Faith formation is a life-long process in which people claim their identity as beloved children of God and their call to participate in God’s purposes for the world. This process involves information (what we know), formation (who we are and who we are becoming), and transformation (how the world is changed because of who we are and how we live). A life of faith, then, includes cognitive, emotional, and behavioral dimensions. The effectiveness of this process has an impact on how well a local church fulfills its mission “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” (¶120, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church).
Staff people leading specialized experiential learning and faith formation ministries full time or as a dimension of their leadership need to have or to develop key knowledge, skills, and spiritual practices for the following core areas:
- Nurture Christian faith and discipleship.
- Develop spiritual leaders.
- Extend Christian hospitality and community.
- Maximize experiential learning and integration.
- Engage participants in lives of love and justice.
- Incorporate the outdoors in faith formation.
- Teach creation care and appreciation.
- Provide for health, safety, and risk management.
- Use creative dislocation and places apart.
- Foster intercultural understanding and collaboration.
- Enhance lives through renewal, play, and recreation.
- Recruit, train, support, and supervise leaders.
- Vision, plan, and implement effectively.
- Apply financial best practices and stewardship.
- Direct and manage a camp/retreat center, if one is owned by the congregation.
Factors to be considered in employing a staff person include realistic job expectations, adequate salary and benefits, certification and continuing education, healthy staff relationships, and regular feedback.
The staff-parish relations committee will find a description of its responsibilities related to staff in¶258.2g of The Book of Discipline. These responsibilities apply to both ordained and lay employees. This document provides additional help for congregations in the process of hiring a staff person in faith formation and/or discipleship or in evaluating their current staff configuration.
Recommendations for Hiring Staff for Specialized Experiential Faith Formation Ministries
Each church needs a screening process for potential staff people. This process should include a reference check, a criminal background check, a psychological assessment, and a review of the candidate’s social media.
The staff-parish relations committee should provide a written job description. The job description should be used in annual performance reviews and possibly quarterly reviews. It should also be updated whenever a person’s responsibilities are altered.
Churches should pay equitably, demonstrating the importance of adult ministries and considering the local economy and the resources of the congregation.
Additional factors to consider include:
- Educational background
- Previous experience
- Full-time versus part-time
- Scope of responsibility
- Local cost of living
Increases in salary should be based on merit and on increases in the cost of living.
Churches can consult with annual conference boards of ordained ministry and/or the Camp and Retreat Ministry office of Discipleship Ministries to determine current compensation ranges for camp and retreat ministry staff.
Benefits for full-time positions should include health insurance, retirement benefits, and reimbursement of work-related expenses, such as mileage.
When an ordained clergy person is chosen for one of these positions, the congregation needs to follow the appointment process as described in the appropriate sections of The Book of Discipline.
Supervision and Retention
The staff person in camp-retreat/outdoor-mission journey/recreation type ministries serves as a member of a team. The person’s supervisor should be clearly identified, and the two should meet on a regular basis for prayer, planning, and conversation about the faith formation ministry. Supervisors should be trustworthy, respectful, and collegial.
At a minimum, the staff-parish relations committee should conduct an annual evaluation. The evaluation should be based on the staff person’s written job description and include documentation of effectiveness and any need for improvement. It can be helpful to schedule quarterly or midyear evaluations for new staff.
Consistent communication between the adult ministries staff person and supervisor should be the norm. In addition, the staff person will need to communicate regularly with members of the faith formation ministry team, other staff, and members of the congregation.
Eric Law has developed a set of “Respectful Communications Guidelines” that can provide a helpful framework for communication.
Additionally, leaders of adult ministries should be added to mailing lists for district and conference news (print and electronic). They should be encouraged to join professional associations and networks geared for growth and mutual support among leaders also engaged in these types of ministries.
Spiritual, Physical, and Emotional Health
Part of supervision is working to ensure that staff take care of their spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being. Effective staff nurture their relationship with God. They schedule days off, vacation, and time with friends and family. When special events (e.g., retreats, professional development opportunities, or Holy Week services) require additional work time significantly beyond the staff person’s prescribed hours of work per week, the staff person should take additional time off.
If the need arises, leaders should have access to counseling services and/or professional coaching.
Camp-Retreat/ Outdoor-Mission Journey and Leisure & Recreation Ministry staff should continue to build their knowledge and skills for ministry. Participation in certification courses, workshops, conferences, online learning, and professional networks are a part of staff work. Congregations should provide time and financial assistance for staff participation in ongoing development.
Examples of professional development organizations and networks are:
- The Camp/Retreat Leader Network of Discipleship Ministries. To join, contact Kevin Witt or see Camp & Retreat Ministry Resources
- The United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministry Association, umcrm.org
- The Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders, https://fumsdrl.org
- The American Camp Association, www.acacamps.org
- The Christian Camp and Conference Association, www.ccca.org
- The International Association of Conference Center Administrators, www.iacca.org
Termination of Professional Relationship
Termination of employment should occur only after adequate measures have been taken to improve performance, resolve conflict, or address other issues. When termination becomes necessary, all people involved should demonstrate grace in the process.