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Excellence in Relgious Education
   
EXCELLENCE IN RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
LEADERSHIP TRANSITION
Rev. Helen Zidowecki, July 2007

Excellence n Religious Education: Leadership Transitions provides a systematic approach to changes in religious education leadership. . It focuses on anticipated or actual change, and can be used through acquiring and planning orientation for new leadership. The tool is designed to enhance discussion that needs to occur around change, with the expectation that change that is processed intentionally and comprehensively will influence the development of the leadership and congregational involvement.

The format is a worksheet. √ items that apply and add explanatory comments.

I. BACKGROUND FOR THE TRANSITION IN RELIGIOUS EDUCATION LEADERSHIP
A. WHY IS THE TRANSITON IN LEADERSHIP OCCURRING?
B. WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF THIS CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP?
C. WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR CLOSURE ON PREVIOUS ARRANGEMENT?

II. VACANCY: CONSIDERATIONS
A. ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT RELIGIOUS EDUCATION IN CONGREGATIONS
B. VACANCY PROJECTIONS
C. OPTIONS REGARDING LONG OR SHORT TERM POSITION
D. OPTIONS REGARDING TYPE OF STAFFING:
(Such as Director or minister of Religious Education)

III. RECRUITMENT/SEARCH PROCESS
A. RESOURCES
B. SETTING UP THE SEARCH PROCESS
C. JOB DESCRIPTION
D. INTERVIEWS

IV. START-UP
A. COMMITMENT
B. MINISTER

V. EVALUATION

VI. EXIT INTERVIEWS
A. RELIGIOUS EDUCATOR
B. CONGREGATION (Background)


I. BACKGROUND FOR THE TRANSITION IN RELIGIOUS EDUCATION LEADERSHIP

I.A. WHY IS THE TRANSITON IN LEADERSHIP OCCURRING?
New Position: [ ] Growing congregation [ ] Funding has become available

Change of personnel in established position (See also Closure on previous arrangement)
[ ] Retirement (Implies a long-term employee)
[ ] Resignation for personal reasons (moving, change in family situation, etc.) and not a reflection on the performance of the individual in the position.
[ ] Resignation for professional reasons (another position, for professional growth)
[ ] Resignation because position requirements or funding is changing and person in the position cannot accommodate the change.
___Increase in funding or position requirements
___Decrease in funding or position requirements.
[ ] Resignation because of performance issues, such as
___Not fulfilling the job description
___Inappropriate behavior toward children
___Inappropriate behavior toward parents/RE Committee, other parts of the congregation
___Breach of professional Codes of Professional Practice (LREDA http://www25.uua.org/lreda/content/code.html)
[ ] Resignation because of difficulty working in the situation
[ ] Personality differences/difficulty working with other staff, with the RE Committee or other parts of the congregational structure
[ ] Other, specify

Change in structure of the religious education position.
[ ] Change to/from a Director of Religious Education to a Minister of Religious Education
[ ] Change in congregational structure, such as consolidation with another congregation
[ ] Change from a volunteer to paid position
[ ] Other, Specify

I.B. WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF THIS CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP?
What has been the experience of religious educators in this congregation over the last 10 years?
Name the religious educators, length of times served, reasons for leaving the position.
Are there factors in these experiences that may influence the present situation?

What impact will experience(s) with religious educators have on the filling of the vacancy?
[ ] Positive: What made that a positive experience.
What factors were unique to the previous relationship? (long or short tenure, interim, etc.)
What considerations do you want to take into the new relationship?
What considerations do you want to 'let go of' in approaching a new relationship?
[ ] Negative: What made that a negative experience.
What factors were unique to the previous relationship? (long or short tenure, interim, etc.)
What has to be considered/done to have the new relationship be positive?
[ ] Neutral: What factors were neither positive nor negative, just were.
What has to be considered/done to have the new relationship be positive?


