Give Yourself the Gift of Professional Development

Video: 55 minutes.

ALICIA LEBLANC: Welcome to the Faith Development webinar series. The webinar this month is titled "Give Yourself the Gift of Professional Development." My name is Alicia LeBlanc. I'm the Administrative and Editorial Assistant of the Faith Development Office. I will be co-hosting this webinar with Pat Kahn. And our presenter tonight is Jan Gartner.

PAT KAHN: Great. Thank you, Alicia. And it's my privilege and pleasure to introduce you to my good friend and colleague Jan Gartner. She is the professional development specialist in the ministries and faith development, is the overall department staff group. And Jan is in the Professional Development Office.

We're sort of like sister offices-- a sister office to the Faith Development Office. We do a lot of things together. So we're really excited to have Jan here tonight to talk to us about professional development. Let me go through a few housekeeping things.

Everybody is already muted, so thank you. And you don't have your cameras on, so thank you for that as well. We found that the more cameras, the less the bandwidth. So we'll take care of that.

We will have time for questions and answers at the end of the webinar. And you could use your red flag to highlight that you want us to call on you. Or you can type it into the Chat Box. We found that there is new Fuze and old Fuze, two different versions. So raising the red flag in old Fuze is easy, and it's not as straightforward in new Fuze.

But if you just go ahead and practice real quick, see if you can raise your red flag, except for you, Bob, because you're on the phone. Jill and Sarah-- oh, Bob can do it, OK. Great. And Jill and Sarah-- there's Sarah. Yay. OK, doesn't-- and then, you could click on it again, Sarah, to lower your flag.

So it's gonna be easy because we don't have a whole bunch of people on the webinar tonight. Although, we are expecting more. You can just type a comment or a question into the Chat Box. And as we're going through the webinar, Alicia will be adding links or other information into the Chat Box.

In old Fuze, where the Chat Box is on the left-hand side of the screen, you can copy and paste into a Word document at the end of the webinar to capture all the things that have been there. But Alicia will be doing that as well. So if you're not able to get to it, we will still capture that information and sent it out.

And so no more housekeeping. Oh, yes, there is. If you do have an audio problem, you can mute the audio on your computer and call in by phone. And Alicia, as she said, is recording this webinar. And it'll be posted at the URL that's on your screen right now. And we'll show you that again at the end.

And so now, we'll just take a minute to center ourselves. And I will read these opening words. May this flame, symbol of transformation since time began, fire our curiosity, strengthen our wills, and sustain our courage as we seek what is good within and around us. From the Reverend Bets Wienecke. And with that, I'm going to turn it over to Jan.

JAN GARTNER: Hi, everybody. It's great to be with you. And I know this is a really busy time of year. So I especially appreciate you making time this evening to be with us. I'll just briefly run through what I'm planning to talk about tonight.

What is professional development? And why is it important? Thinking about your motivations, different kinds of professional development and thinking a bit about your own professional development pathway. I'll run through some specific professional development opportunities to make sure you're aware of them. We will talk about time and money, two topics that pervade our thoughts often. And we'll make sure there's some time for your questions.

So professional development, you can find many definitions. And this is really one that I made up, and it's a work in progress. Any experience that helps you do your job more confidently, competently, and/or authentically, I would call that professional development, as well as any experience that helps you expand your current job into new areas of responsibility, or to prepare for a new job or advance in your career.

And also, professional development includes experiences that help you gain professional recognition or better compensation. And I'll just say a note about that word, "authentically." Sometimes, you might feel like you have the basic skills and understandings to do your job. Authentic, to me, has to do with really experiencing your work as faith formation, being theologically grounded, and doing your work in sync with Unitarian Universalist principles and values.

Why is professional development important for you? Well, I think it's just fundamental to who we are as Unitarian Universalists. Right? Revelation is continuous. We are always learning. And so this is in keeping with that spirit of who we want to be as religious people and, certainly, who we want to be as educators. Right? We want to model learning.

You may have noticed that things seem to be changing all the time. Right? New technologies and new models of programming, different ways of thinking about congregations. So just to kind of hold steady and keep doing your job just sort of the way you've done it, you still need to be learning, to be gaining skills and getting new understandings of things, just to keep up with the flow.

