridge Platform states that churches should cooperate in several ways:
  • Mutual care and support for the good of the congregation and the advancement of the Faith.
  • Consulting with one another in regard to a church's experience, process, or practice.
  • Admonishing one another.
  • Sharing Elders and professional staff
  • Giving recommendations to members who wish to move to another congregation.
  • Giving financial support to churches in need.
  • Sending Elders to the neighboring churches to introduce themselves.
  • Sending Elders to plant new churches.

Celebrate our UUA Southern Region

  • We are one of five regions in our UUA, and the only one to vote to date to dissolve district governance. The Southern Region includes 218 congregations, 30,000 members, 12 states, Mexico and the Virgin Islands
  • Your opportunity to meet UUA’s from the across the Southern Region will be in Portland at General Assembly. Make plans to attend the Southern Region in-gathering at GA from 5:45 pm-6:45 pm, Wednesday June 24.
  • Chose delegates who will commit to educating the congregation on the issue involved in General Assembly, both before and after. Honor the delegates’ work by offsetting some or all of their costs.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Three Questions with UUA Moderator Jim Key about Regionalization

by Margie Manning, Florida District President, Communications Task Force

The Southern Region’s proposal to dissolve district governance and move forward with a new model of stronger relationships between congregations is a return to our covenantal roots.
It’s also an opportunity to build a stronger Unitarian Universalist movement without the burden of a layer of governance that does not add value, to a level of ministry that adds value to congregations.
That’s the view of Jim Key, moderator of the Unitarian Universalist Association, past president of the Southeast District (formerly Thomas Jefferson District), and a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort, S.C.
As part of a Covenant of Understanding between the Southern Region Districts and our UUA, governance responsibilities will be handled by our Unitarian Universalist Board of Trustees and General Assembly, and our UUA Board of Trustees will take responsibility for linkage with the congregations of the Southern Region.
In an interview, Jim expressed a lot of enthusiasm for the plan, and provided answers to questions congregations have asked about it. Here are his responses, edited for length. 
How will my congregation be represented without District governance?
Jim: As they always have been. 
We are an accessible board of trustees, with linkage as the most important of all our activities in our policy manual. 
Any congregation at any time can contact the board through the moderator. I get emails all the time, so direct inquiry is one way. And from time to time the board turns around and contacts congregations, sometimes with District and Regional support and sometimes not. We go directly to the congregations.
So the first thing I want to say is that nothing really has changed in terms of access to the board and vice versa. Since we’ve gone to policy governance, linkage is a primary objective of this board and it is done in a variety of ways.
Given the new web site platform, the board and IT director are exploring ways of how this platform could make it easier, more interactive as we do linkage. For example, before the board meeting or after a board meeting - when the agenda goes on the website, or after the board meeting when we report out - how we collect the information from individuals or the leaders (whether elected or called) to comment. And we've tended to see some of that as we've become more transparent, with live-streaming in Boston, our post-board webinars and with surveys. So I'd say that if the districts and regions do nothing, clearly we will proceed down the path of making it easier for linkage work between congregations and the board.
By removing district layers of governance, how will congregations benefit?
Jim: In the Southern Region there used to be roughly 10 on each board, 40-plus people. Now that's down by half and soon there will be no one working on governance. Think of all the people power of moving all those people with a passion about Unitarian Universalism into ministries as opposed to this fiction of supervising staff. Boards have never supervised staff although they thought that was one of their governance roles. So these people can now transfer their energies into all the other things a congregation needs, whether it is help with stewardship development, conflict resolutions, helping the missioning, on and on and on. The staff has specific responsibilities for that but now you have this, I use the term adjunct staff, or Elders that can multiply the reach of the staff exponentially, which couldn't happen when boards were seen as governance structures. 
It seems that once we settle into this, congregations will have greater access to and greater support from volunteer Elders.
What I'm also hoping is that groups of congregations will see the need to develop their clusters, to make them stronger and more interactive and that will strengthen the historic connection between the congregations that was envisioned when we wrote the Cambridge Platform centuries ago. I’ve always felt the end result of all of this is stronger clusters, where congregations in closer geographic proximity can spend more time hosting meetings to bring resources to multiple congregations, not just one.
As a past president of the Southeast District and someone whose home congregation is in the Southern Region, what excites you most about what we are proposing?
Jim: The notion that we don't need a lot of people engaged in governance. It's not why most people move into leadership beyond their congregation, or even within the congregation. What animates people are what I choose to call ministries - whether it's social justice work, whether it’s youth leadership development, whether it’s organizing and deploying OWL programs - there's just more energy available to do these things, to move volunteers from board work and governance work into things that really add value to congregations. 
What's pleased me, I almost want to use the word pride, is the speed with which this has progressed. When we first began thinking about this – the possibility of giving up co-employment, the possibility of making the organization smaller - it's exciting to see that my region has taken it much further than I thought was possible relatively quickly and very thoughtfully and I think will be a model for the rest of the country to consider.
As we demonstrate that people can move into lay leadership ministries, I think that's exciting. I see the result of that in my own congregation. They've opened access to some of these Elders to do some of this work at a rate and pace not perceived before and not available before. I already see the fruits of this stuff. I’m incredibly prideful – that’s not a good word, maybe humble is a better word - that the Southern Region leadership, the four very different districts with very different cultures of leadership and form and size and structure, to move in such a collegial way into a new way of being – I think that’s been achieved through the focus on relationship building that is so essential to the whole process.
It goes back to who we are, a covenantal faith. It demonstrates to me that we can return to our covenantal roots and build a stronger Unitarian Universalist movement without this burden of a layer of governance that did not add value, to a level of ministry that adds value.

