Report From Rev. Dennis Hamilton
Presented at General Assembly, 2004


Dennis Hamilton is the senior minister of Horizon Unitarian Universalist Church in Carrollton, Texas. He has served that church since 1987 when he accepted a call as an extension minister. His assignment was to help them grow from a small group to a full service church. Their mission was to provide a liberal religious presence to the rapidly growing area north of Dallas, specifically to buy land, build a church and be a beacon of hope to that community. Horizon has grown from its original 34 members to about 350 members with a $350,000 budget, six acres of land and an 11,000 sq. ft. church building. It is poised to continue its growth to about 750 members.

This church is considered a success by UUA standards. It is the only UU church started in the last thirty years that has grown to mid-size. This is tragic for our denomination, but it is reason to look at how we were able to do this and to consider whether this can be replicated in other places.

As the so-called growth expert at this site, I have spent seventeen years studying the pros and cons of growth. I have also studied other UU churches that wanted to grow but were not able to do so and a few that have done pretty well. I have studied the rapidly growing churches from other denominations as well, and have taken notes. During our own history I have continually asked some questions:

Collaborative Growth Initiative Grants and Media Grants

These grants are no longer available. The funds were all disbursed to congregations.

Chalice Lighters

The Chalice Lighters program helps congregations fund projects to build stronger communities. Chalice Lighters is supported by small, periodic contributions from a number of individual UUs. Chalice Lighters continues as a program of MidAmerica Region!

See Chalice Lighters for more information on applying for a Chalice Lighters grant, or for supporting the Chalice Lighters program

The main purpose of the Prairie Star District’s Growth Program Area was to foster the growth of Unitarian Universalism within the District working as a team with District staff to nurture both established and new congregations to grow and thrive.

The Growth Area Vision

Our existing and new congregations are vibrant, growing places where members invite their friends and visitors want to return, and are a positive force in their communities.

Growth Strategies

The Prairie Star District Executive coordinated various workshops focusing on growth throughout the district. Planning for Growth workshops, offered by the UUA, need a minimum of 7 congregations who are interested in participating, and were available for small and for mid-size congregations. Local cluster workshops focused on the larger congregations in the Twin Cities and in Iowa.

For videos of online workshops see Webinar Videos.

For a list of workshops currently scheduled see Webinar Schedule.

Many services are now provided by MidAmerica Region!

Other Services

Guest Audit program - This program allowed a church to have outsiders visit them and provide concrete feedback on the experience. A group of trained 'visitors' were available to visit a church and provide an outside, objective report on how welcoming the experience was. This could include every aspect that a new visitor might see.

What was a Gold Star Congregation?

Gold Star congregations were those that grew in numbers every year for the last three years and had either the highest percentage growth of District congregations or the highest absolute number of new members over three years.

At the Annual Conference, there were large gold stars attached to their banners on display. Members of these congregations had gold stars on their name badges.