I.C. WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR CLOSURE ON PREVIOUS ARRANGEMENT?
[ ] Are the arrangements for the change clear: termination date, fiscal commitments?

Regardless of whether the arrangement has been positive, neutral or negative:
[ ] If person is leaving the congregation, plan a way to recognize service given.
[ ] If person is leaving the position but still connected with the congregation,
___Plan a way of recognizing the service in the position, also noting the change in the person’s role, that is, still be with them but not connected with Religious Education.

___Review the LREDA Handbook for Professional Religious Educators. There should be an understanding in writing, between the RE Committee, minister and the Religious Educator and preferably the governing body regarding the functions that the person can continue within the congregation, especially related to Religious Education. Include a way to review the arrangement over a period of time and to handle issues or uneasiness. .

___It may take time for the congregation and the people directly involved in Religious Education to make the transition from the previous person to the new person. The minister could be helpful here, as well as district consultation.

IF THIS IS BEING USED IN CONJUNCTION WITH AN EXIT INTERVIEW, GO TO VI.
II. VACANCY: CONSIDERATIONS

II.A. ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT RELIGIOUS EDUCATION IN CONGREGATIONS
The Vision Statement from Lifespan Faith Development, Unitarian Universalist Association is:
We envision children, youth, and adults who:
  • know that they are lovable beings of infinite worth, imbued with powers of the soul, and obligated to use their gifts, talents, and potentials in the service of life;
  • affirm that they are part of a Unitarian Universalist religious heritage and community of faith that has value and provides resources for living;
  • accept that they are responsible for the stewardship and creative transformation of their religious heritage and community of faith;
  • realize that they are moral agents, capable of making a difference in the lives of other people, challenging structures of social and political oppression, promoting the health and well-being of the planet, acting in the service of diversity, justice and compassion;
  • recognize the need for community, affirming the importance of families, relationships and connections between and among the generations;
  • appreciate the value of spiritual practice as a means of deepening faith and integrating beliefs and values with everyday life;
  • experience hope, joy, mystery, healing, and personal transformation in the midst of life’s challenges.

Following are assumptions basic for programming for the educational ministry of the congregation:
  • A high quality religious education program will be factor in congregational growth.
  • A religious educator in a Unitarian Universalist congregation will be fairly compensated and treated as a professional staff member, whether full or part time.
  • A religious educator will have the support and financial and other resources to participate in professional development activities.
  • Lifespan religious growth and learning occur most when there is a clearly articulated vision of religious education based on the overall mission of the congregation and of the religious education/lifespan faith development program.
  • The parish minister’s support for the program and the religious educator is an asset.
  • There will be a support from the congregation, including a program committee of at least 3 people, one of whom is not a teacher or parent of a child/youth in the program.

Check the assumptions for what is needed for the Religious Education Program. The congregation will be different now than when the last religious educator was hired. This type of check is helpful when there is a leadership change, and at least every 5 years. Recognize the changes as factors influencing the implementation of a program. Suggestion: Answer the questions related to a previous period – hiring of previous religious educator, and presently.
[ ] Cultural patterns that effect participation in church activities
[ ] Curriculum resources available, such as material, patterns of offering programming
[ ] Professional expectations for religious educators
[ ] Congregational status regarding size, location, parish minister, things unique to this congregation.
[ ] What are the implications of this review for hiring a religious educator now?


II.B. VACANCY PROJECTIONS
How long has the position been vacant? (Or when does the position become vacant?)
[ ] Short time, or upcoming
Was the time of the vacancy anticipated? (such as the end of the year and plans were made to finish out the year and fill the vacancy for the next year)
[ ] Long enough to interfere with the religious education program.
What factors have resulted in maintaining the vacancy?
What recruitment has already occurred?

What is your target time for having the vacancy filled?
[ ] Calendar, time of year [ ] Resources [ ] Other, specify

Are there other things going on in the congregation or community that will have an impact on filling the position? (Example: Ministerial search)

II.C. OPTIONS REGARDING LONG OR SHORT TERM POSITION
Long-term position
[ ] Have had or plan to have a short-term person, and are ready to search for permanent position.
[ ] May be easier to recruit for a permanent position.