Once it’s fully deployed and I'm out of the moderatorship, it will be sweet to look back and say, wow, who says we move slowly? Once we enter into a covenant to do something bold, people of good will can get it done.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

FAQs from our Webinars on Regionalization

compiled by Margie Manning, Florida District President and Communications Task Force member

What will delegates to the District Annual Assemblies be asked to vote on in April?
Delegates will be asked to give full authority to District boards to complete all of the legal and other tasks necessary to dissolve the District or merge the District into a Unitarian Universalist Association-related entity, on such terms as the District Board of Directors and our UUA may agree.

Is dissolving the Districts a new idea?
The Orlando Platform, developed by the four District boards and representatives of our UUA in December 2010, called on us to identify changes in our governance, in order to best support congregations and grow our faith. Since then, each District board reduced its own size; ended co-employment of the Field Staff, who are now employed by our UUA; put aside its own ends or goals, in favor of UUA ends; and piloted a new way of sharing financial resources, the GIFT program.
The four District boards met again at The Mountain in North Carolina in September 2013, and at that meeting determined there was no need for District governance going forward; instead, lay leaders could best serve the faith by working as Elders, providing hands-on services to congregations and supporting Clusters.
In the intervening months, a Covenant of Understanding has been developed to deal with legal, governance, staffing, financial and stewardship issues for the Southern Region.

What does the Covenant of Understanding say?
Here are some of the highlights:
Governance responsibility for the Southern Region will be handled by our UUA Board of Trustees and General Assembly.
Our UUA Board of Trustees will take responsibility for linkage with the congregations of The Southern Region.  
All regional field staff will continue to be employed by our UUA and the regional administrative staff will become employees of our UUA.
All assets (savings and investments) currently owned by the Districts will be transferred to our UUA and held in restricted funds for the purpose of funding Southern Region programs and initiatives. The Southern Region Field staff will actively support and promote GIFT and our UUA commits to the responsibility of collecting congregational dues through GIFT or similar single ask stewardship models.
Our UUA affirms its intention to maintain the Southern Region’s current staffing levels and robust programming.
An Interim Southern Region Fiduciary Oversight Committee will work with our UUA staff for two years after the Districts disincorporate to provide oversight in finance and staffing levels.
The UUA Director of Congregational Life will create an advisory council of 7-8 regional leaders for the purpose of giving input about Southern Region program priorities and goal setting.

