Unitarian Universalists agree to honour and respect each person’s search for truth and meaning, and to encourage each other in spiritual growth.
Religious Education is the umbrella term used to describe our exploration of Unitarian Universalist sources and the formation and development of our individual faith. We know that religious education happens in groups in our congregations, alone in nature, among peers, at the table, in the car, and at any time or place.
Most of our congregations offer programs for children, youth, and/or adults, but may refer to these as Religious Exploration, Spiritual Exploration, Lifespan Learning, Faith Development, or similar.
Professional Religious Educators
Religious Education programs are most often overseen by religious professionals, in collaboration with a team of volunteers. Again, the umbrella term is Director of Religious Education (DRE), but across the country we have Directors of Lifespan Learning, Spiritual Exploration, and more.
Depending on the size of the congregation and the scope of the program(s), professional religious educators may be responsible for program development; volunteer recruitment and supervision; worship; Our Whole Lives sexuality education (OWL); communications; budget oversight; family ministry; and more.
Other Religious Education staff may include Youth Program Coordinators, Children’s Program Coordinators, Religious Education Assistants, and Childcare Providers.
Religious educators serve lay-led congregations and those with ministers. For best practices of shared ministry among ministers, religious educators and music directors, please click here. For resources on collaborative ministry, please click here.
Congregations Searching for a Religious Educator
If you are a congregation about to hire a religious educator, you’re in luck! Here are several resources that can set you up for success:
- From Starting to Parting and Guidelines for Hiring a Religious Educator – both include tips on the entire process of hiring a religious educator
- Staffing Levels and Scope of Work
- Fair Compensation Guidelines (don’t forget to include fair professional development funds)
- Code of Professional Practices
- And of course, connect with the Congregational Development staff person for you area (see below)
New Religious Educators
Are you a new religious educator? Welcome! Here are our Top Ten pieces of advice:
- Join the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) $75 – $150. Subscribe to their e-list.
- Join the Canadian chapter of LREDA: Canadian Unitarian Universalist Religious Educators (CUURE) $25 Log in to the LREDA website and join the CUURE circle.
- You’ll be added to our national google group for religious educators – connect with your colleagues! Introduce yourself! Ask questions! (send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Connect with the CUC Congregational Development staff person for your area and, if relevant, the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Development staff person.
- Check out the Professional Learning Units for Staff (PLUS): start your professional development early and set yourself up for success.
- Look on your office shelves for a three-ring binder copy of The R.E. Road Map. It’s dated (and only in hard-copy), but a very useful resource for nuts and bolts.
- The Unitarian Universalist Association has excellent resources on many areas of religious education, including free curricula, professional development opportunities, and helpful program staff.
- Attend live or learn on your own time via online webinars offered by the CUC and the UUA’s Faith Development Office.
- Attend your regional fall gathering, LREDA’s fall conference, and/or the national CUC Conference and CUURE Days.
- Love the people; love what you do; watch your hours; foster healthy boundaries; having your own spiritual practice helps; find balance; and connect with your colleagues.
Becoming a Religious Educator
Religious Educators come from many backgrounds and no particular educational program or certification is required. They do however need a wide range of skills and knowledge, so developing the following areas may be helpful:
- Communication (technology; social media; writing skills)
- Our Whole Lives sexuality education
- Pastoral Care
- Safe Congregations
- Stages of psychological and faith development
- Unitarian Universalism
- Volunteer development and management
- Worship (planning, leading)
- Youth Ministry
Renaissance Modules are 15-hour trainings designed for religious educators, but open to all, and cover many of the above topics.
Once you are serving as a professional religious educator, you may apply for the Religious Education Credentialing Program, a program of study which includes being matched with a mentor.