New DRE workshop

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be leading a workshop for new Directors of Religious Education (DREs). With the thought that this workshop might be useful to others, I’m going to post summaries of what we cover each day. To start off, I’ll post the three key handouts which I’ll hand out at the beginning of the workshop. These three handouts attempt to provide a broad overview of what the DRE job can encompass.

Handout One: Outline of the Many Things a DRE Might Do

• No religious educator can possibly do everything the job encompasses!

• In order to stay sane, you must accept the constraints on your job, e.g., how many hours a week, your written job description, implicit expectations of congregation, mission of congregation, your level of training, the complications of the rest of your life, your present KSA (knowledge, skills, and abilities), etc.

• Sometimes the expectations (yours and the congregation’s) for the DRE position exceed the realities of the situation. When expectations exceed reality, DRE burn-out and congregational disappointment may ensue.


We can break down the DRE job into four basic areas of responsibility, listed in the usual order of priority:

— Administration (non-profit leadership and management)
— Education
— Religion and theology
— Pastoral concerns

If you are quarter-time or less, expect to have the time to do some administration and education. If you are half-time or more, expect to deal with administration and some education (unless your congregation has other priorities). If you are full time, expect to cover three areas of responsibility. If you have been working as a religious educator for ten or more years with appropriate training, expect to get involved in all four areas of responsibility. Exception: large programs may require more administrative responsibilities.


I/ Administration (non-profit leadership and management)
  A. Safety
    1. Ensure safety policies and procedures are in place
      a. Child/youth protection
      b. Emergency evacuations
      c. Local problems (earthquake, tornado, etc.)
    2. Train volunteers in safety
      a. Conduct annual safety training for all
      b. Conduct specialized safety training as needed
    3. Supervise staff and volunteers in safety
      a. Conduct fire drills
      b. In-classroom observation
  B. Volunteer management
    1. Support volunteers: in-service support
      a. Mid-year workshop
      b. Monthly teacher meeting/training
      c. Consulting with individual teachers
    2. Support volunteers: supplies and resources
      a. Classroom notebooks
      b. Organized supply closets
      c. Classroom supply boxes
    3. Recognize volunteers: public recognition
      a. Mention in newsletter, annual report
      b. Commission teachers, advisors in worship
    4. Recognize volunteers: personal and group events
      a. Handwritten notes for exceptional service
      b. Volunteer breakfast or other celebration
    5. Recruit volunteers
      a. Invite existing volunteers to re-up
      b. Personally invite key experienced volunteers
      c. Mass recruitment efforts
    6. Train volunteers before service begins
      a. Conduct annual training
      b. Distribute teacher manual, volunteer manuals
    7. Written description for all volunteer jobs
      a. Document what volunteers are doing now
      b. Create written job descriptions
  C. Coordinating annual calendar
    1. Track all annual events
      a. Document what is happening currently
      b. Write down annual calendar
    2. Coordinate annual or bi-annual planning sessions
      a. Within RE Committee
      b. With congregation’s Council or Board
  D. Project management and scheduling
    1. Track all major projects (plays, trips, etc.)
    2. Serve as project manager
    3. Schedule special events
  E. Systems theory and conflict management
    1. Recognize and identify conflict
    2. Use de-triangulation skills
    3. Recognize systems-level issues
  F. Evaluation
    1. Conduct participant program evaluations
      a. Distribute forms (paper and online)
      b. Analyze results
    2. Conduct teacher/leader program evaluation
      a. Distribute forms (paper and online)
      b. Analyze results
    3. Conduct other stakeholder program evaluation
     (parents/guardians, ministers/staff, lay leaders,
     whole congregation, etc.)
      a. Distribute forms (paper and online)
      b. Analyze results
  G. Facilities management
    1. Classroom maintenance and improvements
    2. Storage maintenance and improvements
    3. Offices maintenance and improvements
    4. Facility safety, throughout entire plant
    5. Resource person: child/youth-friendly plant
  H. Publicity and growth
    1. Maintain brochures
      a. Prospectus for your program
      b. Supplement with UUA brochures as needed
    2. Encourage word of mouth
      a. Give parents talking points for word of mouth
    3. Regularly update RE material on Web site
      a. Review entire site annually
      b. Submit new material as needed
    4. Read literature on church growth
      a. Anything by Lyle Schaller
      b. Alban Institute books specific to size
    5. Prepare for growth
      a. Plan for doubled enrollment
      b. Plan for adding a worship service
  I. Staff supervision (child care workers, RE Assistant)
    1. Regular supervision and/or staff meetings
    2. Annual or semi-annual reviews
    3. Hiring and firing
  J. Work with RE Committee
    1. Monthly reports
    2. Leadership development
    3. Monthly meetings
  K. Etc.

