A Blueprint for Excellence:
Practices for Unitarian Universalist Congregations
The Search for Religious Education Leadership
Best practices for the
search, interview, employment agreement, determination of fair compensation
and benefits, and congregational support for Unitarian Universalist religious
The Liberal Religious Educators
Association (LREDA) promotes religious growth and learning for people of all
ages by providing opportunities for continuing education, sharing resources,
advocating for professional recognition, and providing encouragement and
support for religious educators.
This pamphlet was developed,
printed and distributed by LREDA through a generous grant from the
Council on Church Staff Finances.
Additional copies may be
PO Box 691254 San Antonio, TX 78269
Support for the Search Process
The search for religious education leadership is an important process. In
order to assist Unitarian Universalist congregations in this search, we have
consulted parish ministers, religious educators, lay leaders from
congregations, the Ministerial Settlement and Church Staff Finance Offices in
the Department of Ministry, and the Religious Education Department. We are
firmly committed to practices that are just and equitable for all parties.
We hope that the information
in this booklet will help to set the stage for a rewarding, successful
relationship between your congregation and its religious educator.
You may wish to consult the following resources:
Director of Professional Development in the UUA
Department of Religious Education
Settlement Office of the UUA Department of Ministry
District Religious Education Consultant
District Compensation Consultant
District Religious Education Committee
Good Officers for members of LREDA or UUMA - both for
conflict management and consultation
Liberal Religious Educators Association www.uua.org/LREDA or email LREDA@uua.org
UUA website at www.uua.org
The two online documents below are frequently updated:
The Search for Religious
Education Leadership: Good Practices for Unitarian Universalist Congregations
, provided by the Religious Education Department, is designed for
congregations searching for a non-ordained religious educator. This guide can
be found at: http://www.uua.org/re/curriculum/leadershipguide.pdf
The Settlement Manual ,
provided by the Department of Ministry, is designed to guide congregations
seeking to call a Minister of Religious Education. This guide can be found
The Appropriate Religious Educator
The first step is to determine whether your congregation is looking
for an ordained or a lay religious educator. The Search Committee will
determine the requirements for the position of DRE/MRE. You will consider, at
a minimum, the appropriate candidate's relevant experience, familiarity with
UUA RE curricula, organizational skills, experience in working with
volunteers, ability to work collaboratively, and experience in designing
worship. You will determine whether you expect your candidate to also have
skills in preaching, pastoral care, conducting rites of passage, designing
and administering adult programs, and/or small-group facilitation.
Typically a Minister of
Religious Education (MRE) is a graduate of a theological school who has
completed clinical pastoral education, has served as an intern minister in a
congregational setting, has been welcomed into fellowship as a Unitarian
Universalist minister by the UUA, and has been ordained by a congregation. An
MRE is called to serve in the same way that a parish minister is called, is
in collegial relationship with other professional staff, works
collaboratively with the RE Committee, and is most often responsible to the
Board of Trustees and the congregation.
A Director of Religious
Education (DRE) is most commonly non-ordained, and has a combination of
practical experience and higher education in one of the following fields:
education, religion, social service, and/or the arts. The DRE works
collegially with the parish minister and collaboratively with the RE
Committee, and may be responsible to the Board of Trustees, another small
group appointed by the Board, the parish minister, or according to local
Before the position opening is announced and advertised, the congregation
should develop, adopt, and make widely known its policy regarding hiring or
calling members from the congregation.
If a temporary religious
educator is being sought, a decision needs to be made about whether the
position will be "Acting" or "Interim." If the position
is "Interim", the incumbent should not apply for the permanent
position. This policy is mandated for ministers settled through the
Settlement Office of the UUA Department of Ministry, and it is good practice
to extend this policy to all religious educators. An "Acting"
religious educator may apply for the permanent position.
LREDA recommends that before the search process begins, a
congregational assessment be conducted. Input from such a survey can be
invaluable. In order to insure that the search process meets anti-racist and
anti-oppression criteria you may wish to explore Beyond Categorical Thinking,
which is available from the Department of Ministry.
Most congregations appoint or
elect a Search Committee of three to seven members. This Committee may
consult with the parish minister and other appropriate church staff, the
Religious Education Committee, the Personnel Committee, and the Board of
Trustees to develop the position description, the salary range and benefits
package, and a sample letter of agreement or contract.
Every effort should be made to
compensate both ordained and lay religious educators according to the UUA
guidelines. The UUA publication, To Sustain the Living Tradition, along with
the most recent salary guidelines (approved by the UUA Board June 2000), will
help congregations discern the appropriate range for a candidate. Further
information is available from your District Compensation Consultant or from
the Office of Church Staff Finances at the UUA.
