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Strong RE Programs Begin with Strong Leaders

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Strong RE Programs Begin with Strong Leaders

Good Offices Program

THE GOOD OFFICES PROGRAM 

TABLE OF CONTENTS 

  1. When can a LREDA Good Officer help? 
  2. What does a Good Officer do? 
  3. What makes a good Good Officer?
  4. Good Officer Job Description
  5. Funding 
  6. Good Offices Grievance Procedure 
  7. Appendix - Resources and Where to Find Them

Religious educators have specific needs to be met if they are to function well as religious professionals and to integrate that role with a healthy personal life.  Members of the congregation come to them with personal problems; it is not appropriate to take their problems to the congregation.  Religious educators  need the support of each other and, at times, some special support. LREDA Good Officers can help provide this support. 

Good Officers are available in most Unitarian Universalist districts around the continent.  Any one of these people is available to help.  A LREDA member may select a particular Good Officer because of proximity, acquaintance, or her or his particular personal experience as a religious educator.  The role of these Good Officers is to help LREDA members with professional problems and concerns.  The LREDA Board appoints and supports training for the Good Officers upon recommendation from the Board members for Professional Concerns.

When can a LREDA Good Officer help?

• Before a congregation-related issue gets out of hand, i.e., in conflicts over contracts, lines of authority, unfulfilled agreements, collegial relationships, etc., when talking things over early in a conflict may resolve the situation without further steps. 
• When conflict has escalated, but the various parties are willing to engage in mediated dialogue. 
• When serious polarization has occurred and the Grievance Procedure needs to be invoked (see end of this section).

What does a Good Officer do?

   A.  Informs the local LREDA Chapter members of Good Offices services. 
   B.  On the arrival of a colleague to a new position, on the acceptance of a colleague into LREDA, or when a retired member moves into the area, the Good Officer welcomes them, including a note about the availability of Good Offices services. 
   C.  In the event of personal crisis where one-to-one counseling is needed, the Good Officer identifies an appropriate LREDA member or a skilled and trusted minister or lay person in the area, contacts that person, and asks that s/he initiate a call to the person in crisis. 
   D.  In a problem situation between a LREDA member and her/his parish minister or congregation, the Good Officer: 
     1.   gathers information from the LREDA member 
     2.   listens sympathetically and counsels the LREDA member 
     3.   develops a process of mutual communication among the LREDA member, the parish minister, and appropriate congregational representatives 
     4.   helps to identify underlying reasons for the difficulty and suggests mutually beneficial solutions
     5.   considers the following question: 
            What were the expectations in terms of roles and relationships? 
            What hasn't worked satisfactorily? 
            What does each person feel has been an obstacle? 
            Are the expectations reasonable? 
            Can any of the blocks to a solution be removed? 
     6.     follows the Grievance Procedure if such processes are ineffective.
   E.  In a conflict situation between a LREDA member and a parish minister, the LREDA Good Officer invites the two parties to meet with her/him and a UUMA Good Officer chosen by the parish minister.  If the situation has become polarized, the LREDA Good Officer will consult with a LREDA Board member for Professional Concerns.

What makes a good Good Officer?

  • strict adherence to confidentiality 
  • the ability to separate one's own ego needs from the role of Good Officer 
  • awareness that listening and counseling come before mediating and advocacy 
  • knowing when to refer someone to professional help 
  • the trust and confidence of colleagues 
  • both empathy and objectivity 
  • considerable experience as a religious educator in parish settings 
  • training and experience in counseling 
  • training in conflict resolution 
  • familiarity with the UUMA and LREDA Codes of Professional Practice 
  • access to good sources of information, such as the Office of Church Staff Finances and The RE Staffing Guide 
  • the ability to move between the  roles of mediator and advocate for  the profession of religious education 
     

Good Officer Job Description

The qualifications and expectations for Good Officers:
 
LREDA Good Officers must have:
 1. Trust of colleagues and chapter members.
 2. Experience as a religious educator - 5 years or more.
 3. Willingness and ability to attend annual Good Offices training prior to GA.
 4. Membership in LREDA in good standing:
     a. "active" or "honorary life" member;
     b. serving Religious Education in a paid or substantial volunteer capacity;
     c. in good standing in their own congregation;
     d. active and visible in the district in which they serve.  This includes a recently retired religious educator who is still in touch with  active religious educators.
 
 It is desirable for LREDA Good Officers to have:
 1. Conflict management or mediation training.
 2. Clinical Pastoral Education unit or counseling training.
 