What will disincorporation of Districts mean for congregations?
Congregations will continue to get direct services from Southern Region Congregational Life field staff. Congregations have a designated Primary Contact on the staff; in addition, each staff member has expertise that can be shared throughout the region. 
Staff will focus on development of geographic and affinity Clusters, or groups of Unitarian Universalists working together in a deep, mutually covenantal relationship that gives individuals and congregations an opportunity to practice our shared faith. A recent article on the Communications Task Force blog describes the Clusters model. 
Our UUA Board will take responsibility for linkage with Southern Region congregations.

What is “linkage” and can you give me examples of how it might work in regard to our UUA Board and my congregation?
Linkage is direct communication between the governing board and those to whom it is responsible (member congregations). The UUA Board recently conducted a linkage exercise, in which 100 congregational leaders nationwide were surveyed in detail about how we gather and govern. In addition to personal phone calls between board members and designated representatives, the board also conducted an online survey on the same topic, open to all individual congregation members. Information collected in the interviews and surveys is being reviewed by the board as it considers potential changes in General Assembly.

What will disincorporation of Districts mean for those individuals seeking leadership roles outside their own congregations?
The Region’s lay leaders can practice shared ministry through a model of elder leadership. An elder is a wise leader of any age – including youth and young adults – who serve their congregations and the faith based on their deep personal commitment to Unitarian Universalism, Elderhood provides greater opportunities for members to deepen their understanding of covenant and faith, and to enter into shared ministry.
Elders can do a variety of tasks, depending on their own skills, their availability and demand. Possible actions include mentoring other leaders, developing and facilitating training sessions, or community organizing.
Click here for more information about Elders.

How are Elders in our tradition going to be different than elders in the Presbyterian tradition where they serve on the Session/board of the congregation?  How are they chosen by the congregation? And since this similarity exists--what are your responses to a criticism I have heard regarding our presbyterianizing our polity?
Elders in the UUA Southern Region will not govern as board members do. Elders will minister to the faith, and can serve at a congregational, cluster, regional or even national level. A Council of Elders, working in shared ministry with Congregational Life Staff, will help congregations recognize and celebrate elders, and identify opportunities for service.

If there’s no District governance and no voting at District annual assemblies, how can my congregation’s voice be heard in the democratic process?
Since the UUA ends developed by our UUA Board of Trustees are the goals we have agreed to support, congregations are encouraged to select, educate and fund delegate attendance at General Assembly. UUA administration and staff will work with the Board to explore making remote participation in General Assembly available to all legal delegates from Congregations.  Our UUA board also is expected to propose bylaw amendments to allow Southern Region congregations to bring resolutions to General Assembly that do not rely on district governance bodies.

Will there be opportunities for congregations and their members to get together in person in lieu of District annual meetings?  
In addition to Cluster events – which can include worship, education and justice opportunities - there are traditional regional gatherings such as SWUUSI [Southwest UU Summer Institute, a weeklong multi-generational camp experience], and leadership opportunities such as Dwight Brown Leadership Experience and Southern UU Leadership Experience. Each District has scheduled Presidents’ Convocations for summer 2015, allowing congregational presidents to gather and learn together. Regional staff will plan thematic gatherings as well, such as the multi-track experiences that were held in 2014.

How will we be sure that when my congregation pays its 7% for GIFT, it will get services from the Congregational Life Staff and/or the UUA as needed?
The UUA intends to use the Southern Region’s 2013-14 actual income amount (approximately $1.2 million) as the baseline for determining its Congregational Life Southern Region program budget. This amount represents about 27.5% of the total dues collected from Southern Region congregations in fiscal year 2013-14.  For the near future, the UUA intends to devote approximately 27.5% of the Southern Region’s GIFT contributions to the Congregational Life Southern Region program budget.

Are there Southern Region staff members who are going to lose their jobs and/or pay and benefits as a result of this shift?

