Updated: Apr 9, 2020
How a church chooses its ministers varies widely among denominations. Methodists, Catholics and Lutherans send ministers chosen by a denominational group or Bishop. Our cousins, United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ, use a process similar to ours, but may not be quite as extensive. I want to give you a brief overview of the UUA system, so you can begin to understand the process. It is very complicated, and I’m still learning more about it now in my sixth year of UU ministry.
First ministers have to meet all the requirements for ministry – having a Masters of Divinity degree from accredited seminary and being granted preliminary Candidate status by the Ministerial Fellowship Committee of the UUA (which has its own voluminous requirements). Then the minister is cleared for search and is officially in fellowship. To be in search the minister has to have a website, and have a ministerial profile within the UUA. There are these types of ministries, and they each have their own requirements: called, interim, developmental, and contract, and there are categories for senior, solo, assistant, and associate ministers, and full or part time.
Congregations have requirements too, and the basics are explained here, https://www.uua.org/careers/ministers/transitions. Unlike the other denominations that I’m aware of, the timeline for UU ministers search for each type of position is very defined. This year the date to have all the minister and congregation information available for a called ministry was January 2. Congregants and ministers then could look at each others’ information, and congregations could begin contacting ministers who were interested in being called. Usually there are then phone or zoom interviews in January, after which congregations choose their top three who then go for private pre-candidating weekends with the search committee, usually in February and March. At a specific date in late March, determined by the UUA, the search committees decide on their one candidate, and ministers decide on their one church. When those match, the candidate then goes to the congregation in April for 10 days, and the congregation votes on whether to call or not. The rules say it has to be 85%, but most ministers won’t accept a call unless its 95% or higher.
I tell you this because this is the process I am in now, and so will possibly have times when I am unavailable to you, and cannot be in the pulpit. Right now I have one pre-candidating weekend tentatively scheduled for the weekend of February 22-24, and I may have others. If I am chosen to be a candidate – I will be out for 10 days in late March or early April. If I am not chosen or choose not to accept a call, I will be back in search for a contract, interim, or developmental position, that usually gets decided between April and June. I entered the search process late every year before now, so did not have the opportunity for a called/settled position. I have longed to be in one church more than 1-3 years, to settle down and make a difference in a church and community. The other types of ministry have specific requirements also, and there is special training to be an interim or developmental minister, which I have taken. These other types of ministry are usually chosen by the Board, and the Board makes the decision on the type and who to hire. I hope this helps all you congregants understand this very complicated process better, and I am open to your questions about the process.
Keeping the Faith,