And I also think that professional development is a critical piece of self-care. It helps protect you against burnout, to stay fresh, to network, to be learning new things, to read and reflect, all that good stuff.

So those are wonderful talking points for yourself. But your congregation, if you want to have a professional expense line, for instance, or to be given some time for professional development and not be told that that's part of your time off, you want to be able to make a case for why this is a good idea for your congregation. So I have a few talking points here, too.

First of all, when you learn, you integrate that into your work, and you have stronger, more vital programming. It also helps with your general professionalism, your boundaries and your relationships with staff and congregation members. Your professional development can really help you with those professional identity pieces. Again, your congregation is probably somewhat aware, also, of the need to stay abreast in a rapidly changing environment. And then, they might also appreciate that it is care and feeding of the staff, again, that protecting against burnout.

I wish I had just the perfect piece of universal advice for you. If you're thinking, gosh, there's so many things I'd love to do, I don't have the budget, my congregation doesn't really understand, we'll come back to that a little bit when we talk about time and money. Situations are varied.

Sometimes, you'll have allies in your congregation who can help, you know someone on the RE committee who might see a wonderful thing and think, wow, wouldn't it be great if we could send our DRE to that? I will hope for all of you that your supervisor is an advocate for you of continuing to grow and learn in your position. So we'll come back to that. But I want to let you know that I recognize that it just feels really hard sometimes because there's so many things that you'd like to do that don't seem possible within your budget or your work week.

I want to say a note about interims. I don't know if any of you are doing or have done interim work. An interim is, by definition, someone who's only in a position for a limited period of time. And our interims have a special challenge in convincing their congregations that they should be invested in. And of course, that's a way of paying it forward.

So if any of you kind of get this, well, you're only here for a year or two, we're going to save it for the next person, that's worth pushing on a bit. Because the system only works if every congregation really recognizes the imperative of helping their staff grow. So whoever your staff is now, they deserve encouragement to be continuing learners in their work.

So this is a time where I'm going to give you a minute to just think about these things that I've listed here as different potential motivators. Everybody has different reasons for wanting to pursue professional development. There's a unique set of reasons for everyone.

So I've listed what I think are the main ones that come up. And I'll read them. And then, I'm just going to give you a minute to just look at them and think about what is driving you to be interested in professional development, why did you come on this webinar, what are you hoping to accomplish? So certainly, gaining knowledge and skill to help you in your current job or to help you prepare for a future role, recognition and validation from both within your congregation and beyond it, opportunities for growth and renewal and faith formation for yourself, connecting with other professionals, elevating the profession of religious education, and higher compensation.

Any one of those. And you might have other thoughts about what your primary motivators are. So I'm just going to give you a minute to think. If you feel like writing, in your group chat, which one or two of those jump out to you the most, go ahead. But absolutely no obligation.

Well, thank you. So that was a thought exercise for you that's worth really continually thinking about. Because that really will influence your choices and maybe influence the way you communicate with people in your congregation about why you want to do a particular activity.

This is my latest rendition of, "What does professional development look like?" I've been horsing around with this graphic for a while. And this is what I've come up with right now. So I think of professional development as having two main forms.

And one is education. And that can be in the form of things like work experience. But it's often what we think of as sort of your structured learning, like books or taking a training or taking a course. But I also feel like the other side of that is formation. So that's your life experiences and things like self-care and reflection and spiritual practice that really help to ground you and maybe lets some of your learning really settle in and become part of who you are as a professional.

Certainly, some of those formational things can help you with boundaries, coping with stress, conflict, complicated situations, certainly again thinking about your work as faith formation itself. Those formational pieces of professional development are very important. And certainly, relationships with colleagues and mentors.

So before we talk about some specific experiences, I wanted you to consider these distinctions. And I would recommend that if you are making up a plan for yourself, that you might find yourself looking at all these different distinctions and having a nice blend of things. Some areas you might be, for instance, more introductory and some more advanced. Certainly, the education and formation that we talked about.

The third bullet down, content and process, I'll say a little bit about that and I'll use the RE Credentialing Program as an example of something that I would call a process rather than content. Because if you look at what you need to do for credentialing, it really is up to you to figure out how to get those competency pieces. It's not a training that you show up for. It's actually your portfolio is going to give you an opportunity to reflect and write up things that you've already done.

