Transitions Support for Congregational Staff

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The departure of a staff team member provides a fruitful time for reflection, visioning, and change. Some UU professionals are equipped to work with congregations during transitions, providing specialized skills and tools that help a congregation prepare for robust new leadership.

This page contains information for congregational staff who want to:

  • Work effectively with an interim minister OR
  • Prepare to serve congregations in a transitional capacity within their program area.

We also recommend this information to lay leaders supporting staff during a transitional time.

For Staff Working with an Interim Minister

We are pleased to make available these resources and encourage staff to engage them as a team.

For Staff Interested in Transitional Work


Complete this request form to receive the course booklet for Foundations for Transitional Staff, a 3-unit, self-paced program.

The Guild of Interim Religious Educators offers periodic educational opportunities relevant to staff in or preparing for transitional roles. See the Education section of their website.

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 their programmatic area
  • 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

Interim ministry has traditionally been framed around five developmental tasks, more recently recast as focus points. The Guild of Interim Religious Educators, supported by UUA staff, has provided this adaptation of the developmental tasks for interim religious education ministry, in particular. This list can be modified for work in other programmatic areas.

  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 congregation's 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.

Additional Resources

About the Author

Jan Gartner

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

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