Our by-laws designate the minister as Head of Staff. In the past, here as in other congregations, the job of oversight, support and evaluation of employees was often given to committees such as a Board, Committee on Ministries or the RE Committee. As you might imagine, that arrangement could be quite awkward. Committees and Boards tend to already have too much on their plates. Members might not have the proximity they need to assess the work of an employee. They might have trouble wielding their authority in the tender relational dynamic of a faith community. The thinking that shaped the decision to change our by-laws back in 2010 is that the minister, who leads the mission-visioning process and designs congregational worship and programming that will move the congregation towards fulfilling the mission, is the right person in the system to choose and oversee the staff. In my role as Head of Staff, I can get us all on the same page about what we are doing and why. I can make sure that we are making the best use of our energy in managing the organization, supporting its volunteer leaders, making course corrections, multiplying successes and strengthening the weak spots. In support of this model, the Board and I have been working hard to develop job descriptions that reflect the work that our Congregational Administrator (CA), Office Assistant (OA) and DRE are actually doing. We have also been creating and piloting evaluation tools for minister, Board and employees that invite us into conversations about how we are all doing and what we are feeling and thinking about the work we do.
When I asked our DRE, Gretta Johnson-Sally, and our Congregational Administrator, Susan Catanzaro, to keep track last year of the tasks they address annually, what they came up with was shocking to me and to the Board! Susan’s job description had never been updated since she joined us nearly 20 years ago. The fact is, even with Pat’s assistance for seven hours a week, Susan’s job is the equivalent of a full-time CA plus at least a quarter-time bookkeeping job, all in 30 hours a week. It is clear that no applicant for the job she leaves (whenever that day might come) would be able to manage it, even at full time, much less with her salary and benefits package, an embarrassingly low fraction of what we owe her for her dedication, her expertise and her notorious efficiency. Gretta doesn’t just manage a Sunday school. She develops and organizes a whole-life ministry for families and children that involves programs and activities that blossom into the week, build upon each other in calculated ways and bring children and youth into partnership with the rest of the congregation. The RE Program is the gateway through which young families (and our future adult leaders, their parents) enter our community. At three-quarter time and compensation that falls quite short of those of DREs in comparable settings in our area, we cannot expect her to carry out all the duties her new job description lists. Yet, cutting any of them out will seriously limit the experience of the children and families she serves. If we can’t afford to pour expert energy into the religious education of our most precious spiritual resource—our children—then we really can’t afford to be a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Please think of Susan, Gretta and Pat as you fill out your 2015-16 pledge form this spring.
In the spirit of fairness, generosity and commitment,