And Alicia has posted the link for the credentialing-- the main page. And we have a new program out. So if you're interested, I have new materials for you.

RE audience or mixed professionals or team-based. Some of my favorite things have really been when they're not just for religious educators. They're for whole staff teams or groups of mixed professionals. Also, sometimes, outside of a UU context, some things that you'll find will really help you. It's really cool to be in a mix with people who aren't just UU or aren't just religious educators.

Some people take things. There's a University of Phoenix course that a number of our people in the Credentialing Program are taking that's for-- it's like teacher professional development. And some people think it's so cool to go through something with people who are mainly educators in a standard setting. And some find it a little frustrating because they don't see quite how it translates.

So it's really interesting. It's cool to try a mix. Certainly, independent learning and group learning. And now, more and more, we have the option of doing things online.

Let's take a minute and talk about your professional pathway. Actually, I'm going to give you a little example of something from my own professional development that ties some of these ideas together. Last year, I wanted to learn a little more about gamification, which is the use of game elements and techniques in non-game settings.

So I was thinking about how could we make certain professional development things more interesting by incorporating points or colorful doo-dads or whatever. And I was kind of interested in exploring that. And so what I ended up finding was a MOOC. Has anyone heard of a MOOC? It's a Massive Open Online Course.

And these are college courses that you can take free online. And it's just incredible. I don't completely understand the business model. But if you're looking for a basic course, it could be chemistry, statistics, psychology. There's just a whole array of things that you can do absolutely free online.

Well, the one that I took, it happened to be through the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. And basically, the professor for that course taught the course as a series of little videos. And we had quizzes and assignments that we did.

So he also had written a book on the subject. So I had many options. I can just go buy his book for probably Kindle version for $10 or something. That would have been one option. I could watch all the little videos. Since it's free, a lot of people just sign up so they get the videos, even though they're not going to do the assignments. So I could have done that, and that would have been free.

I could've done what I did, which was also free, which is I watched the videos, and I actually did the assignments and got a statement of accomplishment that said I successfully completed this course. I could've paid $50 and gotten some fancier kind of certificate that's a little bit more transcript-like, a little bit more official. But I'm cheap, and I didn't think I needed it for anything. Or I could have paid a few thousand dollars and actually gone to the University of Pennsylvania and taken a three-credit course.

And so I'm going through some detail there to just remind you that for any content, and even sometimes any particular learning experience, there's a whole variety of different ways that you can engage it. And it depends on your needs. You might need college credits. You might really just be in it for the learning. You might be able to just read a handful of articles that you find online on a topic. And that's your professional development on a particular subject. I do that a lot.

So what I'd like to do with all of that in mind, these different distinctions and different ways of engaging based on your own learning style and your needs and your motivations, I'd like you to take another, probably a little under a minute to just look at this professional development pathway graphic. And think about those stones as your learning experiences.

So back to where it said education and formation. So the stones are your learning pieces. So that's your Renaissance modules and your books and your courses and your trainings.

And then, you see that those stones are surrounded by mortar. And that mortar is your formation. So those are the things you do for yourself to help you maintain your professional grounding in identity. And you really don't have a solid path unless you have both. Those rocks, those stones, those solid pieces, they need to be set in those grounding activities. And the mortar by itself doesn't really make a very good pathway either.

So I'm going to give you just a minute to think about what your professional development pathway looks like. Maybe there's a fork in the road. Maybe there's a puddle. Maybe there's a big sign that points you to something. So this is just kind of a creative, metaphorical exercise. I'll just give you a little time to look at it.

So I hope you'll come back to this exercise once in awhile, just for yourself to kind of give yourself something to think about in terms of where you're heading and where you've come from in your development as a professional. Let's talk about some specific learning opportunities. And there are just so many. It's crazy, both UU-based and non-UU.

There's so many choices out there, certainly through Unitarian Universalist organizations. The Faith Development Office has these webinars. There are Renaissance modules. And Pat is our fearless leader on those. Your region or cluster or district might have trainings and events. And certainly, there are national events, things like General Assembly and other national opportunities.

