In order for an in care program to offer students real-world experience in congregational life, ministers and congregations need to be informed and involved. The process of enlisting participation may take time and patience, and it will likely require individual meetings with ministers.
Your planning team can give a presentation about your program -or your vision for a program- at a Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA) chapter meeting. Introduce your program, describe the benefits to ministers and offer suggestions for how ministers and their congregation can get involved.
Suggest that ministers can:
- Invite students in aspirant status to the local UUMA chapter meetings as long as the aspirant reads and “signs” the UUMA Guidelines, including its Covenant and Code of Conduct. This is happening in several chapters. Note: Chapter retreats are still only attended by candidates for ministry.
- Invite students to process at ordinations and installations
- Offer brown bag lunch conversations for students at the seminary on a topic of their choice
- Attend other planned student and minister gatherings
- Offer mock interviews to students preparing to see the Ministerial Fellowship Committee
- Invite them to co-officiate or observe memorial services and weddings
- Invite them to meet with you and the religious educator to learn about lifespan faith formation and working with professional staff in congregations
- Attend General Assembly workshops with students and reflect afterward
- Attend District events with students and reflect on both content and process
After you have presented these ideas to ministers, ask them to indicate their interest. Map their interest to your plans for the next year so you know if you have the support necessary to implement your plans. If you have developed a professional advisor program, describe it and ask for volunteers.
Urge Ministers to Involve Congregations
Congregations who interact with students through an in care program get a sense of the trajectory of ministerial formation and see themselves as partners in the process. They come to realize they are part of something larger than their own congregation. The congregation can become more vibrant when they invite students to become involved. Recommend to ministers work that they work with staff and lay leaders to invite students to become active in congregations in these and other creative ways:
- Attend worship committee meetings
- Lead worship
- Facilitate or teach lifespan faith formation courses
- Attend governing board meetings
- Get involved in social change efforts
- Gather with other students to attend worship and meet with them afterward
Congregations can be involved by offering excellent ministerial internship programs.
They can also encourage members to consider a vocation in religious leadership and refer those people to your in-care program to help with vocational discernment.
Involve Religious Educators and Lay Leaders
In addition to meeting with the UUMA chapter, the planning team can give a presentation about your program at a Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) chapter meeting or at a cluster, district, or regional congregational gathering to inform and seek support.