Before You Begin
These pages offer suggestions for implementing the components of an in care program. There is not one correct method or sequence of implementation. If you read the histories of existing programs you will note that each has done it differently. In many programs, one person fulfills several of the roles or tasks described in this section. The one element all programs have in common is involvement from Congregational Life Staff. This is a highly recommended first step.
Take care to review the models below and to carefully review materials about possible components before you begin developing a program that suits your context and resources.
Existing In Care Program Models
The oldest and most developed and complex program began with the work of one staff person at Iliff seminary, who saw a need and, over time, found area ministers and district staff who shared her vision. It initially offered practical workshops, preaching experience, and experience conducting rites of passage to seminarians. Over time, the program’s leadership moved from a planning committee to a more formal steering committee, and added many components, including professional advisors and regular workshops and other gatherings. The program began to pay careful attention to the role of the congregation in ministerial formation. For more details, read the history of the development of the Mountain Desert District Program.
Metro New York
Another well-established program, this one began with a partnership between a district staff person and a minister who saw a need, developed a program, and then advocated with area clergy. A coordinator was hired to nurture relationships with ministers, offer workshops, and meet regularly with seminarians, offering help with finding sites for field education and internships. As the program grew, seminarians were matched with ministry mentors and the number and variety of workshops and other opportunities expanded. For more details, read the history of the development of the Metro New York District Program.
This program began when the district executive sought grant funding and hired a chaplain for Unitarian Universalist seminarians at Wesley. He established a steering committee to oversee the program. The program expanded and a Liaison to Students was engaged to coordinate programs, connect with and keep track of students, provide advising, work with steering committees at both Wesley and Lancaster, and reach out to distance learners enrolled at Unitarian Universalist (UU) seminaries who live in JPD. Recently, it has expanded to include retreats and minister mentors for seminarians. For more details, read the history of the development of the Joseph Priestley District Program.
Pacific Southwest District
This program began when the district Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA) chapter designated a liaison to Claremont School of Theology. As the program grew, the liaison remained the primary organizer, but other ministers became involved. The program offered annual retreats open to both local multidenominational seminaries and to students from Starr King and Meadville Lombard who live in the area. Local ministers have begun to serve as mentor, and to offer opportunities to preach and to receive feedback from selected lay leaders. The program is working on better supporting those preparing for community ministry. For more details, read the history of the development of the Pacific Southwest District Program.
Prairie Star District
There was a long tradition of UU Students at Union Theological Seminary, with regular UU courses offered. The district executive and a local UU minister designed a program which offered opportunities for seminarians to preach, offering small congregations a chance to have a visit from a seminarian several times a year. Seminarians have monthly gatherings, and are able to arrange mock MFC interviews. There is no paid staff; four area ministers manage the program with the support of the district. For more details, read the history of the development of the Prairie Star District Program.
Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis
This program began when the seminary showed interest in supporting Unitarian Universalist students. They invited a UU minister to provide guidance to Unitarian Universalist students and to answer faculty questions about Unitarian Universalism and about the MFC process. This minister works with the seminary and with local congregations to help students better integrate their seminary experience with experience in Unitarian Universalist settings and knowledge of Unitarian Universalist tradition and MFC processes. For more details, read the history of the development of the St. Louis Program.
Tasks in Program Development
These tasks are listed so as to reflect increasing levels of complexity in a program. Begin with just a few, undertaking the ones that fit your situation, and then expand and strengthen your program to fit your needs and resources.
- Involve Congregational Life Staff
- Form an Assessment and Planning Team
- Assess Student Needs
- Seek Funding
- Appoint a Project Facilitator
- Build Relationships with Theological School(s)
- Appoint a Denominational Representative
- Seek Broad Support
- Form a Learning Community
- Appoint a Liaison to Students
- Recruit, Select, Train, and Support Vocational Advisors
- Define Vocational Advisor Role
- Establish Student Leadership
- Form a Steering Committee
- Organize Communications and Documents
- Offer Discernment Support
- Support Isolated Aspirants and Candidates
Adaptive challenges for each component are included in the description. An "adaptive challenge" is one which requires developing the organizational, cultural, and spiritual capacity to meet problems successfully according to our values and purposes. It often requires clarification and integration of competing values.
Authors Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Marty Linsky say that adaptive challenges are not solved with solutions that are technical, quick fixes based on things that have worked in the past. Rather, they involve:
- Learning and experimentation versus knowing
- All stakeholders taking responsibility for making change, not just the authority
- Accepting and navigating potential conflict and loss
- Realizing timeframes and solutions are often unclear
- The role of the authority figure is to move the group through a period of productive disequilibrium
Starting an in care program can be an adaptive challenge that requires these mindsets.
Share Your Experiences and Resources
We hope you will find the instructions in this guide useful and that you will contact the Ministerial Credentialing Office Director to share your additions and suggestions.