Study groups-- and don't be shy about organizing your own study group. So you might inspire your LREDA chapter or a cluster nearby. Or even, you could do it online and have people all across the country. If you want to just have a conversation about a book together or if you went home from LREDA Fall Conference and there was something that stuck with you and you'd love to have a conversation, you might be able to make a study group out of that.

Our professional organizations, like LREDA and identity organizations, also trainings, events. There are websites. There's a ton of stuff just on the websites, lots of resources, and then, certainly our listservs. If you're not familiar with it, there's a course called "Sexuality Issues for Religious Educators" that's offered by Debra Haffner and the Religious Institute.

That is definitely worth taking. It's a good course. It's not too expensive. And it's done online, pretty much on your own time. So that's a great thing to look into, important information. The Church of the Larger Fellowship has offerings. Our UU Camp and Conference Centers often have programs going on. And I'll say a few words about the RE Credentialing Program a little later.

And non-UUA, I mean this is almost harder because they're just a zillion of them. And I know Alicia has a few links that people suggested on the Tuesday webinar. So you'll get the advantage. And if you know other ones, feel free to put them in the chat.

Things done through the community, local college courses or online college courses, the MOOCs, like I described to you a few minutes ago, other religious organizations and interfaith groups, books, websites, anything else. So there are a few things that Alicia is going to post. Anybody else have anything?

I'm getting a message that my audio me is degrading. How am I sounding to you? It sounds fine. OK, I'll ignore it. Great. All right, so yeah, Alicia is posting-- like the, there are trainings., they have great websites, great resources. There's just a ton of stuff.

Let me say a few words about the RE Credentialing Program. So like I said, it's more of a process than it is actual content. It's a chance for you to figure out the content mainly so your portfolio provides a framework for documenting how you've applied your knowledge and skills across competency areas in your work. It's a way of being more intentional in your professional development.

It's a formational process. And I always love hearing people who kind of went through the Credentialing Program fairly late in the game, more because they just wanted the validation of it. They were already feeling like they were pretty up there in their careers. And they really just wanted to be recognized as a credentialed religious educator.

And they'll say how much they got out of it, how much they learned, and just that it was really a deep formational process for them, that going back and just being able to reflect and write about all the work that they had done in the past. Of course, it leads to associational recognition.

And it's quite flexible. There are a lot of options. There are a lot of things that you pick, books and certain categories and, certainly, trainings and work experiences. It's meant to allow you to figure out your own way.

And it is not something that is intended for people who are brand new to their positions. Although, I always direct people to the RE Credentialing Program plan and book list anyway because there's a lot of good stuff in there that you can work from. But I would rather have people get their feet on the ground and kind of get a feel for what's in that Credentialing Program, but not try to jump into it immediately.

Thanks, Alicia, for posting all those things. I'll mention it toward the bottom of the box that Alicia just posted is Growing Vital Leaders. It's a blog that the UUA puts out. And there's a whole page of curated resources and a whole bunch of neat categories that were developed for lay-leaders. But many of them are just as applicable to professionals.

So if you aren't able to scroll through and copy and paste all this, Alicia can get the whole chat to you when we're done. All right, so time, always a problem. There never quite seems to be about enough time to do what you want to do.

So there are two issues. Well, there are at least two. One of them is that you don't have the time in your job. Whether you're 10 hours a week or 40 hours a week, there are activities you want to do or you really want is a set aside some regular time every week or every month, which I recommend. And you don't seem to be able to make that happen within the time that you're paid for. And then, there's just time in life. Like sometimes, you can't make time for it, even if it's your own time.

So a couple things, one is to say that sometimes professional development, it just is on your own time. There's no way we're going to be able to do the reading and some of the pieces that we want to do all on work time. And I don't have any hard and fast guidelines about what happens on work time and what doesn't.

Certainly, if you go to an event, that should not be counted as time off. So make sure if you go to a Renaissance module or a LREDA conference or something like that, that is meant to be included as work. That is not vacation.

And I'll also say that-- well, and I am thinking of myself. And I do quite a bit of reading on my own time. Certainly, I did that gamification class on my own time. But this is something to work out with your supervisor and have some understandings.

