Interim Religious Education Professionals & Ministries

The information on this page is written specifically about interim religious educators; most of it is applicable to interim musicians and other program staff hired to serve in an interim capacity.

The departure of a religious educator can be a fruitful time for reflection, visioning, and change. An interim religious education professional provides specialized skills and tools to help a congregation prepare for robust new leadership. Note that a staff member hired primarily as a "placeholder," or with the possibility of longer-term employment, is not considered interim.

Interim religious educators are typically hired for 1-2 years, and the interim is generally not eligible to apply for the settled position. A deliberate transition period has a shape and momentum that set it apart from time with a settled leader, so a limited-time role helps ensure that the congregation stays focused on its developmental work. This intentionally temporary status also allows the professional to shine light on uncomfortable truths and to work with the congregation to effect difficult changes that may be necessary for future health and success; such efforts would be easily compromised if this staff member were meanwhile "auditioning" for the long-term position.

The information and events described below are for religious education professionals and congregations seeking more information about the work and the training of the interim religious educator, as well as for staff looking to better understand interim ministry during times of ministerial transition.

Professional Interim Training

Twice a year, the UUA Office of Church Staff Finances hosts a six-week, online interim training for professional staff in congregations. Learn more about Professional Interim Training.

Skills and Tools of the Interim Professional

  • Knowing what questions to ask to facilitate a process.
  • Exercising the ability to listen.
  • Soliciting and valuing multiple perspectives about past, present, and future in regards to events, circumstances, and hopes.
  • Gathering and analyzing feedback.
  • Applying a congregational systems lens to programmatic work.
  • Being visible within and beyond the religious education arena.
  • Offering vision.
  • Clarifying scope of work and priorities.
  • Modeling good self-care and clear boundaries.
  • Demonstrating comfort in navigating change by providing a stable, non-anxious presence.

Developmental Tasks for the Interim Period

As developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Interim Director of Religious Education (DRE) Visioning Team in 2005. Updated by the UUA Office of Professional Development and Guild of Interim Religious Educators in October 2013.

  1. Coming to Terms with History
    • Helping the congregation’s leaders to get a perspective on its RE history and culture.
    • Helping the congregation claim, honor and appreciate its past and work toward health and healing.
    • Gathering information and viewpoints about past events and circumstances.
    • Helping congregation and RE leaders to process the transition of the predecessor.
  2. Evolving a Unique Religious Education Program Identity
    • Helping the congregation to gain a new understanding of itself as a lifelong learning community.
    • Helping the congregation’s religious education community to gain self-awareness of its wholeness: emotional, spiritual, and sociological status.
    • Illuminating the congregation's unique RE program identity: its strengths, its needs, its challenges.
    • Helping to make connections with other committees and groups in the congregation in its shared ministry to children, youth, and adults.
    • Evaluating the RE program and its safe congregations policies and procedures.
  3. Leadership Changes During the Interim Period
    • Helping to identify the changes needed in RE program structure and staffing.
    • Clarifying the multiple dimensions of leadership and aiding in navigating the shifts in leadership that accompany times of transition.
    • Advocating for strong lay RE leadership development.
    • Helping to empower the congregation and RE leadership through positive attitude.
    • Modeling new approaches, practices and procedures.
    • Nurturing collegial relationships with other staff.
  4. Renewing Associational Linkages
    • Raising awareness among the RE Program leaders and congregation about the importance of Unitarian Universalist Association and your local UUA district and region.
    • Renewing connections with available resources and services within the district, region, and the UUA, including Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA), Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA) and other RE and lifespan faith development resources.
  5. Commitment to Future Program Vitality
    • Enabling the congregation to renew its vision, strengthen its stewardship, prepare for new professional leadership, and engage its future with anticipation and zest.
    • Helping the congregation focus their energies on the future in a positive way.
    • Planning closure and having an effective leave-taking strategy.
    • Serving as a resource to the congregations religious educator search process.
    • Implementing change while leaving the system open to future changes.
    • Developing and implementing a transition strategy for transferring information to next religious educator.

Recommended Resources

About the Author

Jan Gartner

Jan is passionate about helping congregations live out their values within their walls!...

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