Paying RE Teachers Can Boost Attendance ...and Attract Volunteers
By Karen Brown
When I started my vocation as a Director of Religious Education twenty years ago, recruiting teachers was in my job description. No problem. Parents and other members of the congregation stepped up and volunteered. I continued to have a positive experience of recruiting teachers in several mid-size Unitarian Universalist congregations.
Three and a half years ago I was hired to serve a smaller congregation of 160 members with 60 children and youth. The Search Committee told me I would have a difficult time recruiting. I didn’t believe them. I was wrong.
After the first difficult year of trying to get people to volunteer, I hired one lead teacher for our Little Lights classroom of preschool and kindergarten children. Some of our leaders thought it was a bad idea, but I had support from the minister and the Faith Development Ministry Team. The classroom blossomed. The children loved their teacher and we had consistent attendance. The following year I hired a lead teacher for our Chalice Children classroom of grades 1 through 5 children. Again, it made a big difference in the classroom. We have good attendance now, the children love having the same teacher every week, and some parents tell me their children are responsible for getting them to church on Sunday when the parents are tired and don’t want to go.
Another great benefit of hiring lead teachers is the increase of parent volunteers to assist in the classrooms. No longer are parents complaining about missing worship, teaching too often, having to buy supplies, and planning lessons. Lead teachers and parent assistants have been a winning combination at the UU Church of Greater Lynn.
Last year, Katie Covey, Director, School of the Spirit at the Boulder Valley UU Fellowship, Lafayette (CO) and Unitarian Universalist curriculum author, wrote, "I believe the days of volunteer teachers are over. Volunteer mom teachers hark back to pre-feminist days when women with talents volunteered and created superb structures for hospitals, churches, schools, etc. But this is 2014. Women's talents are not marginalized, they are part of the working society…" Read more on Covey's blog site and find out about the financial structure of her SpiritJam program.
The Unitarian Universalist Association Fair Compensation Guidelines describe duties of paid congregational staff, including credentialed and non-credentialed religious educators.
About the Blogger
Karen Brown is Director of Lifespan Faith Development for the UU Church of Greater Lynn in Swampscott, Massachusetts and a co-chair of the North Shore Religious Educator's Group (MA). Previously, she served other congregations as a religious educator on the East Coast and in the Midwest and has volunteered for leadership roles in a small congregation. She holds a Master’s in Religious Education from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.