Short-term position: Interim or Acting Capacity, or intentional short-term due to other factors
[ ] Have had a long tenure of the person previously holding the position (such as over 5 years)
[ ] Have had problems with the previous person in the position
[ ] There have been/are major changes in the institutional structure
[ ] Need more time to decide the requirements and functions of the position

What is the specified length of time? One year?[ ] Two years? [ ]

If a temporary religious educator is being sought, will the position 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 good practice extends this policy to religious educators. An “Acting” religious educator may apply for the permanent position.
Position Status
Strengths
Challenges
Long-term position, permanent

One search process
May be seen as "getting on with the program" faster
Congregation may not be ready for a long-term position
Short-term position: Interim (is not eligible for permanent position)

Can be more objective as congregation processes the change
The focus is on the congregational changes rather than ‘how I would like to do it.’
Separate search processes
Two changes
Short-term position: Acting Capacity (may apply for permanent position)
Gives opportunity to try the match.
Can provide continuity
Possibility of one search process
Separate search processes
Two changes
Person in the position may have a more ‘vested interest’ if there is a possibility of continuing.

II.D. TYPE OF STAFFING: Director or minister of Religious Education
Desired functions/skills of the position
[ ] Relevant experience
[ ] Familiarity with Unitarian Universalist curricula and resources
[ ] Organizational skills
[ ] Experience in working with volunteers
[ ] Ability to work collaboratively
[ ] Experience in designing worship for adults, children, intergenerational
[ ] Skills in conducting rites of passage
[ ] Skills in pastoral care
[ ] Skills in organizing and administering adult programs
[ ] Skills in small group facilitation

Director of Religious Education (DRE) is:
[ ] Is commonly non-ordained
[ ] Has a combination of practical experience and higher education in one of the following fields: education, religion, social service, and/or the arts.
[ ] 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

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.
[ ] 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.

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
III. RECRUITMENT/SEARCH PROCESS

III.A. RESOURCES: Blueprint for Excellence: Best Practices for Unitarian Universalist Congregations: The Search for Religious Education Leadership http://www25.uua.org/lreda/content/blueprint.html

III.B. SETTING UP THE SEARCH PROCESS
Development of the Search Committee
[ ] Establish funding for a search. (A continental search may cost as much as $2500 or more.)
[ ] Process for selection of the Search Committee (such as elected by the congregation or selected by the Board)
[ ] Size of Committee (Suggested size: 3-7 people)

Representative of the congregation: include
[ ] Parent
[ ] Teachers/leader
[ ] Possibly a youth
[ ] At least one non-involved, non-parent congregant
[ ] Representative of the RE Committee (?)

Determine:
[ ] The role and responsibilities of the Search Committee
[ ] How members will function with one another, with staff and lay leaders
[ ] How and when the committee will communicate with the congregation
[ ] Develop the time line for the search, realizing that changes may need to be made as the process evolves.
[ ] Clearly define and communicate the process for selection, such as who does the actual hiring and how? (Example: Search Committee recommendation to Board or Personnel Committee, etc.)

Scope of search
[ ] Internal to the congregation
Pros: Person would know the congregation and its programs
Cons: There would need to be specific discussion around moving from being a member of the congregation to being a staff.

[ ] External to the congregation
Pros: Would bring fresh perspective, especially with experience in other religious education positions
Cons: Would need orientation to the congregation and community.

[ ] Are there potential candidates?

