Build Relationships with Theological Schools
While your in care program is not a program of the theological schools, it is important to build relationships with those schools as you design and implement your program.
Name a Liaison
Ideally, someone on your planning team (and later, steering committee) is a graduate of the school and is willing to become a liaison to the staff there. Whether or not this is the case, designate one person from your team or committee.
Meet with Seminary Staff
The liaison meets with a seminary staff person involved in student relations to discover the school’s current relationship with Unitarian Universalism, describe the in care program, and determine how to best work together. The liaison can attend the meeting prepared to share specific stories and experiences of their own or those of others who attended the school.
Discover the Current Situation
- Ask how many Unitarian Universalist students are enrolled.
- Explore their history with Unitarian Universalist students and whether professors are aware of Unitarian Universalism.It is good for Unitarian Universalist students if theology, history, pastoral care and worship/homiletics professors are aware of the rich theological diversity within Unitarian Universalism
- Learn about their field education requirements and processes.
- Determine what financial aid they offer so that you can describe it to students.
- Discover whether they are receptive to adjunct faculty offering Unitarian Universalist courses and whether there are enough students to warrant classes in areas such as Unitarian Universalist History, Polity, Religious Education, and Theology.
Describe your Current and Proposed In Care Program
- Describe the program
- Emphasize the benefits to them
- Explore other ways that a relationship with Unitarian Universalist students, ministers and congregations would be advantageous to them. For example, perhaps they have community events or social change initiatives that would benefit from Unitarian Universalist involvement.
Determine How to Work Together
- Determine the best person or people on their staff with whom to communicate regularly.
- Describe the Unitarian Universalist requirements for a full time internship, negotiate how that will fulfill their requirements, and determine what processes will ensure completion for all parties involved.
- Offer to meet with faculty to inform them about Unitarian Universalism.
- Explore the best ways to distribute information to Unitarian Universalist students (especially new students) about your in care program. If students have submitted any paperwork to the UUA Ministerial Credentialing Office, the office will have record of them and can provide you names of students enrolled at the school.
Note: Privacy laws prevent the school from giving you a list of students, but they may be willing to give new UU students a copy of a brochure.
- Determine if they hold denominational breakout sessions at their new student orientation. If so, could you attend?
- If it is feasible to offer Unitarian Universalist courses, explore particulars such as tuition, credit, and stipends for instructors.
Building relationships with theological schools takes time and persistence. It can be hard to navigate the school’s policies and appropriate contacts. If there is not a critical mass of Unitarian Universalist students, there may initially be little interest in developing a relationship with an in care pprogram. Perseverance can pay off.
The Living into Covenant program in the Mountain Desert District has been building a relationship with Iliff School of Theology gradually over years. In its eighth year, the President of the school invited local Unitarian Universalist ministers to lunch. He said that Unitarian Universalist students represented the third largest denomination of students, and he thanked ministers for their support of Iliff. Then he asked how the school could better respond to the needs of Unitarian Universalist students and congregations in the area. It was a sign that a true partnership had been built. All stakeholders were creating a solution that was benefitting each of them.