Some of the good practices that we recommend are equity across professionals. So if you're seeing that other professional leaders in your congregation, like the minister or other professionals, are able to attend conferences or have professional subscriptions to magazines or whatever it is, it's very much suggested that that looks similar across our professional positions.

I do recommend building professional development, in some way, into every week or every month. It's wonderful, especially if you're doing something like credentialing, sometimes you can sort of make a deal where every month you're allowed to take a day or something to work from home and just do credentialing, and that's part of your work day. Some people have been able to do things like that.

Study leave and sabbatical time are great practices. I know that if you didn't get them already in your contract. When you're hired in, that can be hard to get later. But sometimes, you can negotiate for that. And we have a link here for a bunch more information from the Office of Church Staff Finances on professional development and fair compensation.

And I don't know if you're hearing my cat. He gets hungry at 9:00. So I'm hoping someone else takes care of it.


So why don't we talk about money for a few minutes? The other thing I'll say about time-- I'll go back to this slide. I really think it's part of our ongoing professional work not to be crazed, that we should be modeling some kind of balance and well being in our lives.

And so if you are in a situation where the idea of even just taking a little time to read a book and reflect on it or go to something, if it just feels unmanageable, like, oh, my gosh, this is just one more thing I have to do, rather than, wow, wouldn't this be-- if it doesn't feel centering and helping you and it just feels like one more thing that you have to squish in, I hope that you'll take some time with that and figure out maybe not a complete solution to it.

But just reflect on it, in your role, modeling religious professionalism. It's important that we have time to reflect, spiritual practice, professional development. Those are just things that go along with being a good religious professional.

All right, so money is the other one. And I'm going to say the same thing, that sometimes there's going to be something that you want to do, and your congregation is not going to pay for it. And you might just decide to do it on your own nickel. And I recognize that there is some privilege involved in me saying that. And it might be possible for some people more than others.

But I know, just as you can't do all of your professional development on your work time, sometimes you might not be able to do everything you want to do on work money either. I wish that, again, I had perfect ways for you to advocate. Certainly, finding allies, show how it is of value to the congregation for you to attend conferences or go to trainings, take classes. I hope that your supervisors are allies for you in this.

So again, some good practices, equity across professionals. The amount is going to vary. I did double check the fair compensation information. And the leadership level fair compensation for professional expense lines is 10% of salary or $5,000. And that's an amount that's prorated for part time.

And some of our professionals may be up around that level. I know that many are not. What I would care about at least as much is, is there some kind of common philosophy that's being applied to all of the professionals? So it might not be the same percentage of salary.

It might be you and your supervisor having a conversation about what are the things that feel most important to you to do this year? And how much are those going to cost? Let's look at how we can get the most important pieces covered.

Professional expense lines can cover dues, training and event costs, professional books and publications. If they're used for items with residual value, technically that could be a book. But more, we're thinking of things like a laptop, if your laptop is bought with professional development funds. There are tax implications for that if you take it with you when you leave the job, if it's still yours beyond your work contract. And again, more information at the website for fair compensation.

And I'm really coming to the end of what I wanted to say. I will say one more thing about money that I wish I'd put on this slide was to thank your congregation if they do pay for something. Put it in your newsletter. Find ways to get out there, this training meant so much to me, and here's what I learned and here's how I'm using it in my program. If your congregation didn't pay for it, you could still go out of your way to show them what your learning. But especially if you do anything on work time or work money, please go out of your way to make sure that people know it made a difference to you.

And so I'd be really interested in things that you'd like to ask about.

PAT KAHN: And Bob, if you want to say something, if you'll just raise your flag, and I can unmute you. And Jill and Sarah, if you want to chime in, I think you can unmute yourself. Or you could do the same thing, raise your flag, and I'll unmute you. Or you can also type a question into the Chat Box.

As Jan was talking-- and I forgot to mention this when we had the Tuesday webinar. But I just put it in the Chat Box. When I was first a religious educator, there was not a lot of money in the professional development. And I remember I wanted to travel to something. And so I had a couple people I think on the RE committee that basically said, well, let's ask people to donate frequent flyer miles. And so that's another way to at least stretch, a little bit, the dollars.

OK, and Bob writes, as a supervisor getting ready to search for lifespan RE, getting good ideas of how to advocate to the board and the search committee at this stage.