II/ Education
  A. Curriculum
    1. Lesson plans
    2. Curriculum units
    3. Semester-long and year-long programs
    4. Curriculum sequences for ages 0-18
    5. Adult curriculum
  B. Supervision of teachers and advisors
    1. Providing teacher self-evaluation tools
    2. Facilitating teacher support groups
    3. Observation and feedback of teachers
    4. Providing in-service teacher-training
    5. Providing access to in-depth teacher training
  C. DRE as “master teacher”
    1. Teaching alongside other teachers
    2. Mentoring other teachers
    3. Teaching in large-group settings
  D. Assessment
    1. Pre-assessment
    2. Setting learning goals, learning objectives
    3. Assessing individual and group learning
    4. Communicating assessment results to congregation
  E. Classroom management
    1. Environments that minimize behavior problems
    2. Tools and training for classroom management
    3. Being the ultimate disciplinarian
  F. Etc.

III/ Religion and theology
  A. Resource person: worship with young people
    1. Sounding board for primary worship leaders(s)
    2. Provide resources for including young people
  B. Resource person: religious studies, comparative religion
    1. Maintain bibliography and/or library of resources
    2. Be an expert (if you have college-level study)
  C. Resource person: Unitarian Universalist theologies
    1. Maintain bibliography and/or library of resources
    2. Be an expert (if you have college-level study)
  D. Worship leader
    1. Participate/assist in leading worship
    2. Primary worship leader (intergenerational, adult)
    3. Children’s chapel leader
  E. Etc.

IV/ Pastoral concerns
  A. Referrals to minister(s), other professionals
    1. Refer to minister(s)
    2. Maintain referral list
  B. A listening ear
    1. Listen without providing advice
    2. Provide pastoral counseling (if trained)
  C. Basic knowledge of family systems theory
    1. Maintain bibliography/library of self-help resource
    2. Provide pastoral counseling (if trained)
  D. Etc.

Handout Two: Sample weekly and monthly DRE tasks

Weekly tasks for DRE:

a. Check classrooms for readiness — Sunday morning
b. Supervise child care employees as needed — Sunday morning
c. Plan for coming week, coming month — Sunday afternoon
d. Check in with office administrator, sexton — Monday
e. Attend staff meeting — Tuesday
f. Meet one-on-one with parish minister — Tuesday
g. Check newsletter, Web site, submit new info — Tuesday
h. Respond to email, mail, voice mail — ongoing
i. Routine administrative maintenance tasks as needed — ongoing

Volunteer training/support:
a. Look in on all classrooms during classes — Sunday morning
b. Read weekly evaluations from teachers in class notebooks, respond to any concerns — Sunday afternoon or Monday
b. Check in with key volunteers as needed — ongoing

a. Greet people as they come into services — Sunday morning
b. Attend social hour — Sunday morning
c. Communicate any possible pastoral concerns to parish minister — Monday morning

Monthly tasks for DRE:

Administrative duties and meetings:
a. Write and submit monthly reports to Board
b. Write and submit monthly report to RE Committee
c. Review, sign, and submit payroll sheets from child care staff
d. Write class notes (and perhaps a column) for newsletter
e. Attend committee meetings as directed by supervisor
f. Coordinate with chair facilities committee

District/denominational, and professional development:
a. Attend district gatherings of religious educators
b. Carry out a district or denominational commitment (as schedule allows)
c. Carry out program of professional development (planned for the year, and based on evaluations of the previous year)

Handout three: Annual RE calendar for committee and DRE

Annual Calendar for First Universalist on the Beach (FUB)

This is a completely hypothetical annual religious education calendar. Obviously, every congregation will have a somewhat different annual rhythm, and different special events and annual events.

  RE Committee meeting:
Review RE program’s mission statement and goals
Sunday school start up tasks
Last minute recruiting
Arrange for committee member to greet new families

  DRE tasks:
Review DRE annual goals
Revise and print Sunday school prospectus
Last-minute recruitment of teachers and advisors as needed
Buy any needed books and curriculums
Chase down curriculum books not returned
Generate final attendance lists for each age group
Clean up supply closet
Check supplies in each classroom
Finalize room assignments for Sunday mornings
Planning teacher training
Begin weekly meetings with parish minister

  RE Committee meeting:
Review RE program mission statement and goals
Plans for following up with new families
Go over progress of start-up & recruitment
Looking ahead: Hallowe’en Party

  DRE tasks:
Review DRE annual goals
Conduct fall teacher orientation and safety training
Get to know new families
Ongoing start-up tasks (see August list)

