Review Team: Career Assessment for Ministers
Working with the Director of Ministry and Professional Leadership and the Transitions Director, the Ministerial Development Director helps manage career assessment work with ministers as they move out of conflicted situations so that they can better understand their strengths and needs, seek counsel and support and move ahead in appropriate directions in their careers.
The Ministerial Assessment Process
When a minister experiences considerable conflict or a difficult parting with a congregation or other institution, it has long been the practice of the UUA Ministry and Professional Leadership Staff Group (MPL) to ask that minister to participate in a process of assessment. What constitutes such a difficult parting is clear in some cases—a negotiated settlement or a vote to terminate—and more complicated in others. In general, the assessment process is requested when the stress on the minister, the lay leadership, or both has been high. Often the assessment process can go forward while the minister is serving in an interim capacity and/or during search for a new called position. In cases where the minister's emotional state appears raw; when serious issues of ministerial ethics, effectiveness, or emotional health have arisen; or where repeated negotiations have occurred, the minister may be asked to consider her or himself to be on hold for settlement until the assessment process has been concluded.
The assessment process serves to help both the minister and MPL to:
- Develop a more complete perspective on both the recent professional challenges and on the overall direction of a ministry
- Understand more clearly the causes for and the lessons of conflict or challenge
- Deal with any feelings of loss, anger, frustration, or hurt
- Identify appropriate opportunities for future service.
The assessment process does not presume that the minister was to blame for the event. Rather, it encourages the minister to identify his or her part in the situation, in order to better understand his or her ministry in light of it, and, together with MPL, to arrive at decisions about the minister's appropriate service in the future. Correspondingly, it is the task UUA District staff and the successor interim minister to encourage the congregation's lay leaders to examine their role in the conflict.
The Assessment Process
The first step in the assessment process is for the minister to contact the Ministerial Development Director. This contact can be made even before the final details of departure have been worked out.
She will review the situation from the minister's point of view, and may consult with District staff and, with the minister's permission, the UUMA Good Offices person and other colleagues able to add their own perspectives to what happened. The goal is to assist the minister in arriving at as full an understanding of what happened as possible, for the sake of the minister's deepest possible learning and best possible determination about the future direction for his or her ministry.
As part of the initial assessment process the minister is usually asked to write a reflective essay. The essay should examine the minister's part in the rupture of relationships and other events that led to the ministry's end while showing insight into the perspectives of those leaders with whom the minister may be in disagreement. Empathy being an essential tool of ministry, the essay should aim to represent the views of antagonists in ways that reflect their self-understanding. In addition, the minister is asked to step back from the recent experience and to take a broader look at his or her ministry, to see if similar patterns have appeared under similar circumstances, to assess what has been learned, and to give some sense of what may be the way forward now. The essay may be of any reasonable length. It may be submitted by mail, fax, or email to the Ministerial Development Director.
When the essay is received, it is considered to be confidential and will be read only by the Ministerial Transitions Director, the Ministerial Development Director, and the Director of Ministry and Professional Leadership. The three of them will meet, review their impressions of the essay, and develop any recommendations they may wish to make to the minister for additional work, such as participation in a career assessment program, individual or group therapy, spiritual direction or other programs of continuing education, and/or clearance for settlement, perhaps with certain restrictions or cautions.
The assessment process takes time, usually three to four months, sometimes more. In part, the timing is related to the minister's ability and desire to move ahead. Taking time at this point for reflection and work is a good investment.
If work at a career center is recommended, the cost has been about $1,400. MPL will pay 50% of that amount, which is usually billed directly to the attention of the Ministerial Development Director. The minister is responsible for any requested deposits and his or her share of the overall cost. Other financial support is available, if needed, for appropriate counseling, spiritual direction, or continuing education programs.
If the Minister Disagrees
A minister not in agreement with MPL's recommendations should discuss the matter with the Director of MPL. If dissatisfaction continues, the matter should be raised with the Settlement Working Group of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. The Transitions Director will not send to congregations in search the name or Ministerial Record of a minister on hold for settlement and will take to the Ministerial Fellowship Committee the name of a minister who pursues the search process while on hold.
The usual outcome of the assessment process for the minister is greater clarity about his or her ministerial skills, interests, and direction and and re-entry into the search process and assistance therein by the Ministerial Transitions Director.
For more information contact ministerialdevelopment @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.
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