Senior Minister Search Committee Survey Results:
All members were asked to complete an online or paper copy of the survey between Ingathering on September 13 and the end of September. First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee currently has 775 members; 279 members responded to the survey (36%). Data from the survey and the three Town Hall meetings will be used to complete the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee (FUSM) Congregational Record which is a document that prospective candidates review to learn about who we are and what we are looking for in a new Senior Minister.
When asked what makes FUSM special, our members shared a wide variety of qualities, but at the top of the list is that FUSM is a welcoming spiritual home where tolerance and acceptance of others and their beliefs is paramount, and diversity of thought is encouraged. The next most mentioned quality is the real sense of community that members feel from this special group of people who care about each other and have passion for FUSM and what it does. Members also tell us that FUSM is unique in its commitment to social justice and appreciation for thought provoking sermons, not to mention its outstanding music program and committed staff.
When asked what church problems concern members, we heard many people say they were concerned about the financial stability of the church and its continuing budget deficit. There are concerns with not including youth in as many aspects of the church and services. There are concerns about inclusiveness and involvement with mission and vision with some thinking there is too much focus on social justice at the expense of spiritual development and others thinking just the opposite. Some members tell us they are worried about the lack of member involvement and appropriate stewardship to fund our church and its activities. Some are concerned that FUSM has a lack of diversity and that there are cliques of people that are not as welcoming as they could be.
Members told us that they attend FUSM for a number of reasons, especially for community/fellowship, for intellectual stimulation, to celebrate common values and because of our ministers. They also attend because of shared UU beliefs, spiritual growth and because of social justice. The vast majority of respondents (93%) travel 30 minutes or less to get to FUSM and 40% have a commute of less than 15 minutes.
We heard that most of our members would like to find a new Senior Minister who is highly professional, has exceptional public speaking skills, shows empathy and is intellectual. Our members and staff expect the new Senior Minister to be both a spiritual and intellectual leader who leads worship and celebrations while also challenging our thinking and not inflicting guilt. Members would also like the new Senior Minister to be an excellent communicator with the congregation, staff and committees.
With the understanding that FUSM is a large church with many directions that the Senior Minister can be pulled toward, members would like them to focus their efforts in a variety of areas including: preaching, community building, church dynamics, worship, spiritual guidance, social action, staff relations, anti-racism/oppression and leadership development in that order. Members told us that they want the Senior Minister to be more of a CEO that handles primary responsibilities and delegates authority to staff and committees where appropriate.
FUSM dedicated a full weekend to Beyond Categorical Thinking to raise awareness of our congregation to being open minded about the background, race and sexual orientation of our new Senior Minister. Thirty-nine people attended the Saturday workshop and both Sunday services discussed the importance of not judging people on a singular quality. Our survey and Town Hall meetings told us that our congregation is very comfortable with many possible characteristics of the new Senior Minister, however, they would feel uncomfortable with a candidate that is politically conservative, newly ordained with little experience, older than 60 years or transgender.
In addition to Unitarian Universalism, FUSM members find Humanism (72%), Buddhism (61%) and Christianity (49%) to be the most important in their religious development, with the understanding that our congregation has a very wide range of faith interests.
Many of our members have been with FUSM for a long time: 41% of respondents have been with the church for 6-15 years, 21% for 16-25 years and 15% have been members for over 25 years. 23% have been members for five years or less.
Of those who responded to the survey, 19% attend every Sunday, 49% attend 2-3 times/month, 16% attend once a month and 16% rarely attend. Over half of respondents participate in two or fewer hours of church activities each month, 35% participate 3-5 hours/week and just more than 10% participate six or more hours per week.
When asked about their hopes for a new Senior Minister, members of the congregation shared that they hope the new person will be a strong leader who is experienced with large congregations and is a good listener and communicator that is able to deliver inspiring and engaging sermons. They hope that the new person has a spiritual practice that is inclusive and that they are aware of the diverse beliefs within our membership. They hope for a minister with a sense of humor and empathy. They hope that this person does not come in with an agenda, but takes the time to get to know us before making big changes. They hope that after getting to know FUSM, the new Senior Minister will be involved with the Milwaukee community and UUA. They hope that the new leader will be experienced in managing change and will help to solve our financial challenges.
Alternatively, when asked about their fears about a new Senior Minister, the congregation told us that they fear that the new person would somehow generate controversy or divisiveness instead of inclusiveness, or that members would not give the new Senior Minister a chance and would leave. Respondents told us that they fear a new Minister may be arrogant and may come to us with an agenda that may not fit, or that they would not have enough experience to manage a church of our size or understand the financial responsibilities involved.
When asked what the congregation would like the new Senior Minister to accomplish in the first year, we heard respondents say that they expect the new person to learn the culture and history of FUSM, to get to know the members, the staff and the committees and to manage change with effective communication and transparency. We also heard members say that the first year is key to building trust and demonstrating follow-through. They understand that change is inherent to the transition, however, some want change at different rates and it is important for everyone to know what to expect.
FUSM is a large congregation in an urban setting of downtown Milwaukee, with a primarily white/Caucasian membership. Demographic results of the survey tell us that a majority (nearly 70%) of respondents are aged 50 or above, 28% are between 30-49 years, and less than 3% are under 30. 2/3 of respondents are female, 86% are straight/heterosexual, 6% are bisexual, 6% are gay/lesbian/queer and no one responded as transgender. Over 86% have a bachelor’s degree or above and 56% have a Master’s degree, PhD or similar advanced degree. Half of the respondents indicated that they have children between K-12 grades with an even distribution between K-3, 4-6, 7-8 and 9-12 grades. 71% of members who answered the survey have their children enrolled in RE at FUSM. Over 46% of respondents have a household income of $100K+ and 37% have a household income between $50-100K.