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Student and Minister Gatherings

Developed by Rev. Jann Halloran

Building Community

The primary purpose of student and minister gatherings is to build community while at the same time including skill development and topics useful in ministerial preparation. Ideally, the gatherings are primarily discussion rather than presentation so as to engage participants and facilitate building community. 

Planning Student and Minister Events

Assembling students and ministers in person can be a challenge. While some existing in care programs strive to gather students and ministers in person monthly or quarterly, others hold just one retreat a year and/or host online gatherings. Gatherings are planned and executed by the in care planning team or steering committee because it can be unduly stressful for students to reach out to each other and organize events. With any format, it is important to ask for RSVPs so that event facilitators know the size and nature of the group in advance.

Ideally, cluster or district events be incorporated in the calendar of student and minister gatherings, preferably with time allotted for students to reflect afterward with each other and/or with their professional advisors. In particular, include social change events and any training related to anti-racism, anti-oppression and multiculturalism as part of your plan. Social gatherings (like holiday parties) for ministers, students and their partners should also be included in the yearly calendar.


Plan student and minister gatherings each year after identifying student needs or re-evaluating them. Ideally, planning will be done before the vocational advisor training so that vocational advisors can attend with aspirants and candidates, creating an inclusive learning community.  Consider building a three or four year event calendar so that topics are rotated and students get exposure to as many topics as possible during their theological school experience. 

Suggested topics for gatherings include:

  • Ingathering and orientation
  • Annual retreat
  • Calling and discernment
  • Maximizing the internship experience—testimonials from students who have recently completed theirs
  • The Ministerial Fellowship Committee essays—small group reflection and discussions using the essay topics
  • Community ministry—a discussion led by a community minister who can share their ministry and examples of others.  
  • Congregation administration overview and discussion
  • Managing congregational finances (PDF).
  • Cultivating generosity and stewardship
  • Issues in Unitarian Universalist (UU) professional ethics—Review of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA) Guidelines with a look at the day-to-day practice of collegiality. Consider developing case studies to highlight topics of particular interest.
  • History and theology of worship
  • Theme-based ministry and worship 
  • Multigenerational worship
  • Storytelling in preaching—workshop offered by minister who does this well
  • Memorial services—workshop or discussion led by a minister who has developed materials on this subject
  • Weddings—workshop or discussion led by a minister who has developed materials on this subject
  • Non-violent communication—an exploration led by someone who has used Marshall Rosenberg’s work in congregational and/or community ministry settings
  • Healthy Congregations: Emotional systems theory for UU Leaders—a workshop led by a minister who can bring real examples from their ministry
  • Ethics of congregational polity—a workshop offered by a minister who can offer real examples 
  • Leadership development
  • Time management and self care
  • Year-end closing celebration

As in care programs expand and new learning communities are formed, we invite those involved to submit topics and resources that have been used effectively.