In the past few years, we’ve noticed a new staff position in some of our growing mid-size and larger UU congregations in Prairie Star District. Known as the Director of Congregational Life, the position is that of a “generalist” – taking responsibility for a variety of aspects that support vitality in congregational life – areas such as Sunday morning hospitality, newcomers’ classes, new member integration, member retention, community-building events and activities, and small groups. Oversight of leadership development and faith formation may also be part of the job description. These people serve as important connection points for visitors and newcomers with other staff and programs. They are enthusiastic about meeting people and helping them to find places in our congregations.
In some of our congregations, the person doing the work of the Director of Congregational Life was formerly a Director of Religious Education. In others, this position grew from a part time Membership Director position.
Here’s a description of the responsibilities of the Director of Congregational Life in one of our midsize congregations: Manage or direct Congregational Life Programming, including Religious Education for Children, Youth, and Adults, new member development and integration, small group ministry, fellowship and social justice programs. Supervise Religious Education staff; collaborate with church leaders and committees. Recruit, train, and support volunteers in shared ministry. Takes part in ongoing professional development.
In our larger congregations, the Director of Congregational Life may or may not be part of the senior management team, serving alongside the Minister/s and the Director of Finance and Administration. Senior management team members are able to hold an overview of the whole life of the congregation, and they help to connect the more specific program work of those they supervise into the larger whole. They may have several program-level specialists reporting to them, but they hold the larger picture and help to integrate the programs into the larger whole.
In an important way, Directors of Congregational Life are weaving together the pieces of the congregation, creating a network of connections for newcomers and members.
The congregations who currently have Directors of Congregational Life are First Unitarian Church of Des Moines IA; First Universalist Church of Minneapolis, MN; Shawnee Mission UU Church in Overland Park KS; Unity Church Unitarian in Saint Paul, MN; and White Bear UU Church of Mahtomedi, MN.