Important Information about Interim Minister Searches This Year
We are in an unprecedented situation with regards to the interim ministerial search this year, one that has not occurred in the recent history of Unitarian Universalism. In the broadest description, the issue is that there are significantly more congregations this year looking for interim ministries than there are ministers available to fulfill those interim ministries. Not Interim Ministers… ministers. There are significantly more congregations looking for an interim ministry this year than there are experienced or Accredited Interim Ministers available… and even the number of available ministers without interim experience is smaller than normal.
There are several reasons for this situation. The first is that with the recovery of the economy, there has been a significant increase in the number of Unitarian Universalist Ministers who have chosen to retire from the ministry this year. This has a double effect upon the availability of interim and transitional ministers, in that it has meant an increase in the number of congregations requesting an Interim Minister, and it means that many ministers who might otherwise be available to “take up the slack” are leaving active ministry for retirement.
There is also a growing trend of Unitarian Universalist Ministers feeling called to ministries outside of the congregational setting. Justice making efforts, non-profit organizations, chaplaincy, and even some business settings are drawing more and more Unitarian Universalist ministers into engagement with the wider world. While this is in many ways a beautiful and hopeful thing, it also means that fewer of the ministers of our liberal faith tradition are looking for congregational based ministries.
There is a perception amongst our congregations that there is some great pool of available ministers out there, who are just waiting for an opportunity to serve congregations of our liberal faith tradition. While that may have been true at one time, it is no longer true. Many currently serving Unitarian Universalist Ministers are looking to retire from congregational ministry in the next few years. Other ministers are finding more and more opportunities to practice ministry outside of congregational settings. And some congregations are expanding their own staffs by hiring multiple ministers for the first time.
Our opportunities for professional ministry within the world are expanding, even as we are seeing a generational shift in those retiring from our ministry. And that means that a congregation simply cannot expect, when a minister leaves (or is encouraged to leave by congregants), that there will be a deep pool of candidates for that open ministerial position. Not for the foreseeable future.
For all of the congregations in search for an interim minister this year, our thoughts and prayers are with you as we navigate what can only be an anxious time. For all of the congregations who are wondering about their relationships with the ministers who are currently serving their congregations, we invite you to think deeply and closely about that relationship, in light of this changing and shifting reality. And for all of of our ministerial colleagues who are having to make difficult discernment decisions about where and how to practice your ministry, we walk with you in spirit.
Be well and Blessed,
The Central East Regional Staff