Religious Education Staffing and Growth

The following is a guest post by Pat Ellenwood.  Pat has been a religious education professional for 30 years and is one of our associations most respected leaders (my opinion).  This post is a reply to a question about religious education and growth that came up on the UUA’s Religious Education email discussion list (Reach-L).  As I’ve received a number of related questions about religious education and staffing I thought I’d ask Pat to share her response. ~Peter

RE: Growth of Congregation Through Faith Development Ministries

by Pat Ellenwood

In my view balanced ministry team of religious professionals all of whom  are committed to working together and committed to leadership development, and with a common vision  before them
has the best likelihood of growing a congregation.

There is a document Congregational Growth in Unitarian Universalism (UUA 2005, PDF) as well as a chart developed by Laurel Amabile some years ago.  There may be a newer version but this is the only one I have.

Compiled by Laurel Amabile, Lifespan Program Consultant and Beth Williams, UUA RE Credentialing Director

According to Roy Oswald, author and Alban Institute consultant, the guidelines for congregation staffing breaks out in the following categories:

Staffing for Growth   = One full-time program person for every 100 active members.

Staffing for Maintenance   = Slightly less than one full-time program person for every 100 active members.

Staffing for Decline    = Significantly less than one full-time program person for every 100 active members.

Active member refers to the average number of adults and children who attend worship or a religious education program throughout the year.  The
above recommendations can be a guide in assessing religious education program staffing needs based on numbers of participants in the religious
education program.  Program size and scope, as well as ranges of ages served, must also be considered in order to adequately plan for staffing
needs. A congregational mission of religious education program growth in size and deepening in content is assumed in the following recommendations.

Number of Children & Youth      Staffing for Growth
Average Attendance               Weekly, assumes religious educator
Fewer than 30                         12 hours (3.5 units)
Between 30-59                        24 hours (7 units)
Between 60-89                       36 hours (10 units)
Between 90-149                     40 hours (12 units) + 20 hours (6 units) Assistant
Between 150-200                 40 hours (12 units) + 40 hours (12 units) Assistant
Over 200                                40 hours (12 units) + 40 hours (12 units)  Assistant + multiple part-time support staff

Add at least one unit per week each if religious education responsibilities include the following (at least 3.5 hours for each additional responsibility): curriculum development, child-care coordination, coming of
age program, youth program coordination, strategic planning, intergenerational worship, small group ministry, campus ministry/young adult ministry, family ministry, adult education, pastoral care/counseling,
interfaith or social justice activities, community-building activities, and any other responsibility, beyond routine religious education program administration, intended to support the growth and maintenance of a healthy
congregation.  Total units may be adjusted up or down depending on the absence or presence of a strong pool of religious education volunteers.

Part-time support staff positions may include: youth program/campus or young adult ministry coordinators/directors, administrative, resource, or clerical assistants.

Resources used for these recommendations: Making Your Church More Inviting, by Roy Oswald, Alban Institute, 1992;  The In-Between Church: Navigating Size Transitions in Congregations, by Alice Mann, 1998, Alban Institute; and RE Road Map, 2nd edition, by Cindy Leitner. 2003.

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