The Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Ministerial Search Committee conducted our congregational survey during August and September of 2014. Our questions were created using a UUA model survey, but were tailored to issues relevant to BUUF and to shorten the length of time required to respond.
Rev. Dana Worsnop, our interim minister, suggested we should strive for 200 respondents, an ambitious goal. The final result, 253 completed surveys, demonstrates a high level of interest, involvement, and commitment from the members and friends of the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
Most survey responses included thoughtful comments with some questions receiving up to 150 comments. The Search Committee reviewed survey responses in detail and we are confident the data will help us select a minister who will be the best match for our unique congregation. Survey results have also been provided to church leadership to inform them about congregational strengths, concerns, and future directions.
Summary highlights of the survey
- We value Sunday services with 80% including “Preacher” as a desired quality in our new minister. Other questions in the survey spoke to our desire for meaningful and moving services. We differ on what should be included in worship services with about an even split between a focus on spiritual/ community and educational/intellectually challenging topics. We received several comments noting that those two categories are not mutually exclusive and can actually reinforce each other.
- The survey identified 33 unique sermon topic areas and all 33 received support. We clearly appreciate diversity in topics from the pulpit. Current politics got the fewest votes, but still got many votes.
- A large majority (88%) of BUUF members and friends responded that they attend services to better understand themselves, to build community, and for personal growth.
- Over half of the congregation attends two or more times a month but less than in the summer.
- Responses were roughly equal in support for a minister with strengths in pastoral presence, idea catalyst, social justice/community advocate, and administration. The survey reveals that we’re generally open to ministers of different genders, sexual orientation, and age with 80% voting enthusiastic or comfortable with all categories, except that 64% of us wouldn’t be comfortable with a political conservative. Support for an atheist, a transgender, or someone over 60 was in the 70-80% range, representing a solid majority but lower than other categories. The Search Committee feels that the Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop, which was held after the survey closed, contributed to our comfort with a minister of non-traditional race, age, and gender identity but the workshop showed that we can do better at living our principles. We plan to explore ways to continue to broaden our understanding and acceptance.
- People come to BUUF to celebrate common values and for a spiritual experience. Intellectual stimulation followed closely as a reason to attend.
- We feel positive about our community. We’re proud of our inclusiveness, especially to the LGBTQ community. Church leadership was positively reviewed with 80% saying that leadership represents and is responsive to membership and thoughtfully considers their actions. 153 people wrote comments on the “Strengths” question.
- Survey responses also show that we have work to do. Many ideas for improvement were mentioned including: improving our newcomer welcoming and retention, attracting and keeping young people and families, broadening our leadership, becoming more generous, and getting more exposure in the community. There are some concerns about prejudiced behavior towards conservatives and those of Christian faith. We need better childcare availability and less cliquishness.
- We love music, especially the choir and visiting musicians. We appreciate silent meditation in the service and 94% think the sermon is important. Survey respondents were mostly supportive of the current structure of the service.
- Many responders have been affiliated with BUUF between 10-20 years. However, nearly half of respondents have been a part of BUUF for ten years or less.
- Agnostic, humanist, and earth-centered are top beliefs. Over 65% were some flavor of Protestant Christian or Catholic prior to coming to Boise UU with “None,” atheist, and always UU equaling 12-15%.
- Seventy-seven percent of BUUF members and friends support past and future growth, especially family-friendly growth. Many respondents commented that there are likely people in the wider Treasure Valley who might appreciate and want to join BUUF that might find us via better outreach efforts. Some thought that community social justice activities would result in growth. Comments about growth were always tied to mission and not to growth for growth’s sake. There is broad concern about the long-term future since the congregation is aging and not attracting many younger members. Many commented that we should consider splitting into smaller congregations at some point.
- Forty percent support initiating a capital campaign within three to five years to grow the facility although 35% are neutral. There were a variety of comments about growth including concerns about debt, how to use the Chelan property, spending on infrastructure versus social justice and fair staff wages. There are questions about the need for a larger facility, but several commented about the need for a more spiritual setting for services and were strongly supportive of a new sanctuary.