Recruit, Select, Train, and Support Vocational Advisors

Recruiting and Selecting Vocational Advisors

The student liaison meets individually with ministers who are interested in being vocational advisors or those you wish to recruit for the role. Describe the program. Your overview brochure may be helpful. Explain:

Invite them to consider their current workload and whether it is possible to fulfill a commitment to being a vocational advisor. Assure them that it is ok to say “no,” commit for a fixed number of years, take sabbaticals from filling the role, and/or commit at some other time.

The student liaison retains the authority to determine if a minister is a good fit for the role.

Vocational Advisor Training

At the beginning of each school year, the student liaison conducts training for all vocational advisors. Elements to include in the training are:

  • Overview of your in care program
  • Why supporting students is best done in community
  • How other programs are doing this well
  • Description of benefits to ministers
  • Description of your in care system's organizational structure and offerings
  • Information about relationship between your in care program and the theological school(s)
  • Explanation of the vocational advisor role . If helpful, offer a chart comparing support roles.
  • Review of the Ministerial Formation process
  • Discussion and reflection for small groups
  • Suggestions for effective advisor relationships with those in preparation
  • Reflections from those who have been vocational advisors in the past. What worked well? What challenges did they face?
  • Tools and suggestions for advisors

Small Group Questions for Training

  • When has an advising relationship been healthy and strong for you? What were the characteristics?
  • When has an advising relationship seemed to fail for you? What went wrong?

Consider inviting a guest facilitator from the theological school, community, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), or elsewhere to offer insight on mentoring, theological reflection or any other subject that would benefit vocational advisors.

If there are ministers in your area who have been trained as mentors by the UUA /UUMA mentoring program, consider asking them for materials and suggestions to enhance this training.

Case Studies as a Useful Tool

Case studies are a way to teach those in preparation to practice theological reflection as they consider situations that arise in a congregational or community context. A detailed description for how to conduct a case study is found in the resource section of this guide.

How Vocational Advisors Support Those in Preparation

  • Invite students in aspirant status to the local Unitarian Universalist Minister Association (UUMA) chapter meetings as long as the aspirant reads and “signs” the UUMA Guidelines, including its Covenant and Code of Conduct. Attend the first chapter meeting with them and introduces them to other ministers in the chapter
  • Inform UUMA chapter president when student is a candidate so they can be invited to retreats
  • Invite students to process at ordinations and installations
  • 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 cluster or district events with students and reflect on both content and process
  • Encourage students to gain ministry experience at their home congregations by:

    • Attending worship committee meetings
    • Leading worship
    • Preaching
    • Facilitating or teach lifespan faith formation courses
    • Attending governing board meetings
    • Getting involved in social change efforts

Ongoing Support for Vocational Advisors

The student liaison is available to vocational advisors for ongoing individual support throughout the year, especially if issues arise that were not covered in the initial training. Midway through the year (January or February), the student liaison gathers the vocational advisors so they can share their experiences and learn from one another.

Comparison of Support Roles for Students

Type of Advisor Primary Goal Interaction
Minister Cares for student as a parishioner When student needs a minister to listen with compassion
In Care Vocational Advisor Helps with discernment and formation and does not evaluate the students’ work Regular meetings and when student is in professional discernment
Internship supervisor Supervises student’s work during internship and writes a written evaluation to the MFC Regular meetings and when student has questions of theological discernment and needs guidance at the internship site
Academic Advisor Helps navigate course curriculum and expectations at the seminary When student needs to plan course work, choosing between class options and instructors
Mentor Trained by the UUA/UUMA mentoring program. Improves the odds of successful ministries, especially for people from communities that have been historically marginalized. Required for ministers in Preliminary Fellowship and will be available for Candidates. As this program matures, it will inform in care program professional advisors.