By sharing personnel, congregations can expand work opportunities for talented staff, enhance programs and services in UU faith communities, and live our theology of interdependence. With the onset of virtual operations, we're seeing an increase in both employee- and congregation-initiated arrangements that result in one individual working for more than one congregation.As more shared staffing situations unfold, we have identified key considerations and decision points to help position congregations and staff for success.
We will continue to refine this page as we learn from you!
When one individual is employed by two or more UU congregations/organizations that participate in any UUA benefit plans (insurance and/or retirement), their hours are aggregated for eligibility purposes, as well as for the calculation of Life and Long-Term Disability premiums and benefits. This makes it imperative for congregations who share a staff member to coordinate on the administration of benefits.
- UUA Insurance Plans: Each enrollee is invoiced through a single congregation. Two or more employers of the same person need to coordinate on which congregation gets invoiced and how that congregation will get reimbursed the other congregation's share of the premium contributions.
- UUA Retirement Plan: Each participating employer adheres to the terms of their own Employer Participation Agreement (PDF, 5 pages) and remits their own contributions. As a reminder, once an employee becomes eligible for Employer Contributions at a participating congregation, they are eligibleimmediately, regardless of hours, when hired at any other participating congregation.
One Employer or Multiple?
There are times when it makes sense for one congregation to be the employer, even when a staff member will be doing work for more than one congregation. The staff member has one supervisor, receives one paycheck, one W-2 form, etc. (If hiring for a new or open position, we suggest creating a hiring team that includes representation from participating congregations.) This may work well when:
- Programming is shared. For example, two or more congregations may host a common youth group under the leadership paid Youth Advisors. A single employer can both simplify administration and add clarity about expectations and accountability. Arrangements should be made for how the non-employing congregations contribute to the position financially, as well as how they provide input into expectations, performance management, and more. In thinking about sharing finances, consider the cost of not only salary, benefits, and payroll taxes, but "extras" such as equipment and supplies, as well as professional development.
- One congregation provides programming or services for others, as is becoming common during virtual operations. For instance, a Director of Religious Education from one congregation may offer Sunday morning messages with related family activities for their members and then offer to make those available to a congregation without a religious educator on staff. When one congregation is hosting, agreements can be reached about how the other congregation will help support the position. Considerations might include how much additional time is needed to serve the second congregation. Again, when sharing expenses, be sure to take into account the cost of equipment, supplies, and professional development. Congregations should talk through various scenarios. Is the staff member expected to modify their program to meet the needs of the other congregation? If the non-employing congregation experiences programmatic issues or performance concerns, how will those be handled?
When one individual works for more than one congregation, sometimes the best approach is for that staff member to be on the payroll at each congregation. This tends to work well when the individual's responsibilities for the two (or more) congregations are largely independent of one another. Each congregation creates its own job description, maintains its own supervision and performance management process, etc. There are still some ways that the congregations will need to coordinate:
- Hours are aggregated for benefits purposes. (See Benefits section, above.)
- Agreements may need to be reached the specific dividing of time, as well as holidays and time off, especially for worship-focused positions.
- How are costs shared for items such as equipment and professional development that benefit each congregation?
Congregations in Relationship
When congregations share a staff member, it might matter whether the two (or more) congregations already have a sense of connection. When there is a rapport between the ministers, for instance, or the congregations have a history of shared programming, it is often easier to work out an arrangement. Trust is high. It might feel appropriate all around to try a relatively informal arrangement, at least for a while. Of course, more formal documentation of understandings is generally a good thing. But a short-term trial run is perfectly fine. In the longer-term, recognize that arrangements can be revised as new needs and understandings emerge.
When one individual is going to working for two congregations that aren't already in relationship, it can be more challenging to make the coordination work. In the case of shared programming, leaders may want more clarity up front about expectations. Again, a short time of experimentation, with the minimum necessary understandings outlined, may prove helpful – a viability study, of sorts.
During the pandemic, many congregations are trying new models of programming and ways of sharing staff. We don't yet know how much of this will carry over once onsite worship and other activities resume. But it's not too soon to think about what you're doing that may transcend this time of virtual operations. If you hire someone from outside your local area and are pleased with their work, might they be able to continue in some fashion? Or if a local professional is serving two congregations that are currently combining for the purpose of programming, what might that look like in the longer-term?
Congregational staff are aware of the financial strain and uncertainty present in their congregations. Some have lost hours or positions. While sharing staff can help your congregation operate more efficiently, eliminating or reducing the hours of one of your own staff members and then taking advantage of the availability of staff from another congregation is likely to feel hurtful. It might even be experienced as showing a lack of integrity. Please be mindful of potential optics. Staff-sharing is a true win-win when positions become open through voluntary departures and/or there is a desire to expand capacity and programming.
Questions to Consider
- What kind of relationship already exists among the congregations?
- Is the work all for the collective, partly for the collective with some separate pieces or customized work for each congregation, or are they separate arrangements? This would determine single versus multiple employers. (Totally independent arrangements definitely means separate employment, but still need to cooperate on benefits eligibility/administration.)
- How much specificity needs to be formalized and documented up front? Is there sufficient trust for a trial period with minimal formalizing?
- If there is a single employer/supervisor/job description, what kind of input do the other congregations have into hiring, setting expectations, and evaluating performance?
- What happens if one congregation wants to stop participating in the shared staffing arrangement?
- Is this arrangement specific to virtual operations? What happens as in-person resumes?
- Are all expenses being taken into account, including salary, benefits, payroll taxes, professional development and equipment and supplies?
- How are equipment, supplies, and professional expenses shared?
Congregational Collaboration Board
Are you intrigued by the possibilities of sharing staff? Wondering how you might connect with a congregation that is offering or seeking staff? Browse our Congregational Collaboration Board, a new section of the UUA Jobs Board.
To view basic information, no login is required. Create a MinistrySearch login to gain access to the contact information that accompanies the listings. When logged in, key congregational leaders can post new listings.
Some of the specifics are outdated, but you might be interested in the good work done on multisite ministry a few years ago; there are some similarities to multi-congregational employment. See Multisite Ministry and What is Multisite Ministry?