 The following are the LREDA Board expectations of Good Officers:
 1. Become familiar with the Good Offices Program 
 2. Present yourself and the function of Good Offices annually to your chapter, reviewing the  HANDBOOK with any new religious educators.
 3. Attend annual Good Offices training provided prior to General Assembly and/or prior to LREDA Fall Conference.
 4. Report annually to the LREDA Board members for Professional Concerns concerning the type and amount of Good Offices activity you have engaged in during the year.
 5. Submit reimbursement request for reasonable expenses.
 6. Maintain absolute confidentiality about your work with any religious educator, consulting as necessary with the Board Member for Professional Concerns.

Funding 
   LREDA has limited funds for Good Offices functions.  If mail or e-mail will serve, they are to be used, then telephone calls, and, finally, travel.  If funds for travel seem necessary, the Good Officer should contact one of the Board members for Professional Concerns.

Good Offices Grievance Procedure

     The Grievance Procedure available through the Good Offices program should not be used until the member of LREDA has made a reasonable effort to resolve a grievance through her/his congregation.  When using the procedures of one's congregation, the grievant should conduct her/himself with a high degree of professionalism.  The grievant should submit, and request others involved to submit, a written description of the grievance to the appropriate committee(s), including that committee to which the grievant is directly responsible.  In any resolution of the grievance, the grievant should insist that her/his rights as a professional religious educator be recognized and honored (see the Code of Professional Practices). 
     If a resolution of the grievance cannot be achieved within the congregation, the grievant may request the assistance of the Good Offices program of LREDA. The following procedure should be employed:

     1.   Notify the individuals and committees involved of one's intention of using the Good Offices program of LREDA.  Describe the function of the Good Offices program: a resource for helping individual religious educators and congregations to resolve conflicts to the benefit of all concerned.

     2.   Submit to the Good Officer a written description of the grievance, efforts to resolve it, and the names of people who have been involved, including professional colleagues, committee chairpersons, etc., involved in prior negotiations.

     3.   The Good Officer will then arrange for a personal meeting with the grievant as well as meetings with other individuals and/or committees, to clarify the nature of the grievance. The Good Officer will notify a LREDA Board member for Professional Concerns and the appropriate District Field Staff of the grievance situation.

     4.   If a resolution of the grievance seems possible, the Good Officer will offer counsel, facilitate the resolution, and submit a written description of the resolution to a LREDA Board member for Professional Concerns.

     5.   If a valid grievance does not exist, the Good Officer will submit a written report to all concerned, including to a LREDA Board Member for Professional Concerns.  If the grievant continues to feel that a valid griev-ance exists, s/he may appeal directly to the LREDA Board.

     6.   If a valid grievance does exist, and the relevant parties are unable to resolve it in a mutually satisfactory way, the Good Officer will submit a written report to a LREDA Board member for Professional Concerns. The Board will proceed in ways deemed appropriate, including, among others, a decision that a valid grievance does not exist, further efforts to resolve the grievance, or sanctions against the congregation with the recommendation that no member of LREDA serve that congregation. 
 

APPENDIX - RESOURCES AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

   Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) 
   25 Beacon Street 
   Boston, MA 02108 
      617-742-2100

   Contact the following offices for assistance:

   Department of Lifespan Faith Development

   Curriculum Development Office 
      Starting from Scratch 
      Curriculum Mapping 
      RE Staffing Guide 
      Creating Safe Congregations: Toward an Ethic of Right Relations 
      "Spiral Journey" pamphlet 
      Curriculum Loan Library

   Department of Ministry and Professional Leadership
      Renaissance Modules 
      "RE Leadership Options" pamphlet series 
      Compensation issues and materials
      Ministerial education materials 
      Settlement for Ministers of Religious Education 
      Ministerial Settlement Handbook 
      Office of Church Staff Finances -- To Sustain the Living Tradition

   Church Staff Resources
      Congregational Handbook 
      Extension conferences and trainings

   UUA District Resources 
      District Executive 
      District Religious Education Consultant 
      District Compensation Consultant

    UUA Bookstore : 1 (800) 215-9076

Other Organizations:

     The Alban Institute, Inc. 
     4550 Montgomery Ave. 
     Suite 433 North 
     Bethesda, MD  20814 
     (301) 718-4407 
     1 (800) 486-1318

    The Religious Education Association 
    409 Prospect Street 
    New Haven, CT  06511-2177 
    (203) 865-6141