Help with Ministerial Transitions

Contacts for Full-time Ministry Transitions

Contact mvalentin [at] uua [dot] org (Rev. Marta Valentín) to initiate the process for the settlement of a new minister. Rev. Marta and the ministerial settlement representative (MSR) for your district will assist you in the search and settlement of your new minister.

  • For the Ballou Channing District, contact Rev. Keith Kron:
     email kkron [at] uua [dot] org 
  • For the Clara Barton District, the MSR is Toby Smith Ropeik:  email tsr [at] tobyasmith [dot] com
  • For the Mass Bay District, the MSR is Laura Graham: email lbarrettgraham [at] gmail [dot] com
  • For the Northern New England District, the MSR is Rev. Olav Nieuwejaar: email olavvi [at] gmail [dot] com

Part-time & Consulting Ministry Transitions

The remainder of this page shares advice and resources for congregations facing a transition in part-time or consulting professional ministry. The ministerial search and settlement process is well-supported by the Unitarian Universalist Association, but the UUA’s Transitions Office (and the Ministerial Settlement Representative program) is directly involved only in ¾ time or full-time ministries.

The staff of the New England Region UUA therefore supports ministerial transitions for positions of less than ¾ time.

The following UUA informational resources support ministerial search and settlement. Reviewing these resources can help you discern what kind of ministry would best serve your congregation.

The process outlined below reflects the accumulated wisdom of other congregational leaders who have experienced similar ministry transitions.

  1. Inform the Regional Lead of the pending departure of the current minister. If this ministry is ending involuntarily or in a climate of conflict, the District Executive can advise on resources or special attention that may be useful.
  2. Advise the congregation of the transition. Include in an announcement letter or email message when the minister will be concluding service, what the Board is considering for the future, and when the congregation will have the opportunity to meet with the Board and/or minister to learn more and ask questions. Smaller congregations often have more informal networks – but the important thing is to ensure there’s an official announcement, and that everyone is informed with the same story.
  3. Plan to honor the current ministry as it comes to a close. Regardless of the circumstances of this transition, there will probably be mixed feelings in the congregation about the minister’s departure. Provide an occasion for members and friends to express their well wishes to the minister. Offer ritual and pastoral support for the grieving process some may need to engage. Consider small group or one-on-one meetings to facilitate expression of other feelings. Remember to talk with children and youth about the transition, and include them in the process. If the minister has served your congregation with devotion for many years and has contributed greatly to your stability, service and spiritual depth, consider whether it is appropriate to bestow the title of Minister Emerita (Emeritus). Click here for more information, and ask the District Executive for assistance in your decision making process.
  4. Determine whether you will pursue another professional ministry, and if so, at what percentage of full-time. Ministry positions that are ¾-time or more are supported by the UUA Transitions Office, and follow a standard UUA search process and calendar, probably including a year or more of Interim Ministry. Positions that are less than ¾-time are assisted by the District and follow a modified process and, usually, a shorter timeline. Our staff can assist in your discernment and guide you in your next steps, based on your decisions.
  5. Review resources available from the New England Region and UUA regarding part-time and consulting ministry positions.  See the list at the beginning of this document.
  6. Arrange with the Regional Lead for transition interviews if desired. These are optional for part-time positions in ministry. A standard interview format is available from the Regional Lead. Interviews may be self-led, or you can invite our staff to conduct the interviews. Exit interviews can be an important transitional document, giving the leadership (and departing minister) and opportunity to reflect on the ministry just ending and providing a formal means with which to share information with succeeding ministers.
  7. Have a conversation with the Regional Lead about “call,” “contract” and transitional ministry options. Usually, a part-time position is contracted rather than called, but it is permissible to decide to call your minister. With a contract, the Board appoints a selection team and contracts the minister based on the team’s recommendation. With a call – and in some congregations, even with a contract – a more involved process for choosing the minister is used, with a congregationally elected search team and a vote of the congregation to call the minister or approve the selection team’s recommended candidate, whom the Board then contracts. The Regional Lead can help you discern the right process to use.  If you choose to “call” rather than contract your minister, plan to contract a transitional minister for a year or two to support your interim work during your longer search process. We will work with local ministers and the UUA to assist you in finding an appropriate transitional minister.
  8. Use the UUA’s on-line settlement system to announce your position. This is the single best way to get the word out about your ministry position, and assures that a wide range of potential candidates will learn that your congregation is in search.
    • Instructions for posting a position on the UUA settlement system
    • The application for posting a part-time or consulting ministry position (see Appendix F)
  9. Empanel a Search or Selection Team after you have been in touch with the Regional Lead, who will provide and review guidelines in appointing the Team. Please be sure this conversation occurs before a Search/ Selection Team is formed. See the Appendix below for information about selecting a Search/Selection Team. 
  10. Determine compensation range for the minister. The Regional Lead or the Compensation Consultant can assist you in understanding UUA Guidelines and how to pro-rate expenses for a part-time position. Be sure to include pro-rated benefits as well.
    • For more general information about fair compensation, click here.
    • For help calculating fair compensation based on your congregation’s location and size, click here. 
  11. Secure a budget for the Search/Selection process, which allows for creation of promotional materials and interviews with potential candidates. This will likely include travel and expenses for in-person interviews of finalists. 
  12. Identify a negotiating team that is empowered to reach agreement with the minister regarding compensation and benefits. May be the same as the search/selection team, or may be a trio representing the board, the search/ selection team and the finance team. They will negotiate and finalize a service contract to be accepted by the board on behalf of the congregation.
    • A UUA-recommended consulting ministry contract (see Appendix C)

Tips for Charging a Search/Selection Team for Part-Time or Consulting Ministry

Important points about Search/ Selection Team composition:

  • Should not represent special interest or polarized viewpoint in congregation and generally well respected in congregation
  • Must be generally supportive of professional ministry
  • Must be in agreement with search direction from board (e.g. priorities of ministry, FTE of ministry position, timeline of search, use of UUA search system, adherence to recommended search guidelines)
  • Must be able to be thoughtful and engaged in the process, respectful communicators, able to compromise, committed to team process
  • Must be comfortable with electronic communication
  • Must be absolutely reliable about keeping confidences
  • Must commit to be present for all search/ selection team meetings  

Important points about the “Part-Time” Search/Selection Process:

  • You can contract or call anyone you wish, but the UUA and New England Region can support transition services only for UU ministers in Fellowship with good standing
  • Even though a UU minister is in “good standing,” you must still do reference checks and safe congregations screening
  • Part-time positions can be posted on the UUA search system, but search committees will not receive ministerial record interpretations from the Transitions Office; MSR services will be provided by the district rather than the UUA.
  • New England Region strongly encourages positions of half-time or more to be listed on the UUA search system. Quarter-time positions are probably best managed locally. Click here for the current list of Ministers Available for Part-Time or Pulpit Supply Services in the New England Region.

Sample Search/Selection Timeline (for August/September start):

  • January/ February (earlier if possible) — prep & general direction-finding; self-study
  • March/April — complete packet, announce position and/or post on UUA Transitions website
  • May — packet exchanges, interviews, optional Candidating weekend
  • May/June – Select, contract and announce Candidate

Part-time positions may be filled at any time, but the largest prospect pool will align with the standard (full-time) UUA search schedule. 

A six-month period for preparation and self-study is recommended, but the timeline can be considerably condensed if the congregation and its leaders are sufficiently motivated.