The Covenant says that all parties understand that the Regional Lead, Director of Congregational Life and Leadership Council intend to maintain the existing Southern Region staff and staff configuration. Maintaining current staffing levels depends on Southern Region GIFT contributions remaining at current levels and increasing to cover annually-increasing costs, such as health care. Additionally, the Covenant says all parties understand that staffing configurations will need to be creatively altered in the future to support evolving strategic priorities and to take advantage of economies of scale, such as merging administrative functions across regions and UUA departments. 

How will I know who is on which of the various councils and groups that are described in the covenant and how can I contact them?

Southern Region field staff will continue to maintain their own database, communication and webpage systems as a means for them to directly contact congregations and individuals within the region and to keep their constituents informed of regional programs and opportunities for service and employment.

Devil in the Details

by Denise Rimes, Southeast District President

One of the many important lessons we all learn when we are creating something new is that the devil is in the details.  Sometimes we know ahead of time just where that devil will pop up, and at other times, we know something will pop up, but we don’t know what that devil will look like or when it will appear!  This has certainly been the case as we build out the model for the regionalization of the Southeast, Mid-South, Florida districts and the Southwest UU Conference.

On January 5, in the Southern Region Newsletter, we posted an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document on the plans for the development of an Elder process (authored by Margie Manning).  One of the questions offered was as follows:

How are Council Members chosen?
 For the initial Council of Elders, two members from each of the existing district boards will be nominated by district nominating committees and will be voted on by assembly delegates at the 2015 Annual Assemblies.  

 •Council of Elders member nominees will be selected by the nominating committees from existing district board members.    
 •Of the eight members of the Council of Elders, four will serve two year terms and four will serve five year terms.  

We realized in the weeks following that the terms of Board members in the four districts vary.  In Florida and the Southwest Conference (SWUUC), the new Board members will assume their positions immediately following their election on April 18.  (In Mid-South and Southeast, new Board members do not begin their terms until July1, which would be concurrent with the dissolution/disincorporation of the districts if the motion to do so passes.)  In order to preserve continuity AND to reduce the need for additional votes, we have changed the language slightly to accommodate the customs and practices of each district.  The only impact is that the Nominating Committees will not have to propose an additional slate, and a vote for the Elder Council members will not be required (since it’s not a governing body).

The inaugural Council of Elders will consist of eight members:

•    Two members of each of the existing District Boards will be chosen by the respective Boards.
•    Council members will be nominated at the Annual Assemblies in 2015 by the individual District Nominating Committees and voted upon by each body.  
•    The Nominating Committee in each District will approach the Board members of that District to see if they are willing to serve on the Elderhood Council.
•     Four nominees will be asked to serve a term of two years, and four nominees will be asked to serve a term of four years.
•      Each district will nominate two members of the current District Board to staff the inaugural Council of Elders and will be voted upon by each District body at their Annual Assembly in April 2015.

We hope we have solved for that devil, and will continue to keep you apprised if any of the devil’s friends pop up elsewhere!

Monday, February 2, 2015

It's Your Turn to Join the Conversation

by Margie Manning and Christine Purcell, Communications Task Force

We’ve been talking for a while now about the changes going on in the Southern Region. The District boards will ask the delegates at the District Annual Assemblies (April 17-19) to dissolve District governance. Since the historic meeting in Orlando in 2010, the District boards have worked in shared ministry with the Southern Region staff to make sure that structures are in place to nurture and develop our relationships as Unitarian Universalists in the South without the additional layer of governance at the District level.
Now it’s your turn to join the conversation.
The four District presidents and Congregational Life Staff have prepared an informative webinar, and we enthusiastically invite participation by everyone in the Region. In the webinar, we trace the historical reasons we are revamping our structures, and present a detailed look ahead at how we will be in relationship with each other as our structures evolve.
The webinars will cover:
  • interdependence in our theology
  • elders
  • clusters
  • the Fiduciary Council
  • the Director of Congregational Life Advisory Council
  • UUA Board linkage
  • your questions!
We will present information for about 30 minutes, then take your comments and questions for another 30 minutes. We want to hear what concerns you and what sparks your imagination. Our goal is to leave no uncertainty and plenty of enthusiasm as we move into our District Annual Assemblies.
Please click on a link below to register for a webinar. The webinars are scheduled on the following dates and times:
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 7:30 pm ET
Monday, Feb 23, 7:30 pm ET
Thursday, March 12, 7:30 pm ET

You may want to consider getting a group together for the webinar, using a big screen, if available, at your congregation. Groups can often come up with great questions together! 

