Assess Student Needs
An in care program invites students into a deep understanding of ministry from the very beginning of their preparation. It provides a continuity of learning and formation as they move through academic preparation, field education and internship, preparation for and appearance before the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, and the beginning years of ministry. It is important to identify students as early in their process as possible.
Identify Unitarian Universalist (UU) Students
Unless someone on your planning team is adjunct faculty, a theological school may be unwilling to provide contact information for UU students due to privacy laws. Contact the Ministerial Credentialing Director at the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) for names of applicants enrolled at the school. Reach out to students you know and ask them to identify others. Hopefully students will contact you because they have heard about the program, but it is important to be proactive in reaching out to them.
A designated member(s) of the planning team (and later the steering committee) should contact each student individually to build a relationship, describe your program and assess their needs. When setting up initial conversations with students, ask them to set aside an hour for this purpose. You can customize and use your program brochure to share.
Some questions to ask each student include:
- How long have you been a Unitarian Universalist?
- To which churches have you belonged over time?
- Which congregation do you attend now?
- What led you to pursue Unitarian Universalist ministry?
- What do you picture yourself doing in ministry?
What experience do you have already in:
- Pastoral care
- Prophetic outreach/ social change
- How familiar are you with the ministerial formation process?
- Do you have family? What are their needs? How are they being met at this time?
- What are you doing for personal renewal?
- What are the biggest obstacles you are facing now?
- How can local ministers and congregations best support you?
- How do you like to communicate? Email? Facebook? Website?
The challenge at this stage is that those in preparation can be overwhelmed and not know what they need. In care support begins with listening to what they have to say and offering to accompany them in their process.
Determine Next Steps
Based on the needs of the overall student group, the planning committee should decide what roles and structures are appropriate at this stage of your program – denominational representative, student liaison, project facilitator, steering committee, and/or professional advisors. Your group might also customize student minister gatherings and/or create new offerings.