Monday, December 29, 2008

Hard Work But Not Rocket Science

In 1978, agencies of the Federal government responsible for implementing the fair employment provisions of Civil Rights Act of 1964 issued the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures. These guidelines apply to any measure or procedure used as a basis for an employment decision, including, job analysis, crediting plans, interviews, and the selection process itself. While the UUA and its member congregations are not part of the Federal government and ministers are not traditionally "employees," the Uniform Guidelines may be used to promote fairness and non-discrimination in any evaluation process. Using non-discriminatory processes for evaluating candidates for UU ministry promotes anti-racism and anti-oppression in UU ministry.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, the two key criteria for evaluation processes are validity and reliability. Creating and implementing valid and reliable examining procedures is hard work, but not rocket science. There are several strategies. For one of these strategies, the basic steps are:

  • using job analysis to identify the required competencies;
  • interviewing high performers;
  • developing descriptions of competencies and a rating guide;
  • screening candidates;
  • training the interview panel;
  • interviewing; and
  • notifying candidates of the results.
I will be writing further about this process in the future posts. For now, let's look at a single competency -- ministerial authority -- and see how parts of this process would apply to it.

The lack of "ministerial authority" has been used to deny fellowship to candidates for UU ministry. But what is ministerial authority? We all might have a sense of what it is, but do we really have a shared understanding?

Our first difficulty would be to convert this attribute or construct into content or behavioral descriptions. In evaluating candidates for UU ministry, it would be more helpful to learn whether they have demonstrated the ability to effectively exercise ministerial authority than it would be to make an intuitive and possibly discriminatory judgment about whether they "have" ministerial authority.

One way to get a better handle on what is meant by ministerial authority and its criticality for effective ministry is to interview ministers and other stakeholders about what is meant by ministerial authority and how it is demonstrated. These interviews could include such questions as:

  • What is ministerial authority?
  • When is ministerial authority exercised?
  • How do you know when ministerial authority is exercised effectively?
  • Are measures of ministerial authority absolute (i.e., you either have it or you don't) or relative (i.e., individuals have it to differing degrees in differing situations)?

As a result of these interviews, a description of ministerial authority, including behavioral examples, could be developed and published as part of the application material for UU ministry. This would have several advantages:

  • Candidates for the ministry would have a clearer understanding of what's expected of them. They could use this understanding to prepare for fellowshipping, to identify when and how they had demonstrated this competency, and in assessing whether they were ready for fellowshipping.
  • Supervisors and mentors could use this information to guide candidates in their preparation.
  • The MFC could use these descriptions and examples in developing rating guides and interviewing candidates.
  • Greater clarity and uniformity would reduce the likelihood of unintentional discrimination.

1 comment:

  1. This seems like a wise insight and I would endorse such a proposal. I know many individuals who have wondered about or had comments made to them (both compliments and suggestions for improvement)regarding their ministerial authority. While we may say we recognize it when we see it, I think that a deeper consideration of the words and their meaning is in order. You can not fairly measure that which you can't describe. Critics can differ in opinion, but need to have some basis to begin with just as one might learn the foundation of color and proportion in art to then utilize them in creative fashion. While there may be underlying characteristics one naturally possesses to varying degrees, ministerial authority does not strike me as an innate quality.

    I believe the scaled or degrees of exhibiting a behavior are more relevant to this quality than a simple has/doesn't have assessment. Most behavior is not a clear binary.

    While I have not yet gone before the MFC, ad thus can't comment on the process with any authority, this is the sort of insightful and concrete suggestion I believe would be useful and well received.