First Unitarian Society in Newton

RE Assessment 2011

Read the Religious Education Assessment Results


Concetta Daurio, Search Committee Chairperson

May 26, 2011

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Religious Education (RE) assessment process. Your input through the survey, listening groups, e-mails, phone calls, and meetings has been invaluable.

A summary of our congregation’s expectations for the Religious Education Program is reported below. This information was gathered from 8 facilitated listening groups and the responses of 160 members to the congregational survey.

There is broad agreement that our RE program is well organized and effective, and the congregation is particularly proud of our robust Coming of Age Program (COA) and engaging Adult RE programs. People support the Children’s RE program and its focus on providing children with an understanding of the world’s religions. Congregants seem to feel that children educated in this way will be better able to choose their own life paths and understand and accept others with widely varying religious traditions.

The RE Program’s involvement in building community is highly valued. People would like to see a more intentional approach to community building within grades, between grades, between COA and youth group (YG), and between generations. In addition, there is a wish for increasing the integration of the RE program into the larger FUSN community, including worship and social action.

Suggestions to achieve more integration:

• have more intergenerational activities and Sunday services

• provide ways for Children’s RE teachers to stay connected to the larger congregation and Sunday service

• integrate the Sunday service topic into Children’s and Adult RE

• provide regular communication to parents and community about RE activities and curriculum

• provide more contact for children and youth with the Senior Minister

Attrition between the COA program and YG was a concern mentioned in all the listening circles, and hope was expressed that this could be remedied, perhaps by offering more options for youth programming.

Many participants also spoke of the need for better support for our Children’s RE volunteer teachers, suggesting more teacher training, on-site help with classroom management issues, and the need for a systematic way to pass on what previous classes and teachers have done. Some expressed concern about the curriculum itself, and expressed a desire for modifications to make it more interesting and engaging.

Per the survey, overall RE program priorities should be as follows:

1. Foster community (value-based, open, tolerant, safe, alternative peer group, intergenerational)

2. Support UU identify and spiritual development

3. Explore ethics, morals and character development

4. Develop knowledge and tolerance of other religions

5. Engage in social action

For the Children’s RE program, the survey showed a strong preference for exploration of ethics, morals, and character development as the top priority. Building a sense of community among FUSN RE students was the next priority, followed by instruction about Unitarian Universalism.

For the COA program, the survey ranked faith formation (learning ethics, values, and fostering a UU identity) as the highest priority.

For Youth Group, community building (sharing values, establishing trust, and practicing acceptance) was ranked as the top priority, followed by faith formation.

 For Adult RE, faith formation and spiritual practice were ranked as the highest priority, followed by social action

 There were also some ideas put forth for innovation in our RE programs:

• Offer some interest-based programming across grade levels and generations (examples; music, art, theater)

• More music and theatre in Children’s RE

• More adult RE offerings to support life stages and passages

• More appeal to non-majority in congregation, for example conservative members

• In general, no one structure works for everyone, offer variety

 

 Important Qualities for FUSN’s Next DLRE

The congregation expressed strong preference for someone who will inspire and motivate members of the congregation to participate in RE activities and volunteer their time and talents. The new DLRE must have excellent interpersonal skills and be able to work effectively with children, youth, and adults. The new director must also be an experienced educator and administrator, able to manage and coordinate all the various pieces of our RE program. Participants would further like the new DLRE to have an in-depth knowledge of UU values and history, and model those values.

Although not ranked as a priority in the survey, the staff indicated a need for the new DLRE to be able to provide pastoral care to families when needed, since the DLRE is often the first person approached by parents when issues arise with children or families. A professional with religious education experience in an active congregational setting was strongly preferred.

 

Next Steps in the Process

The results and feedback from the listening circles, conversations with staff, and the survey will be used to guide us in selecting the new leader for our Religious Education Program. A job announcement will go out in June, 2011. The Search Committee will accept applications through November 30, 2011 and will conduct the interview process in early 2012. The Board of Directors will make a hire decision in early spring, 2012. The Search Committee will keep the congregation informed about where we are in the process and will share the job description and recruitment information with the congregation when it is available. However, similar to the ministerial search process, the interviewing process will remain confidential until we recommend a final candidate to the BOT. Thank you for your support in this effort.

 

 

 

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