Be sure to consult the
Settlement Office in the Department of Ministry for policies that apply
specifically to Ministers of Religious Education. The remainder of this
document pertains primarily to the search for Directors of Religious
The call for applications for
Directors of Religious Education should be distributed widely throughout the
District and UUA by utilizing:
District Field Staff/Consultants
District Religious Education Committee
District LREDA Chapter
UU World magazine and District newsletters
LREDA and REACH e-mail lists
LREDA mailing list (contact LREDA@uua.org )
UUA Website available positions listing
Local college and university placement offices
Selecting a Candidate
After the Search Committee has screened applicants, interviews are
scheduled. If an applicant from outside the local area is invited for an
interview, she or he should be compensated for travel and expenses during the
interview day(s). In the case of applicants who will not be asked to
interview, a letter should be sent immediately to thank them for applying. If
an applicant is a member of the congregation and will not be interviewed, the
chair of the Search Committee meets with or contacts the applicant by
telephone to thank her or him for applying.
The Search Committee prepares questions for the candidates and conducts the
interviews. Each interview should follow the same format. Candidates who are
not familiar with the buildings should be given a brief tour, including the
office space designated for the religious educator. The same questions should
be asked of each applicant with the answers noted in writing. At the
conclusion of the interviews the Search Committee should exchange notes and
observations and make note of any follow up questions.
The next task is to call all
the references of the final candidates. In addition to references, many
congregations also require that the candidates undergo a complete background
check. See the UUA Settlement Handbook for more details.
Upon review of the references, the top-ranked candidate is selected and
approved as per congregational policy. The candidate is then contacted and
offered the position by the chair of the Search Committee. After the
candidate accepts the position, and before a public announcement is made, all
other candidates are contacted in person or by telephone to inform them that
they were not selected and to thank them for their interest in the position.
A follow-up letter should be sent within one or two days.
Coming To Agreement
Once a candidate has been selected, the responsibilities are reviewed
and mutually accepted. Specific information about benefits is provided to the
incumbent. It is expected that a religious education professional serving
half-time or more receive the following benefits, pro-rated proportionally in
comparison with full-time service:
- health insurance (in
- life and disability
- Social Security
- sick leave
- vacation time/study
- family leave
- bereavement leave
Variables that affect the salary range and
compensation level may include
experience as a professional religious educator
- education level and
- religious education
training (Renaissance, Meadville Winter Institute, Leadership School,
- size and scope of your
religious education program
responsibility for an assistant, childcare provider, youth advisor, etc.
professional expense account should be established to fund continuing
education, training, dues for professional organizations, books, periodicals,
travel and registration fees for conferences and General Assembly, and other
professionals serving small congregations and working less than half-time are
often paid an hourly wage comparable to that of a public school teacher or
school administrator. Your District Office can assist you in locating salary
guidelines for these less-than-half-time positions.
The congregation is encouraged
to provide a private office for the religious education professional with
telephone, computer and other necessary and basic office equipment.
Secretarial support is advised.
Covenanting affirms the value and scope of the religious educator's
work and defines expectations and responsibilities on the part of the
religious educator and the congregation. This can be a powerful tool for
developing healthy and vibrant relationships with religious education
professionals. The parish minister and the religious education professional
may wish to make a mutual covenant to support collegiality and shared
leadership. Contact the Congregational, District, and Extension Services
Department at the UUA for more information.
It has proved beneficial to
form a Committee on Ministry or a MRE/DRE Relations Committee to facilitate
the continuing relationship between the congregation and the religious
Your congregation may wish to honor its commitment to religious
education and to the newly called or hired religious education professional
by arranging a service of installation. Models of installation services are
available from the Department of Ministry, District Field Staff or the UUA
Department of Religious Education.
Encourage your religious educator to join LREDA, the Liberal Religious
Educators Association, which is an affiliate of the UUA. The categories of
membership include Student/New DRE, Supportive, and Active. Members are seen
as engaging in ministry in the fullest sense, are held to the highest
standards, and are bound by the Bylaws, the Code of Professional Practices
and the Guidelines for Professional Religious Educators. A task force of
LREDA is in the process of developing professional standards.
It is imperative, both for the personal competence of the religious educator
and the effectiveness of the program, that the congregation provide study
leave and financial assistance to support the educator's continuing
education. A range of options is currently available through the Office of
Professional Development in the Religious Education Department of the UUA .
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