JAN GARTNER: Yeah, the sense I get is that some people's congregations are way low on awareness. And it could be because they just love their religious educator. And they just think, well, Pat, she's doing such a great job. We don't need to send her to anything. She's perfect.

Or it could be that someone thinks that you're just mainly there to sharpen the crayons. And do you really need any special training to do that? So there are a variety of reasons that congregations might not be particularly savvy.

And I'm thinking maybe after the first of the year, I'll try to collect some stories of how people have successfully worked through that challenge. Because I know some people just aren't sure where to start. Certainly, an ally can be helpful. And I would love to think that you have a supervisor as cool as Bob who will be an ally for you.

PAT KAHN: Let me just jump in there, too. And I just totally lost my train of thought. Oh, I know what it was. The second Renaissance module I ever went to, a member of the RE committee came with me. And she was so impressed with just the group that was there and the different kind of learning and that she was learning something as well that she came back and then was the biggest advocate after that.

Every time there was a Renaissance module, she made sure that I had money to be able to go to it. And she was out encouraging other people to participate. So it's a great thing that you can do sometimes to take somebody else along with you.

JAN GARTNER: That's a great idea. There are more and more things happening online, too. Pat, do you want to give a little Renaissance module update for a minute?

PAT KAHN: Sure. I could just say pretty quickly if you're not aware of it, we have right now one totally online Renaissance module. And that's the UU history. And it is a series of eight webinars. And it still has the hallmark of a Renaissance program, a final project.

But it's been getting really, really great evaluations from people. I just finished summarizing the latest version that just finished up a couple of weeks ago. And there were several different people who used the word, this was transformational.

And it gives you enough time to go much deeper into things when you're doing things over the course of-- in most cases, people are doing it over 16 weeks. So not having something once a week, but every other week. So you can do a lot deeper and do a lot more reflection and have time to process things that you don't normally have if you're cramming everything into 15 hours in a weekend.

There is another totally online, brand new Renaissance module coming sometime this spring on UU theology. And we are now experimenting with hybrid modules. And in fact, one of them just went on to the calendar today. In the Washington, DC area, Pat Infante is going to be leading a hybrid adult faith development Renaissance module.

It'll consist of, I think, it's five webinars and then a portion of the day in person at the end. And so that is happening actually starting at the end of January. And there's another one that's not actually on the calendar yet. But since I'm one of the co-leaders of it, I know it's going to happen.

Out in the Pacific Northwest, we're going to do the curriculum Renaissance module as a hybrid. So in April, May, and early June, there will be a series of, I think, we're doing four webinars. And then, on the Monday after General Assembly, which is of course in Portland this year, we'll have basically an all-day, in-person thing. So if you're going to General Assembly, you could take advantage of doing the hybrid that way.

And we're really open to experimenting with hybrids. There are probably some Renaissance modules that wouldn't work well with a hybrid. I'm thinking of the new worship Renaissance module. That probably wouldn't work as well because you're really working together a lot and doing different kinds of worship.

But most of the other ones, you could benefit from trying to do them as hybrids. So we're encouraging anybody who's interested, if your LREDA chapter or your district or regional staff want to help you organize it or even just-- the last couple of Renaissance modules that have happened in the Florida district and some of the other southern region districts have been because somebody really needed that Renaissance module. And so they got their congregation to sponsor it.

So basically, if you want to get one and you can't figure out how to do it, just give me a yell. And we'll try to figure something out. So are there other questions? Oh, yes.

Jill said she's not taken the time this year for professional development. And she was looking for some inspiration to keep making time and finding money to continue. You want to speak to that, Jan?

JAN GARTNER: So Jill, I'm not sure if you're saying that you got it or you're on this webinar to get it or if I am meant to say something inspirational in this moment. For me, I'm a professional development person, so that keeps me-- oh, good. She's finding inspiration from the webinar.


JAN GARTNER: I hope that everybody gets jazzed about learning something new. Certainly, just about every learning experience I go to, you just see people who are, they're just engaged. And they're learning. And they have "aha" moments. And it's awesome.

And I'm looking at Bob's comment, and I'm thinking about this issue of people who were frustrated because they don't seem to be able to negotiate for funds to get to things. And at some point, just like any other aspect of your job, whether it's your salary or your working hours or whatever, you have to decide if it's a deal breaker or not.

