Monday, January 5, 2009

Fear, Trembling, & Structured Interviews

The other day I was speaking to a long-time UU minister who said that as a candidate he'd been unhappy with the examining process for UU ministry, but once he'd become a minister he'd moved on to other issues, assuming that the outcomes of the interviews were generally appropriate.

For me, the experience of the Ministerial Fellowshipping Committee (MFC) interview for preliminary fellowship is more recent. I no longer fear that a single one-hour interview will trump years of preparation for fellowshipping and determine my future in ministry. However, I've not forgotten that concern nor the concerns of others who have been interviewed or who are about to be.

But this blog is not predominately about feelings or outcomes: it's about process.

I do not have an insider's view of the entire examining process and may be misunderstanding some aspects of it. However, there appears to be a disconnect between the competencies, such as ministerial authority, that many say the MFC is looking for and the competencies, such as knowledge of church history, found on pages 17 and 18 of the booklet Requirements for Ministry with the UUA (which may be downloaded from "Related Content" box on this link).

To generalize, successful ministry may be more about what a minister is able to do than what academic knowledge the minister has acquired. It appears that both UU seminaries are revising their pedagogies to reflect this insight.

Scientific research has much to say about interviewing and other assessment techniques. At this link, there is guidance on developing effective interviews from the Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology (SIOP), Inc., Division 14 of the American Psychological Association APA, re effective interviews. At this one, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) provides guidance on developing structured interviews. Both the SIOP and OPM web site contain a wealth of information about assessment and examining.

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