We recommend that you join the webinar on a computer or tablet with an internet connection, if you are able to do so. You will receive a link to the live presentation when you register for the webinar. The webinar will be offered on the Zoom platform, and may be accessed through a browser or the Zoom App (recommended). Questions and feedback may be sent to the presenters by typing in a chat box. A dial-in phone number will be provided for those who need an audio-only connection to the live presentation. A text-heavy version of the presentation is being prepared for our website so you may read about the proposed changes, or share the information with your congregation.

Participating in our live webinars is a great way to become informed, ask questions, and offer feedback to our boards and staff before the vote in April. For those who are unable to participate in any of the scheduled webinars, we will record the webinar on February 10th, and share it on the Southern Region website. The presidents of the four District boards and the Southern Region staff members are preparing a Q & A page for the website, as well, with questions from the webinars.

The District board presidents and the Southern Region staff members welcome YOU to the conversation!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why attend a President’s Convocation?

By Larry Meisner

Many of you may wonder, what is a Presidents’ Convocation? It is a gathering of congregational presidents and presidents-elect who all want to learn more about how to do their jobs and to strengthen their congregations. The Mid South District has been hosting these events for several years, while they’re fairly new to the Southeast and Florida Districts, and to the Southwest Conference. We had our first regional convocation last summer, held in each of our districts to reduce travel time and expense. Attendees gave high marks to the staff, the sessions, and the informal connections made over the weekend. Many of the ideas presented at the convocation, such as using a non-board member as process observer, were immediately implemented as standard board procedures.
Three recent attendees shared their PC experiences, including the important lessons they learned and suggestions as to how the experience could have been improved. We included a cross-section of congregational presidents, with varied experiences and representing a variety of congregations.
Gay Lambirth of UU Congregation of Asheville has been a UU since she joined the Community Church of New York in 1970. She later served as president of the Houston congregation before moving on to Asheville and eventually serving as president there. Gay also has attended Dwight Brown Leadership Experience (DBLE) and has served as a congregational consultant.  She attended the PC in 2013.
Denise Miles of Georgia Mountains UU Fellowship in Dahlonega has been a UU for only 3½ years. She was elected president of her congregation after being a member for only one year, and had only just started her term when she attended the PC at the Mountain in 2013.
Jerri Meisner of UU Fellowship of Beaufort has been a UU since 1981. Like Gay, she had previously served as president of another UU congregation (Raleigh) before joining UUFB in 2007 and being elected president in 2013. Jerri attended the SE District PC in 2014.
All three of the presidents believed that they brought back useful information from the PCs. Two of them had at least a portion of their expenses paid for by their congregations, and they were encouraged to attend by their congregations – either directly or because it had become an expectation of incoming presidents. 
An important reason to attend a PC is the connecting and information sharing that takes place with your colleagues.  All three women interviewed felt that they got as much out of the networking with other presidents and learning about how similar-sized congregations handled various issues and situations as the content of the sessions. Some of the concepts were added to their boards’ operating procedures and policies. They felt that break-out groups divided by congregation size were especially helpful.  They have kept in contact with people they met and looked forward to seeing them again at future events such as district or cluster meetings, GA, or special conferences. 
Overall, all three of the presidents praised regional staff and lay facilitators and all felt that it was a valuable experience, well worth taking the weekend to grow into the role of congregational president. If you are a board president or president-elect, plan to attend the 2015 convocation in Dallas, Raleigh, Birmingham or Orlando on July 10-12.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Elders

by Margie Manning, Southern Region Communications Task Force

The four districts that make up the UUA’s Southern Region now are just four months away from our annual assemblies, and the historic votes we will take to dissolve district governance and move forward with a new model of stronger relationships between congregations.
This change has its roots in the Orlando Platform, which recognizes – among other points – that congregations create good leaders, whose faith calls them toward fulfilling a larger Unitarian Universalist mission. The Platform calls on us to provide a mechanism to allow these leaders to be of meaningful service to our faith.