  District events:
Quarterly religious educator’s meeting

  RE Committee meeting:
Review RE program mission statement and goals
Last minute planning: Hallowe’en Party
Looking ahead: Holiday craft fair
Looking ahead: Winter OWL (gr. K-2, gr. 4-6 in alternate years)

  DRE tasks:
Review DRE annual goals
Sunday school fire drill
Ongoing start-up tasks
Review church school attendance and registration

  District events:
District fall meeting

  RE Committee meeting:
Review RE program mission statement and goals
Review RE program spending for previous year
Approve budget requests for next year
Last minute planning: Holiday Crafts Party

  DRE tasks:
Review DRE annual goals
Plan for Holiday Crafts Fair

  RE Committee meeting:
Review RE program mission statement and goals
Plan to send out mid-year Sunday school evals in early January
Advance planning for Coming of Age program or OWL grades 7-8
  (alternate years)
Last minute planning: Winter OWL (gr. K-2, gr. 4-6 in alternate

  DRE tasks:
Review DRE annual goals
Arrange for Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s
Send out evaluation forms to fall teachers
Revise (if necessary) and reprint Sunday school prospectus
Plan January teacher workshop
Conduct mid-year staff evaluations, submit staff budget requests

  District events:
Quarterly religious educator’s meeting

  RE Committee meeting:
Review RE program mission statement and goals
Send out mid-year evals
Begin planning curriculum for following church year
Looking ahead: Easter egg hunt in March or April
Looking ahead: Sunday school Open House in March
Looking ahead: Spring project and RE Sunday in May

  DRE tasks:
Review DRE annual goals
Check supplies, reorder as necessary
Research any new published curriculums for next year
Plan for spring project
Recruit leadership for spring project

  RE Committee meeting:
Review RE program mission statement and goals
Review mid-year evals
Visioning and long-range planning for next church year
Finalize curriculum, and determine age groupings for next year
Finalize special events calendar for next year
Last-minute planning: Easter egg hunt [if Easter in March]
Last minute planning: Sunday school Open House

  DRE tasks:
Review DRE annual goals
Make curriculum recommendations to RE Committee

  District events:
LREDA chapter retreat

  RE Committee meeting:
Review RE program mission statement and goals
Check in with youth advisors and youth leaders, and engage in
  visioning for next year
Set specific objectives for the program for next year
Begin collecting data for annual report
Last minute planning: Spring project

  DRE tasks:
Review DRE annual goals
Finalize planning for spring project
Finalize recruitment for spring project
Orientation for spring project volunteers

  District events:
Quarterly religious educator’s meeting

  RE Committee meeting:
Review RE program mission statement and goals
Yearly evaluation (of Sunday morning program, of youth
  ministries, of objectives and goals, of committee)
Write Annual report for May meeting
Review performance of DRE, and share findings with parish
  minister (DRE’s immediate supervisor)
Looking ahead: summer Sunday school planning

  DRE tasks:
Begin recruiting key volunteers for next year
Registration for following year begins
Work on spring project

  RE Committee meeting:
Review RE program mission statement and goals
Set final calendar for next year (special events, teacher trainings, etc.)
Recruit teachers and advisors for next year
Check references for teachers/advisors
Review of responsibilities and portfolios of committee members
RE Committee membership for next year
RE Committee chair for next year
Last-minute planning: Summer Sunday school

  DRE tasks:
Review DRE annual goals
Work on spring project

  District events:
District annual meeting

  RE Committee meeting:
Review RE program mission statement and goals
Begin summer Sunday school

  DRE tasks:
Review existing DRE annual goals
Get annual review, set new goals
Review RE staff (child care worker, RE asst.)
Tie up loose ends before summer
Begin study leave

  Denominational event:
General Assembly

  RE Committee:
No meeting
Continue with summer Sunday school

  DRE tasks:
Study leave, vacation
Attend summer RE conference

3 thoughts on “New DRE workshop

  1. Carrie Stewart

    I forwarded this to our newly-established REC at Pathways and they are finding it very helpful in hiring a DRE.

  2. Mary Kroener-Ekstrand

    Hello Dan,
    I’ve been a regular reader of your blog throughout this last year. I wish that I could have come to your program this week, but our church budget couldn’t support me with the funds at this time.

    I look forward to reading your posts about the New DRE workshop, and I want to let you know how much I appreciate your sharing of ideas and resources.

  3. Dan

    Carrie @ 1 — Glad this was useful. If you have any specific feedback for improving it, or you can say more about how you use these documents, I’d love to hear about it.

    Mary @ 2 — Sorry you couldn’t attend this year. We are working on establishing a scholarship fund specifically for RE Week, to help religious educators like you whose congregation can’t afford RE Week. Once next summer’s schedule it posted, watch the Ferry Beach Web site for scholarship information.

Comments are closed.