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Professional Development and Support
Professional Development for the Staff of Unitarian Universalist Congregations

Why Staff Development?

Congregational staff are leaders, modelers, and tone-setters. Well-equipped, spirit-filled staff provide consistent, skilled, accountable leadership, which in turn builds capacity and ownership among the laity and enables congregations to thrive.

The world of professional religious leadership is complex and ever-changing: religious life is shifting in society, congregational needs are evolving, innovations are tried and shared, and new best practices emerge. To serve competently, confidently, and faithfully, staff must be intentional about their professional growth, and they should receive support and encouragement from their congregations for their ongoing formation.

In addition to strengthening the ministries of the congregation, regular professional development averts burnout, amplifies professionalism, and reinforces collegial relationships through shared learning.

Questions and concerns about staffing, staff performance, and personnel issues in your congregation should be directed to your regional staff.

General Resources for Staff Development and Support

  • Professional Learning Units for Staff (PLUS Program): A series of learning units for new staff, covering a variety of topics. Each unit takes roughly one hour to complete.
  • From Starting to Parting (PDF): A resource to guide congregations in recruiting, hiring, supporting, and transitioning staff (with a focus on music and religious education staff)
  • Give Yourself the Gift of Professional Development: Available as a webinar (video) or transcript (Word DOC file). In this December 2014 Faith Development Office webinar, Jan Gartner, UUA Professional Development Specialist, discusses: What is “professional development?" Why is it essential? How do you choose and fund professional development activities and fit them into your schedule? While this webinar was developed for religious educators, most of the content translates well to other professional areas.
  • Growing Vital Leaders: A Working Model for Leadership Development: Developed with lay leaders in mind, this framework is appropriate for staff, as well. Each building block description links to a page of resources.
  • Fair Compensation: Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) salary guidelines

Resources for Specific Professional Areas

Ordained Ministry

Ministers are spiritual and organizational leaders in our faith communities, with responsibilities that generally include leading worship, providing pastoral care, and working with staff and lay leaders to set direction for all of the ministries of the congregation.    

Religious Education (a.k.a. Faith Development or Faith Formation)

Religious educators provide faith development program leadership for the congregation’s children, youth, and/or adults. Although “RE” brings to mind Sunday morning classes for children, it is understood that faith formation actually happens all week long, all church wide, and throughout the lifespan. The work of the religious educator is increasingly integrated with other ministries, and the role of the family is emphasized.


Music is an essential component of worship in nearly every congregation. Staff musicians play a critical role in shaping the worship experience and the culture of their congregations.


Depending on the particular needs of the congregation, membership staff can attend to a wide range of responsibilities. Most positions center on visitor tracking and support, member engagement, and leadership development. The membership professional is likely to interface with most staff and key leaders.


Administrative staff are responsible for a variety of operations. Specific duties vary widely, generally revolving around communications, facilities, purchasing, finances, and general church administration.

For more information contact

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