The Interim DLRE Process
Before I speak to the need for an Interim Director of Lifespan Religious Education, I would like to take a moment to thank Cameron Young, our DLRE for five years. They are moving on to a wonderful position in the larger UUA, so the entire Unitarian Universalist world will be benefiting from their talents, and we wish them all the best!
With Cameron leaving, the board and the personnel task force were faced with a decision. What will be next for the religious education programs at Westside? We came up with three main options, and we explored the pros and cons of each.
First, we could just hire a full time DLRE. This would be the most direct choice, but it suffered from a few cons. One is that it would leave the church with little to no time to discuss what kind of DLRE we were looking for. Another is that it would not fit within the normal hiring time frames of religious professionals. Like schools, most churches operate on a July - June calendar, and most religious professionals (ministers, religious educators, and so on) begin their job hunts in the early part of the year with an expectation of a summer start date. We had missed that time period, so our pool of candidates would be relatively small.
The second option was an acting DLRE. This would be a one to two year contract, with an option to renew going forward. This was the compromise option between hiring a full time and an interim DLRE. The main issue the personnel task force had with this option is that the acting DLRE might do their best to not rock the boat in the hopes of landing the job on a more permanent basis, when what we want is honest feedback that will help the church grow. We need someone who will challenge us and tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear.
Which leads us to the third option - Interim work. Westside has experience with the interim process. After our long time minister Reverend Russell Elleven left, we elected to call an interim minister to help us find out what we really wanted in a minister. I think Reverend Alex Holt did a fine job, because we ended up with our current minister, Reverend Shari Woodbury. The main difference between an Acting DLRE and an Interim DLRE is that the Interim is the one person not eligible to be hired as our permanent DLRE.
For those unfamiliar with the interim process, it is a two year contract to do the job of DLRE full time for our church while also working with our members, volunteers, and other staff members to find out what we truly want and need in a DLRE going forward. There are five focuses to interim work.
Heritage. The DLRE will help us come to terms with our congregation’s history with its Religious Education program. This history is mainly a big positive, there has been a lot of growth in the church that comes from these programs. However, humans are not perfect, so they will also help us find things we need to improve and fix.
Mission. The DLRE will evolve a unique Religious Education program identity. What is it about Religious Education at Westside that makes us unique? Why would someone come to us instead of somewhere else?
Leadership. The interim will address leadership changes during the two year period. Westside is a very different place than it was when we hired Cameron, how has leadership changed in that time period? How will it continue to change?
Connection. The interim will renew associational and community linkages. How can we better make use of our existing connections to other area churches, NTUUC, the UUA, and other community organizations? How can we forge new ones?
Future. The interim DLRE will help the entire congregation commit to the future of the religious education program’s vitality. The entire congregation benefits from all of our RE groups - children’s religious education, adult religious education, OWL, the adult forum, the humanist seminar, spirit play, and all the other groups that are all under this umbrella. How can the entire congregation help this vital function of our church? How can we continue to grow together?
This is why the personnel task force recommended to the Westside Board of Directors that we hire an interim DLRE to a two year mission. This is why the Board of Directors voted to approve that recommendation. This is why I am hopeful for the future of our Religious Education program and the future of this church.