Outreach -- where to place announcements, etc. (There may be some costs here.)
[ ] Local publications: newspapers
[ ] District meetings, listings, newsletters
[ ] UUA publications: The World (check lead time, charge?), UUA Website
[ ] Professional groups: LREDA web site, REACH-L

III.C. JOB DESCRIPTIONS
Job description: (Also use the following Guide)
[ ] In place [ ] Needs to be developed or revised
Guide to Creating a DRE Job Description/Advertisement (from UUA http://www.uua.org/programs/ministry/reco/creatingjobdescription.html March 2003
"The Search for Religious Education Leadership: Best Practices for Unitarian Universalist Congregations" recommends including the following elements in a job description advertisement for the search for a DRE:
[ ] Name & address of congregation
[ ] Title of Position: make it descriptive of the functions and roles within the congregation.
[ ] Time Frame: Is it a full-, half-, or less than half-time position? Describe it in hours or units, based on congregational personnel policy. Is it a permanent, acting, or interim position?
[ ] Goal: Briefly state the overall purpose of the position as it relates to your congregation's mission.
[ ] Statement of Accountability: In the organizational structure, to whom does the employee report and how? Will there be a supervisory body or person?
[ ] Responsibilities: Describe the categories and population for which the person in this position will have responsibility. Be sure to include only what can be accomplished realistically within the time frame of the position as you have designed it and for the compensation that has been designated.
[ ] Experience, Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities: State the kinds of experiences, academic background, knowledge, skills and abilities needed to do the job you want done. This is especially important when advertising the position. Be as clear as you can about what you are seeking.
[ ] Compensation:
Salary: If you do not wish to state a specific figure, indicate a range and whether it meets the current salary guidelines of the UUA.
Benefits: These may include full or partial payment of health, dental, long-term disability, and life insurance premiums, contributions to a retirement plan, etc.
Vacation, Study time, Sundays off per year
Professional Expenses: These are non-taxable funds to be used by the religious educator for such things as continuing education workshops, professional organization conferences, UUA General Assembly, travel, and books and periodicals.
In addition, include the following:
  • Additional information about your congregation and RE program: size of membership, size of children & youth population; mission or focus of congregation and RE program; unique characteristics of the congregation; if the congregation desires little change in the structure of the RE program/church school, the religious educator will want to know something about that basic structure.
  • What are the supervisory responsibilities for this position, if any?
  • Distinguish between what qualifications, skills, credentials, and other intangible characteristics are required for this position, and what are hoped for.
  • Contact information for a person interested in this position.
  • The market for experienced religious educators is very competitive. The more your congregation can do to make this position, and the way it is presented, attractive, the better off you will be. Be honest and straightforward, but keep in mind that your congregation may well have to "sell" itself a bit to prospective candidates.
  • It will be worth your while to make things as easy as possible for prospective candidates. This may mean adding more information to your job description, as long as it is clear, well-organized, and not over-whelming. You don't need to add all the details of the responsibilities: a summary in each category would do fine.
  • Please note that some congregations prefer to distribute a shorter summarized advertisement, leaving availability of a job description to be by request or on their web-site.

III D. INTERVIEWING
Guidelines for interviewing: There needs to be consistency in the process and interview team for the candidates.
[ ] Establish the interview team, such as representative from the Religious Education Committee, minister (
[ ] If the minister is not part of the interview, arrange for the applicant to meet with the minister, and/or for the minister to give feedback.
[ ] Questions and situations developed.
[ ] Clearly identify the process following the interview:
Who prepares the report of the interview
Who receives the report
Who makes the final decision on employment
Time frame for making the decision
How the decision is to be communicated to the applicant

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS --to be included somewhere in the planning
Review of Religious Education in the total church community
[ ] In preparation for a new person
[ ] As part of an interim's role
[ ] Expectation in the first 1-2 years of being in the job

IV. START-UP WITH NEW RELIGIOUS EDUCATOR

COMMITTEE
Time frame: As soon as possible after the religious educator is hired, such as with 1-3 months.
Start date ________________ Date of start-up visit ________________

A. The focus of the ‘start up’ visit from the District Program Consultant/Religious Education and Youth Specialist is to review the strengths and challenges of the new leadership arrangement, with the focus on the success of the arrangement:
[ ] Review the understanding by the religious educator, Religious Education Committee and minister of the expectations of the religious educator and way the program will function with this new leadership team
[ ] Identify/clarify areas that need attention and develop a plan for addressing these
[ ] Discuss the plan for professional development of the religious educator, including resources available

The ‘start up’ discussions need to involve the following, preferably in joint discussion:
[ ] Religious Educator
[ ] Religious Education Committee or a similar group
[ ] Minister (There is a separate start-up session for the minister and religious educator.)