These leaders are called Elders, a term taken from the Cambridge Platform, which is the basis for our congregational polity. Elder does not refer to age, but to wisdom and experience.
In the four years since the Orlando Platform, we have been working to define the scope and structure of the work taken on by Elders. We established an Elders Task Force, chaired by Denise Rimes, president of the Southeast District. Those who currently or have previously worked on the task force are: Peter Kandis, Jill Austin, Sarah Ritzmann, Lewis Morris, Connie Goodbread, Maggie Lovins, Erin Sullivan, Carlton Smith and Natalie Briscoe. We are grateful to each for their contributions to the following model for Eldership that envisions how lay leaders and Congregational Life Staff will work together to build relationships, strengthen congregations and grow Unitarian Universalism.

You may view, download, or print the Elders FAQ here.

Frequently Asked Questions – The Elder Model

This is a time of transition for Unitarian Universalists in the Southern Region.  If Unitarian Universalism is to be a vital and growing faith, it requires our active participation.  We are reminded from the Cambridge Platform that ministry does not belong only to ordained clergy, but also to others who are servant leaders of the faith.   According to our history from the Cambridge Platform, elders understand and uphold the deepest meaning of the faith and they may be teachers and preachers, and the deacon’s role is the stewardship of resources.   While the Cambridge Platform recognizes the independence of congregations, it also recognizes their interdependence.   It is essential to congregation polity that congregations be in community, that they develop linkages to share resources, and that they participate in associational life.

This proposed Elder Model offers a means for building relationships between congregations, clusters, states, and throughout the region.  Elders who emerge from congregations to serve at the region level will be those whose deep faith and commitment to Unitarian Universalism allows them to nurture others.  Through the ministry of Elders, it is expected that congregants will deepen their understanding and talent for leadership so that more wise leaders will be available to offer more services to congregations and the world.  The Council of Elders is a program body that will facilitate the development of Elders and will support opportunities to grow Elder teams and the faith throughout the South.  Following are some frequently asked questions about the Elder Model and expectations for how it will be implemented.

What's the point of the Council of Elders?
The Council of Elders will be servant leaders practicing shared ministry in relationship with the Southern Region Congregational Life Staff (CLS).  The Council of Elders will foster relationships and networks between congregations, clusters, states, and throughout the region and will create and support opportunities to grow leaders and the faith throughout the South.

What will the Council of Elders do?
This is a program body - working hand in hand with the Southern Region Congregational Life Staff (CLS) doing shared ministry.

The Council of Elders will serve in a variety of capacities.   They will:

•Help to create and identify opportunities to grow networks, teams and the faith throughout the South.
•Help to foster relationships within and among congregations, clusters, states, and throughout the region.  Elders will always look for ways to helps congregations and leaders to network and help each other.
•Help congregations to develop ways to recognize and celebrate the elders they have and help to identify new elders.
•With the foundation of the Cambridge and Orlando Platforms, work towards our UUA ends.
Represent the region at ceremonies of importance to the faith such as ministerial ordinations and installations, building dedication ceremonies, and celebrations of congregation anniversaries.

Is the Council of Elders replacing the Boards?

No. The Council has distinctly different functions from previous boards. Historically, boards focused on the business of our organizations including financial management, staff oversight and policy decisions. The Council of Elders will focus on strengthening congregational ties, developing leaders (therefore congregations) and bolstering faith development. The council will do this by building strong relationships throughout the faith. In short: whereas boards govern the faith, the council will minister to the faith.

How are Council Members chosen?

This process was refined in February, 2015, to preserve continuity across the four District Boards with different terms, to reduce the need for additional votes, and to accommodate the customs and practices of each district.

