Serving a Small Number
If there are four or fewer Unitarian Universalist students enrolled at a particular theological school, one good option to recruit a minister to serve as the denominational representative to the seminary. The denominational representative has relationships with more than one student at a time and is compensated for spending the extra time required for multiple relationships.
You can apply for a seeding grant from the UUA to pay the denominational representative a stipend. Typically, such a person meets with each student individually for one hour per month.
Meetings with Denominational Representative
First Two or Three Meetings
- Develop a covenant to set expectations for the relationship.
- Listen to the student’s story about their life, faith journey, decision to prepare for ministry, future goals in ministry.
Suggestions for Content of Subsequent Meetings
- Take some specific sample of the student’s course work and reflect on it together, thinking about both effectiveness of their theses and the underlying assumptions or principles around how the student is expressing their call in their work. Give practical suggestions as warranted to help teach a process of theological reflection.
- Consider the questions that have emerged for the student since you last met. How is the student doing in meeting their own goals?
- Pay attention to where are they are in the UU ministerial fellowship process. What comes next? What should they be working on?
- Fourth Session: Do a process check to see if the covenant and relationship are working. Should there be some tweaking? Are there any style conflicts, etc., that should be addressed or noted?
- After a year: conduct another process check and decide on whether to continue the relationship in this way the following year.
It is the student who faces adaptive challenges at this stage. They might not know what they want or need in terms of ministerial or faith formation. They can be laden with fear, insecurity and inexperience. For example, to invite a student to lead worship at a congregation may seem like a generous offer, but it may be met with resistance or avoidance. Students are typically busy (or even overwhelmed!) with the amount of coursework. Asking them to organize learning opportunities for themselves beyond their coursework may be too much to expect. Students need to be offered pastoral care and invited to events that they do not have to organize.
Denominational represntatives should be aware that students may feel as though the in-care program is just one more hoop through which they must jump instead of a support structure for them. To counter this impression, give careful attention to offering pastoral care as part of the relationship as well as offering a student(s) reflection and feedback that is sensitive to the topics and concerns they bring to the meetings.