B. Relationships between the religious educator and the committee
[ ] Are the respective religious educator and committee functions are clearly delineated in writing, such as job description, a task analysis, general description of the committee and religious educator roles?
[ ] Are the expectations of each reasonable?
[ ] Is line of authority for the committee (such as to the Board) and the religious educator clear?
[ ] Is the plan for ongoing review of the religious educator and the program in place? Clear?
Who, how, when?
[ ] What happens when the functions, as planned, are not working?

C. Professional development of the religious educator
[ ] Have the professional goals of the religious educator have been delineated?
[ ] Are the financial reimbursements clear and up to the UUA published criteria for location and size of the congregation and professional status of the religious educator?
[ ] Resources have been identified, including:
Educational programs
Related meetings and events
Relationship with the District Consultant
Covenant between the religious educator and the committee
[ ] Is the plan or covenant (expectations for working together, promises to each other) for religious educator/committee interactions clear?

D. Summary
[ ] Strengths
[ ] Challenges
[ ] The process

MINISTER
A. The educational ministry of the church
[ ] What are the respective visions and roles of the minister and religious educator in the educational ministry of the church?

[ ] How do are these roles complimentary?

[ ] How can and do ministers and religious educators work together to enhance the educational ministry of the congregation?

B. Relationships between the religious educator and the minister

[ ] How do ministers and religious educators develop a collegial relationship, what does that mean, and how does that work within the dynamics of congregational life?

[ ] What are the support mechanisms for each?

[ ] What are the professional standards that apply for ministers and for religious educators?

[ ] What is the best way to communicate, including methods, times, and other preferences?

[..] What regular meetings or interactions are in place? What is your commitment to those?

C. Summary
[ ] Strengths

[ ] Challenges

[ ] The Process

V. Evaluation of the Religious Educator
A. STRUCTURE OF EVALUATION
Although the program and the leadership are intertwined, is the evaluation of
[ ] The Religious Education program? (If so, this is not the appropriate tool.)
[ ] The Religious Education leader (Continue with this tool.)
The structure and process within which the evaluation is being held should have been part of recruitment and job description. However, it is helpful to clarify:
Who is involved in the evaluation and how?
What is the process and timeline?
What input does the religious educator have into the evaluation itself?
NOTE: The details given under C. are a sample. A member of the evaluating entity, the religious educator and other interested parties (minister, Religious Education Committee, etc.) will need to review and modify for your congregation.

B. OVERVIEW OF THE POSITION
It is helpful to review the parameters of the position:
Expected amount of time, such as Hours/Week:
Scope, including
[ ] Children [ ] Youth [ ] Young Adult [ ] Adult
How long the religious educator has been in the position:
[ ] Within the first year _______ [ ] 1-3 years _______
[ ] 3-5 years _______ [ ] over 5 years _______

C. CONSIDER THE FUNCTIONS DELINEATED IN THE JOB DESCRIPTION
Setting the stage for this evaluation starts with the Start-up or the last evaluation.
What functions that are of concern from previous evaluation, and goals of the congregation and the religious educator need specific consideration during this evaluation? (These can be discussed at the beginning, or as they relate to specific parts of the evaluation discussion.)

Competency Ratings:
Very Good: Consistently exceeds job responsibilities
Good: Consistently meets requirements of the job responsibility
Needs Improvement: Does not consistently meet job responsibilities
Unsatisfactory: Does not meet requirements of job responsibilities
For each section, give examples, followed by your rating.