The inaugural Council of Elders will consist of eight members:

•    Two members of each of the existing District Boards will be chosen by the respective Boards.
•    Council members will be nominated at the Annual Assemblies in 2015 by the individual District Nominating Committees and voted upon by each body.  
•    The Nominating Committee in each District will approach the Board members of that District to see if they are willing to serve on the Elderhood Council.
•     Four nominees will be asked to serve a term of two years, and four nominees will be asked to serve a term of four years.
•      Each district will nominate two members of the current District Board to staff the inaugural Council of Elders and will be voted upon by each District body at their Annual Assembly in April 2015.

What will the role of Staff be in relationship to this Council?

In covenant, the Council of Elders and Congregational Life Staff (CLS) will pursue our Association’s Ends. Staff is ultimately responsible for program development.  The Council of Elders will support CLS to develop structures and programs that are needed to grow vibrant congregations.  Staff is ultimately responsible for program development.  

The relationship between congregations, CLS, and Elders will help insure that excellent programs are developed and our faith is advanced. 

What will Elders do?  How will they serve the Southern Region?
Elders will serve in a variety of roles throughout the region, based on many factors. Elders on the Council will serve as organizers and relationship builders among Elders, congregations, and staff. Congregational Elders may do a variety of tasks depending upon their skill set, availability, and demand. Possible actions may include: mentoring other leaders, developing and facilitating training sessions, or community organizing. Elders can be wonderful resources to their home congregations, as well, as they have the opportunity to deeply engage in our UU faith within and beyond congregational walls.

While there are limited roles for Elders to play at the Regional level we are mindful that the need is infinite and the resources are finite. Elders can serve clusters and groups that form to address some particular initiative.

The Council of Elders is one role that Elders will play.  Elder roles that exist today include the Smart Church Consultants, Leadership Experience Faculty and Regional Multi-track trainings and cluster development activities.  As the system evolves more roles will be identified.
Our hope is that through regional opportunities leaders will be even better equipped to serve their home congregations and faith.  

How will moving to the Elder Model affect me personally?
This is an opportunity for leaders and all congregants to have more resources so that they can go deeper into their own gifts and the service they can provide.  Individuals will be offered many opportunities for development.  This deeper training will feed leaders and allow them to serve in a deeper capacity - both in their congregation and in our larger faith. The Elder Model gives more people an opportunity to deepen their understanding and talent for leadership with the goal of having more wise leaders to offer more services to congregations and the world.  

Congregations will have many more acknowledged partners in the good works they are doing. Silos will be broken down and we will come to know we are not alone in our work. The result will be a greater sense of community across the miles and a greater sense of interconnection with other UUs doing similar work.

How will congregations be served by moving to the Elder Model?
The Elder Model’s emphasis on individual growth, maturity, and collaboration means that there will be more wise leaders to help manage and muster congregations. 

The Elder Model gives congregations the opportunity to be more ministry-focused. This change will foster collaboration with other Unitarian Universalists and congregations to be more active in the community, to pull together like-minded interrelated ideas, resources and energy to better represent Unitarian Universalism in the world. 

How will moving to the Elder Model serve our chosen faith?
Moving to the Elder Model provides a path to leadership and gives an opportunity for congregational Elders to connect with other Elders from across the region to serve our faith movement outside their own congregation or cluster.

Moving to the Elder Model will increase our incarnational growth. Those outside our faith will come to know what Unitarian Universalism stands for and does. 

If I am interested in being an Elder, how does my name go forward for consideration?
You may request that your congregation recognize that you have been filling the role of an Elder, or your congregation, on its own volition, may come to you to ask if you would accept a nomination to be an elder.

Elders may also be identified at events and trainings.  Congregational Life Staff and the Council of Elders will always be in relationship with congregations about leaders who could be asked to serve on a regional body.

Congregations and/or covenanted communities, via their Boards, Faith Development Teams, Professional Staff, Nominating Committees, Leadership Development Teams or Committees on Ministry, will recognize and/or identify individuals who function as Elders in the congregation.