And certainly, when people are looking for new positions, it is very attractive when they see that there is a decent professional expense line or that the minister even says, you know, I'm really eager for you to make sure you go to the LREDA conference. There are ways of congregations signaling that they're very receptive.

And also, certainly, if you, as an applicant for a new job, say I'm always interested in continuing to grow and learn, can you tell me what's in place for that, whether it's a dollar amount or what kinds of things they typically would expect, that'll give you a clue about whether that congregation is going to feel like a good fit for you. And if you get two offers, that could be even a deciding factor.

Yeah, being in person is better. I'm going to echo what Pat said about the cool thing about the online things that span over time because we're running the interim professional training as an online training now, too. And it runs over a course of about a month, where it used to be everybody showed up and did it in two days.

And just the depth of engagement and the way people take things away from it, I think there's really something to be said for it. There's nothing like being in a room with people. But hands down, the online stuff that takes place in pieces over time has a huge advantage, I think, in terms of really feeling like you're able to integrate it and not just leaving with your head about to explode.

PAT KAHN: Right, and I'll just chime in there to say that the online stuff is just a way to make specifically Renaissance modules, in my case, more accessible to more people. When we first field tested the history Renaissance module, I participated as a participant because I wanted to see what it was going to feel like. And I wanted to make sure that we had the right information in the participant guide and things like that.

And boy, at the end of the 16 weeks, we were all really amazed at how deep the connections had been. With the online version of it, you can't have too many people. So I think mostly what we've seen is that 8 to 10 is the right amount. And it was really neat, the kind of community that evolved from that.

But as Jill says, being in person, there's a lot to be said for that. So invariably, when I go through the evaluations for Renaissance modules and we say, what was most important to you during this module, almost every single person says, just the time being with my colleagues. And then, oh, yeah, and I learned this other stuff, too.

But I'll have people say, it wouldn't have made a difference what module this was or what I learned, the most important thing was being with other people. Because we all know that being in a congregation can be kind of isolating sometimes. So anyway that you can deal with that isolation, whether it's in person with a cluster meeting of some kind or building community online, I think that's an important thing.

Oh, good. I'm glad you find that encouraging. Yeah, I'm trying to figure out a way to share some of these comments. The other ones that I've really enjoyed reading-- these have come from the history online module as well-- people saying, well, I really took this just because I should have it for credentialing or I should have it so I understand history better. But I'm not really a history person.

And then, they talk about how excited and engaged they were because it's not a, you know, memorize a timeline and what are the important dates and all of that kind of stuff. The approach is really similar to the Tapestry of Faith adult program, Faith Like a River. I knew there was a river in there. I was trying to remember. Where it explores really themes throughout our history, as opposed to chronological. So at any rate, that's another plug for the online history module.

JAN GARTNER: Yeah, it was my first module. I had never heard of anybody. 20 years ago. Wow.

PAT KAHN: Plenty.

JAN GARTNER: I probably would do well to go back and take the online one now because that one was overwhelming to me as a first module as a very new religious educator in the form I took it.

PAT KAHN: Right, and to cover how many hundreds of years, once again, in 15 hours, it's a little difficult. Great.

JAN GARTNER: Other curiosities or questions or comments?

PAT KAHN: Well, if you do you think of something even after we've gotten off, you can either email Jan,, or feel free to email me as well. As I said, Jan and I talk a lot anyway, so we can--

JAN GARTNER: To each other you mean, right? Ha, ha.

PAT KAHN: Yes, exactly. That's exactly what I meant. I'm glad you clarified that, Jan. We actually both do talk a lot anyway. But yes, to each other. So we can help you and basically answer any other questions that might come up for you. So with that, Jan, do you have any parting words?

JAN GARTNER: I just want to say thank you again to each of you for making this time. That is a hopeful sign that you'll make other time for your ongoing professional development and find it rejuvenating for you. So thank you again for being here. And keep in touch. And thanks to Pat and Alicia for having me.

PAT KAHN: Great. Thank you.

JAN GARTNER: All right.

PAT KAHN: Goodbye, everybody.

JAN GARTNER: Take care.