24 November 2009

Ministerial Formation - why do we have a "one size fits all" approach?

There have been some recent blog coversations about Unitarian Universalist ministerial formation on PolityWonk ("How UU Ministry Got to Be So Expensive"), iMinister ("The Cost of Ministerial Formation," "The cost of Ministerial Formation II"), and Rev. Cyn ("Ministerial Formation").

I wonder if our current "one size fits all" ministerial formation process is part of the problem.

Currently, Unitarian Universalists who wish to become ministers must complete the following milestones:
  • bachelor's degree
  • graduate degree at seminary
  • clinical pastoral education
  • career assessment
  • internship
  • Regional Subcommittee approval
  • Ministerial Fellowship Committee approval
However, the "one size fits all" model isn't used with Unitarian Universalist religious educators in their professional development.

The "Religious Education Credentialing" program has three levels of religious educator credentialing with varying amounts of education and study.

Having multiple levels of credentialing would allow for Unitarian Universalist ministers to enter a ministry career with less student loan debt.

A ministerial formation path without the excessive student loan debt would allow for more entrepreneurial risk-taking with less economic risk. Greater entrepreneurial risk-taking would allow us to experiment more in how we plant congregations and how we grow congregations. Perhaps even "emergent" Unitarian Universalist congregations?

This multi-tier credentialing system is OK for the religious professionals who work with our children and youth.

What do you think?


Qohelet said...

Wow, I didn't know that being a UU minister would take much time and money. I thought it was just getting a masters degree. I've heard of mainline churches with less requirements than that.

Steve Caldwell said...

This is a result of the "credentialing" requirements so one is recognized as an ordained minister outside the walls of the congregation that did the ordaining.

A local UU congregation could call you as their minister today without any training or preparation. This comes from our congregational polity. We don't have any higher ordaining authority than the local congregation.

However, a locally ordained minister may not be recognized as a ministerial colleague by other UU ministers or the UUA.

The several years of study and the student loans gets that for you.

Desmond Ravenstone said...

Here's an idea: How about reviving the office of deacon.

Many denominations have deacons serve as interim ministers or ministers-in-training, some even granting them the right to officiate at weddings.

Deacons were the original "community ministers" serving the poor and disenfranchised. So why not train more people into specialized ministries, with less time and expense.

Joy said...

I love the deacon idea. It solves so many problems. I love the idea of having levels of ministerial education. These are great suggestions.