You Can’t Sell the Sizzle: Mission and Message Go Hand in Hand

Have you ever been out in public and smelled something delicious? Maybe it was stir fry, french fries, or fresh fruit, but there was this smell coming from somewhere and you had no idea where… Has that happened to you?

Sure, sometimes it is obvious, with a little looking, but not always. Sometimes it isn’t even a place you can go, perhaps a backyard cookout. Sometimes, you are surrounded by nondescript storefronts and you can’t be sure. If only the smell, that enticement, came with directions to its source!

Last week we posted a couple of quotes about UU Evangelism. We believe it is important to share what we have with the world. In reply to one, an active member of the I Am UU community asked why we should bother telling people that we are UUs. The comment ended, “our ethics are the strongest advertisement for our religion“. I think that they are the best enticement, but they are no advertisement.

Advertising has several parts. You need the enticement to draw people in; the sizzle, the smell, the colors and textures. You also have to have the brand. People need to know who has the thing, where to find them, and how to get them. We need to supply a name and an address for people to come to.

Yes, we need to advertise.

Yes, we need to be out there being Unitarian Universalists, living up to our Principles and making the Beloved Community. We also need to invite people to join us. Your congregations need them to see the same flaming chalice logo or yellow tee-shirt at every rally and vigil. We need them to recognize us as more than individuals. We need them to see a movement they can choose to be part of. If we aren’t living up to who we say we are, they won’t want to join us. But, If we don’t tell them who we are, they can’t.

We do have to tell people that there is a vibrant and meaningful alternative to conservative religion and community building. We have to say it because there aren’t a lot of options, and we have one of the best: one of the oldest, the most stable, and effective movements for progressive thought and action. We have inherited it from those who built it, maintained it and invited us into it. By our membership, we take responsibility for doing the same and for seeing that Unitarian Universalism continues to grow and adapt.

Unitarian Universalism is a force for good.

The world needs liberal religion and for us to keep building towards Beloved Community. Unitarian Universalism is one of the most approachable, mainstream liberal religions. There are people in the world who need Unitarian Universalism and the community and encouragement it promises. Unitarian Universalism needs all the people we can bring to it, with their talents and perspectives to help us adapt and grow. Those are the key reasons for the I Am UU project and make up our tag-line:

Missional, Evangelical Unitarian Universalism.

Yes, we have to live Unitarian Universalism. We have to be the people Unitarian Universalism charges us with being. If we value Unitarian Universalism, though, we should also be proud to claim it and to let people know that our good works are acts of faith, wherever you place that faith. We should tell them our hope is supported by a religious community. We should tell them that community has room for them, too.

We don’t have to be pushy. What we have is special enough to attract people but we aren’t just dealing with people who can’t track our actions back to the congregation the way you might track a smell to a restaurant; we’re dealing with people who may not even know what liberal religion is. You can’t sell people on a new idea while being unwilling to explain the idea and how to participate. You can’t sell the sizzle and refuse to give them food.


Would you like to make a request? One of the new options as a thank-you gift for supporting the I Am UU project is the ability to request a topic for the Monday Meditation. While anyone can make a suggestion, this option obligates us to write about the topic of your choice. We tackle it from whatever angle seems to best fit with our mission, but is will be the topic you select!

If you’d like a more straight-forward way of supporting us, please see our new section on the topic!

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