Policies: Sign and endorse the church’s “Safe Congregations Policies”
Comments:

Administrative:
Maintains RE program records.
Comments

Coordinates activities—especially the yearly calendar—with the RECC, the minister and staff.
Comments:

Maintains office time concurrent with other staff including monthly staff meetings and a brief weekly meeting to coordinate with the minister; attends quarterly worship committee meetings; attends RECC meetings
Comments:

Helps recruit and train teachers and committees to carry out the RE program; assist with special events; insure nursery coverage
Comments:

Communications: Advocates for and publicize RE programs through newsletter articles, the web site, and other media; meets as needed with congregation members and parents; prepares regular reports; and coordinates with other DREs in the area.
Comments

Worship: Assists in planning, preparation, and presentation of family homilies, intergenerational services, and children’s worship activities; participates in life passage ceremonies as appropriate; teaches in classroom when a volunteer cannot attend.
Comments:

Curriculum: Researches and recommends curriculum; acts as curriculum resource;
supports and assists in youth programming; keeps current and gains expertise in UU curricula and RE philosophy.
Comments:

Professional Development: As time and budget allow: (a) attend and participate in Northeast District and other denominational events; (b) obtain additional relevant training; and (c) maintain membership in appropriate religious education professional organizations.
Comments:

Management Competencies:
Maintenance of routine procedures

Planning and Organizational skills: use of time and resources:

Dependability:

Other considerations or comments:

D. SUMMARY AND ACTIONS
Strengths:

Challenges

Give 3-5 Goals for Accomplishment between now and the next planned evaluation.

Specific action(s) that the Religious Education Committee, or other parts of the congregation are committing to in support of the religious educator, and the time frame(s).
Next Planned Evaluation:
VI. EXIT INTERVIEWS
The purpose of an exit interviews is to provide a snapshot of the congregation at this time in its history in the view of the departing DRE.

VIA. With the Religious Educator:
What were you able to accomplish? Or what are the contributions that you make to the religious education programming in this setting?
What were your greatest challenges?
What would you like to tell the incoming religious educator make the transition smooth and pointed toward success?
How are you feeling about your transition?
What will your role in the congregation be now?

VIB. With the Congregation—Use the questions under IB. Impact and possibly IC
1. What do you see as the three most significant accomplishments during this religious educator’s tenure
2. What were your frustrations and disappointments during this time?
3. How would you characterize the working relationship between the religious educator and
the minister?
other staff administrator
the Board
the religious education committee
the congregation
4. What are the patterns of power and influence in the congregation? How do things get done and who has informal power?
5. Does the congregation feel like a healthy, cooperative, and open set of relationships, or do some people feel cut out of the decision making process?
6. a. Is toxic behavior – such as an implicit or explicit ultimatum, a raised, angry voice, or more serious acting out – a feature of congregational life?
b. If so, what strategies has the congregation adopted to deal with such behavior or put limits on it?
7. a. Is there a committee of support for the religious educator?
Describe how it works. How effective has this committee been?
To what do you attribute its effectiveness?
  1. What has been your history of relating to religious educators (length of tenure, number of resignations, manner in which former religious educators departed, known reasons as to why they left)?
8. What are your expectations and priorities for the next religious educators of this church?
9. What currently attracts people to this congregation?
10. Are there obstacles that keep this congregation from becoming a more vital center of liberal religion education in this community? From being a family friendly church?
10. How do you assess the current institutional and spiritual health of the congregation? That is, how would you characterize congregational life and health?
11. If you had one wish on behalf of this congregation as a religiously educating community, what would it be?
12. If you had one gift to give to the departing religious educator, what would it be?
13. Do you have any further observations?



All materials copyright © 2008-2017 by Helen Zidowecki unless otherwise noted. - hzmre@hzmre.com - http://www.hzmre.com

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