Minister Succession Planning

By: Jim Yocom

Rev. James’ Contract

Rev. James’ contract expires at the end of July 2024. Though that might sound like the science-fiction future, UUFR needs to make a critical decision this year about what happens on August 1, 2024.

As a “Developmental” minister, Rev. James was hired on a limited-term basis, initially August 2019 through July 2022. (You can read more about Developmental Ministry here.) 

In December 2021, the Congregation voted to ask the Board to extend James’ contract through July 2024. The Board favored this extension because, though UUFR has made tremendous progress while James has been here, that progress was limited by COVID. And though we’re only a couple of months into his contract extension, we continue to make substantial improvements in governance, staffing, operations, and ministry.

So What Happens on August 1, 2024?

Under UUA rules, James can never become UUFR’s “settled” (also known as “called” or “permanent”) minister. Instead, whenever James leaves us, he is keen for us to be ripe for—and competitive for—an excellent settled minister. 

One possibility is that by July 2024 we will be ready for that.

Another possibility is that we extend James’ contract another two years through July 2026 because we want to make further progress on our goals. James would be willing to stay through then.

We Must Decide Now

In December 2022 we will have a congregational vote on the search direction. The question presented to the congregation will be what we want to see happen in August 2024: Do we want James to continue for two years, or do we want a settled minister to begin?

But why not make this decision in late 2023, when we’re closer to the end of James’ current contract? After all, we hopefully will have our Strategic Plan in place and have a better idea about whether we’re “ready” for a settled minister. 

We must make this important decision in 2022 because of the nature of the vigorous search process for settled ministers. Under the procedure in our Bylaws and consistent with the UUA hiring calendar, the search for a settled minister will take at least a year. The congregation will elect candidates to a search committee from a slate of nominees provided by the Nominating Committee. And, when the committee has settled on a candidate, the congregation itself must vote to approve the candidate. 

This is a long process. So if UUFR is going to pursue a settled ministry, we must decide that soon in order to devote 2023 to a proper search. We would want an excellent settled minister to start in 2024, so it will be important to take our time to do it right.

Will We Be Ready in 2024? How Would We Know?

To prepare ourselves for that vote, Rev. James and the Board are planning the following:

  • Fellowship Matters blog posts discussing the pros and cons from both the Board’s and James’ perspectives.
  • An in-person Q&A session on Saturday, October 8 at 3:00 PM at UUFR with Keith Kron, UUA Transitions Director, who will share his time and expertise to have an important conversation with us about the market for UU ministers. He will make us aware of critical considerations in making this decision.
  • A Town Hall on October 23, after service which will discuss, among other things, views from the congregation. 


minister succession timeline

We look forward to hearing the congregation’s comments and questions on 10/8 and 10/23. You can also email me your comments at or email or talk to any Board member. For comments that you want the entire Board to receive, including Rev. James, you can email

See all Fellowship Matters posts here.