What is a Director of Religious Education?
A Director of religious education is a leader of education programs at a church or school. According to ONET, other titles this role might be called are Adult Ministries Director, Children’s Ministries Director, Christian Education Director or Religious Education Director. They aren’t so different from secular education leaders. Like, school administrators. The difference is that DREs typically have a strict focus on religious education.
A Director of religious education could work in a few kinds of settings. For one, many schools are affiliated with a religion. They seek to teach students the doctrine of that faith. Also, many churches tend to offer religious education for youth and adults. Directors of religious education may run both kinds of programs. They could also lead within youth ministries, Christian camps, and other settings. And they may work part time or full time, depending on the scope of duties.
What Does a Director of Religious Education Do?
Directors of religious education may manage programs that teach people about faith. This could be at a school of a particular denomination. For example, the Catholic church. Along with general education, a Catholic school aims to teach doctrine and religious practices. Directors may be responsible for all programming that relates to faith formation.
A DRE could also run the parish religious education program. You may be familiar with that from your own faith journey. People preparing for a sacrament may have to take religious instruction. It’s often called catechesis. And, the teacher is called a catechist. Often, these programs are designed to prepare youth for certain rites. Like, baptism or first communion. In the Roman Catholic Church, for instance, this type of religious education program is called CCD. (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.)
But people may learn about faith at any age. A DRE might put together programs for different groups. Like, adults who want to deepen their faith. Or, those new to the church. Again, consider the Catholic church as an example. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is typically designed for older converts. This program aims to teach future Catholics who didn’t practice the faith as children. DREs may be responsible for running an RCIA program. Of course, similar programs exist in many other churches, too.
Naturally, directors of religious education may do a lot of planning and coordinating. They may design and run education programs. And, they may manage staff members like teachers. But often, there’s a lot more to the job. DREs may promote religious education in the archdiocese or parish. They may perform outreach and represent the church or school at community events. And they may counsel students or educators.
Duties and responsibilities of a director of religious education may include:
- Run catechetical programs or other sacramental preparation
- Coordinate programs, classes, and activities
- Ensure the curriculum adheres to church doctrine
- Recruit and train teachers, volunteers, and other workers
- Manage other parish staff members
- Handle the budget for religious education programming
- Promote student enrollment and coordinate registration
- Serve as a leader in the school and community
- Stay up to date on current topics in religious education
How to Become a Director of Religious Education
Thinking about becoming a director of religious education? Here’s how you may jumpstart the process:
Be a church member in good standing. DREs typically have strong knowledge of the faith they practice. That’s important, since they often play a key role in educating others about religion. If you’re interested in becoming a DRE, learn as much as you could about your faith. If possible, talk to leaders responsible for religious education in your own church.
Earn a bachelor’s degree. According to O*NET, 82% of employers prefer candidates that have earned a bachelor’s degree after high school. This could be in Biblical Studies, Religious Education, Worship Ministry, Pastoral Counseling or a related field. In general, your studies might include courses in scripture and theology. In a religious education program, you may also study areas like teaching and curriculum planning.
Earn an optional master’s degree to stand out in the field. Also according to O*NET, only 10% of employers may require a master’s degree. This could be a chance to drill down on areas of interest to you. Like political theology. Or contemporary evangelization. However, this step may not be strictly necessary for your role. It all depends on the job description.
Pursue experience. The director of religious education at a church or school may be highly experienced. They may build skills in more junior roles before earning the job title they have today. And some could be teachers, first. So, don’t be afraid to start out in a role other than DRE. You could also pursue experience in other ways, like volunteering.
Continue your education. The field of education changes fast. There’s always new technology and tactics on the horizon. Well, that’s just as true for religious education. Churches evolve and seek new approaches to teaching about faith. So, many directors attend conferences or courses to keep learning.
Director of Religious Education Degree Options
For example, a B.A. in Religious Education. A program like this might cover the skills for teaching and leadership. For instance, you could learn about classroom management. And human development. In addition, you’ll deepen your knowledge of your religion. Here are a few areas of study, courses you could take, and the curriculum goals:
- Old Testament
- New Testament
- Liturgy and Spirituality
- Gain a sound knowledge of Christian doctrine
- Know the Bible and how to interpret scripture
- Understand the importance of spirituality in human life
- Christian Mission
- Christian Worldview
- Moral Issues
- Be able to express the values of a Christian life
- Prepare to offer moral guidance to learners
- Plan initiatives to promote the Christian mission
One option would be a Master of Religious Education (MRE). A program like this typically teaches the skills to lead in a Christian educational setting. Or, a Christian ministry. Biblical study, theology, and research often feature in the curriculum. Here are a few areas of study, potential courses, and learning goals:
- Systematic Theology
- Grace, Christ, and Spirit
- Jewish Roots of Christian Faith
- Dig deeper into Christian doctrine
- Understand the foundations of Christianity
- Be able to explain theological concepts in simple terms
- Curriculum Development
- Catechetical Leadership
- Biblical Foundations of Leadership
- Learn the theory and practice behind building a curriculum
- Prepare to lead people in preparing for sacraments
- Develop a faith based philosophy of leadership
- Discipleship Ministries
- Digital Media and Ministry
- Youth and Young Adult Ministry
- Be ready to work with diverse groups in a ministry
- Understand how to reach young members of the faith
- Learn to use digital tools for outreach
How Much Does a Director of Religious Education Make?
According to the BLS, Directors of Religious Activities and Education earned a median annual salary of $43,860 in 2019. Or, an hourly rate of $21.09. ONET tells us that jobs in this field are growing about as fast as average: 3 to 4%. That may lead to about 17,700 job openings around the country.
As provided by BLS, the 2019 median salary by state is: