Frequently Asked Questions About Co-Ministry At FUUSN

We’ve been delighted by the positive response we have received from members of the congregation since our Sunday Announcement of Co-Minister Candidates.  Understandably, people are intrigued and have lots of questions.

Here is a set of FAQs About Co-Ministry that responds to questions we have received. We will add to these FAQs as we receive more questions.  If you have a question that is not covered in the FAQs, please email us at so that we may address it.

What Is Co-Ministry?

Each co-ministry team is unique. Sometimes a co-ministry team is a partnered couple, and sometimes not. In this case, Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel are committed life partners embarking on co-ministry together. As co-ministers, Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel will share one full-time job at FUUSN.

What Are the Benefits and Challenges of Co-Ministry?

In numerous conversations with active co-ministers and lay members of congregations, we learned that there are an overwhelming number of positives, especially when co-ministers have different gifts and experience to share. This is a big benefit to the congregation, and can have a positive impact on membership, fundraising, engagement through volunteerism, and pastoral care.

The most commonly cited challenge we found is that co-ministers may be prone to work too many hours given the arrangement. Triangulation (playing one minister against the other) is also a theoretical concern, but can generally be managed with appropriate behavior and clear communications and wasn’t mentioned as a specific issue experienced by those we interviewed during our exploration of co-ministry.

Which Minister Does What?

Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel will share responsibility for worship, with each of them preaching once a month, together once a month, and off together once a month. They will alternate worship responsibilities on the months with five Sundays. They will also share responsibility for pastoral care, work with the lay ministers, and assist with Religious Exploration at FUUSN.

Rev. Joel will supervise the staff and work with the Board of Trustees and congregation on governance. Rev. Debra will work with the congregation’s social action ministries, stewardship, and membership. Both ministers will be available for pastoral counseling and rites of passage. These and other ministerial tasks will be allocated in consultation with FUUSN leadership.

Can FUUSN Afford Co-Ministers?

The co-ministers will share a single position, with Rev. Debra working 1⁄3 time and Rev. Joel working 2⁄3 time. The compensation package, including salary and benefits, is not materially different than if the position was being filled by a single minister.

What Are the Co-Ministers’ Schedules?

Rev. Debra will work 1⁄3 time and Rev. Joel will work 2⁄3 time. They will establish their hours at the beginning of the congregational year.

Does One Co-Minister Supervise the Other?

Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel are co-equals, and neither one supervises the other. They both partner with the Board of Trustees.

How Do the Co-Ministers Want To Be Addressed by Members of the Congregation?

We appreciate that, for the past several years, congregants have often called our ministers by their first names. We hope that people will be open to addressing our new co-ministers as Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel, which is their preference.

How Do I Communicate with the Co-Ministers?

Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel may each be reached by phone, email, mail, or in person after the start of the congregational year.

It is anticipated that some congregants will feel more closely connected to one or the other co-minister, and indeed that is a well-established benefit of co-ministry. Thus, congregants should feel free to contact either Rev. Debra or Rev. Joel for pastoral care, to discuss a recent sermon, and the like.

Congregants may also choose to contact one co-minister or the other based on areas of designated responsibility (e.g., Rev. Joel for staff supervision and Rev. Debra for social action). If it turns out that the issue is more appropriately handled by the other minister, Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel will make the appropriate referral.

Congregants should bear in mind that Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel may share information freely between themselves, as they will not be expected to keep secrets from each other. That said, unless a specific request is made, it cannot be assumed that something communicated to one minister is automatically known by the other.

How Can I Meet the Co-Ministers?

The co-ministers are eager to meet you! We are looking forward to introducing the congregation to Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel in person during Candidating Week, May 25 – June 2, when there will be many opportunities to meet and engage in conversation with them. Details for the whole week will be announced soon.

When Will the Co-Ministers Start?

Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel look forward to joining FUUSN at the beginning of September, and anticipate that their first Sunday service will be the annual water service on September 8.


Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel are both very respected, experienced UU ministers with a long history of collaborating with congregations and being active in the UUA, but neither of them has done co-ministry before. When they were asked about co-ministry during the interview process it was clear that they had given it a lot of thought and they communicated a compelling vision for how it would work at FUUSN. The search committee is more than satisfied that they will handle their co-ministry collaboration with care and grace.


Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel were serving separate congregations as interim ministers, and chose not to participate in the first round of settled ministry search. After FUUSN did not identify a suitable candidate in the first round, Rev. Parisa posted in a Facebook group for UU ministers how much she had come to love FUUSN during her own interim ministry here, and shared her hope that FUUSN would find a good match in the second round. Rev. Parisa’s post attracted the attention of the co-ministers, and they started a dialogue – and the rest is history! Once the Ministerial Search Committee began exploring the possibility of co-ministry with Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel, it was obvious to everyone that this is a wonderful opportunity for both the co-ministers and FUUSN.


The UUA provides a model ministerial agreement for congregations to use with ministers. Members of the FUUSN Ministerial Negotiating Team, which is a group of three people appointed by the Board of Trustees and Ministerial Search Committee, and the co-ministers reviewed the model agreement and adapted it in light of FUUSN’s needs and governance. The compensation was set in accordance with the UUA’s salary guidelines for congregations of our size in our geographic index. Additional changes were required as a result of the co-ministry arrangement, since the UUA does not have a model agreement for co-ministry. For example, the compensation and benefits are divided into ⅓ and ⅔ to reflect the co-ministers’ respective schedules. The Co-Ministry Agreement provides that, if one co-minister departs, the other co-minister may continue to serve FUUSN only pursuant to a separate call which may be subject to the “inside candidate” procedures of the UUA.

The Co-Ministry Agreement has been fully negotiated, and will be signed upon completion of a successful call vote at the special meeting on June 2, and assuming that Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel accept the call.

In accordance with the UUA’s recommendations, and to protect the confidentiality of personnel information such as individual salaries, access to the Co-Ministry Agreement will be granted to members of the congregation on a need-to-know basis. Any questions regarding access may be directed to FUUSN’s Personnel Policy Committee.


On Sunday, June 2, shortly after the morning worship service concludes, there will be a special meeting of the congregation to vote on whether to “call” the new co-ministers to serve FUUSN. Members of FUUSN who have been members since at least 30 days prior to June 2 will be eligible to vote. If you are not sure whether you are a member, please contact We expect that the meeting will be hybrid, and that members attending in person or on Zoom will be able to vote. More details will be made available in the coming weeks.


The agreement with the co-ministers does not specify an end date, which is typical of ministerial agreements. Rev. Debra and Rev. Joel are looking to make a home in this community, and intend to serve FUUSN as co-ministers for a minimum of 5 years.

What if I Have Questions?

The Ministerial Search Committee welcomes your questions! We are composing additional easily accessible FAQs for our congregation and will address the most common questions there. If you have questions that are not answered in these FAQs, the Ministerial Search Committee would like to hear them! Please feel free to send any questions to While we will not be able to respond individually to every email, we will take all questions we receive into account when preparing additional FAQs, making future announcements, and preparing for candidating week.