Youth Religious Education
A welcome from our Director of Lifespan Religious Education:
You and your family are invited to join an exciting journey of questioning, searching, challenging and wondering about the meaning of life with all its mysteries, great and small. Whatever your religious background, there is room in our church for your family. For generations, Unitarian Universalism has welcomed and celebrated interfaith families, exiles, and seekers, as well as those who have grown up within our own UU tradition. We are enriched by one another’s faith journeys and our liberal religious values.
The core purpose of our educational ministry to children, youth and families at TVUUC is to provide opportunities for people of all ages to deepen their spiritual lives, to deepen their understanding of our UU history and values, and to deepen their ability to live with compassion, integrity and joy as we work together to make the world a better place. We offer a safe, loving and fun community for all ages which is most successful when families attend regularly. Welcome to an exciting and engaging year!
I hope you and your family will enjoy this exploration together. If you have further questions about our congregation or our RE programs, I am eager to talk with you, as are the members of the YRE Committee. We invite you to join us as we celebrate “being you and being UU” in our beloved community of all ages at TVUUC.
The joy continues,
Catherine Farmer Loya, Director of Lifespan Religious Education
Choose Your Own Adventure in TVUUC RE, Coming this August!
TVUUC friends, a grand new experiment in how we do faith development for children, youth and families is on the horizon. Perhaps you’ve heard the rumors already, or you’ve come to one of our forums to talk about our program proposal. Or maybe this is the first opportunity you’ve had to hear about our plans. We’re super excited about what’s to come, and we’re ready to start putting the word out and gathering volunteers and support for the 2018-19 RE program launching this August.
But first, some background: why make changes? As time goes on, I’m less and less convinced that the traditional Sunday School model of RE is serving us well today, for a number of reasons. The church community is one of the only remaining truly multigenerational spaces in people’s lives… and yet on Sunday mornings we continue to segregate our young people into separate classes based solely on age. And the curriculum and structure offered at a particular grade level may or may not fit well with the needs & interests of a child who is in that grade. Why, for example, must all 4th & 5th graders be expected to do well with a traditional lesson format in a classroom seated in chairs around a table? Furthermore, children’s RE experience in the current model is wholly separate from the rest of church life; we offer a multigenerational start to the day in the sanctuary which includes a story carefully chosen to engage and help us enter into reflection on the theme of the morning’s service. This is great for those staying in the sanctuary for the rest of the service, but most of our children and youth leave to head to their classes down the RE hallway… and the content of those classes has nothing to do with what they’ve experienced in the worship service. I worry that this reinforces the sense of RE as separate – what’s done in the sanctuary as “real church,” and RE is somewhere down the hall doing something different and unknown. TVUUC is also one of the most authentically mission-driven UU communities I’ve been a part of, but there is little connection between young people’s experience of church and the justice and service work of the adult church community.
But what if we could build a more authentic connection and sense that our full church community is organized around “being & doing UU together” on Sunday mornings, by offering multiple experiential choices for how to engage with the theme of our worship on Sunday morning, recognizing that there are many meaningful ways to be part of our church community? What if after the Story for All Ages young people had the opportunity to choose deeper engagement with the message through hands-on-service, story and art-making, spiritual/contemplative practice, lesson-and-craft, or staying for the service, and we trusted people of all ages to choose the space that fits best for them? What if our multigenerational church community offered opportunities for young people of different ages to engage deeply together through a variety of learning modalities, along with adults, in living out our congregation’s mission: to create a welcoming community that nurtures spiritual growth and challenges us to transform the world through acts of love and justice? In this model, the congregation is the curriculum and the church’s mission is our guide.
So, beginning the week after our Water Communion ingathering service in August, we’ll start together in the service as one community of faith as usual, experiencing worship in our sanctuary with ritual, song, and a Story for All Ages that invites congregants young and old into engagement with the theme of our exploration for the morning. Then following the story, children, youth, their families and our program volunteers will be invited to participate in one of our experiential spaces for the next part of our morning.
These spaces will include:
Worship (all ages welcome): Remaining in the sanctuary for the worship service is a great way to engage the spirit and reflect on our theme for the day. We have a special spot available right up front for young people who are in worship, with a soft rug, some quiet focusing tools, and a great view of what’s going on in the service. Arranged around the sanctuary are additional “Soul Work” options for older children, youth and adults to engage in spiritual hand work as we connect with the service.
Helping Hands (all ages welcome): In this space, we put our faith into action, partnering with members of TVUUC engaged in service within our walls or in the wider community. Each week we’ll take part in a service project, offering an authentic opportunity to live out our congregational mission as members of one faith community of all ages. One week perhaps we’ll fold letters for the office, another we might make doggy treats to donate to a local shelter, another perhaps we’ll make signs for a protest march members of TVUUC will be participating in soon, or coordinate and carry out a school supply donation drive to benefit kids in need in Knoxville, or put our hands to work caring for plants in our community garden.
Reflection Room (all ages welcome): This is our space for engaging in spiritual practice and/or contemplation. Some weeks we’ll welcome a leader from the congregation who will offer an introduction for young people to a variety of spiritual practices – yoga, meditation, singing, drumming, walking our TVUUC labyrinth, and more – and young people are also welcome to visit the reading corner, stocked with books chosen from our Children’s Diversity and Justice Library, or use one of our contemplative tools such as the finger labyrinth or guided meditation CD. This is intended to be a calming, sensory-friendly space for reflection and renewal.
Story & Spirit (particularly well-suited for K-2nd graders; all ages welcome): In this space we’ll offer another story that explores our theme for the day in a different way, offering additional avenues for engagement. Following the story, young people will have an opportunity to engage in self-directed art-making in response to the theme. This space is similar to the Spirit Play program we’ve offered in previous years.
Learning Lab (particularly well-suited for 3rd-6th graders; all ages welcome): Here we’ll continue our work with the day’s theme with a more traditional lesson-and-craft format that offers opportunities for deeper reflection for those who most enjoy creating meaning in conversation with others, as well as hands-on projects that help make concepts more concrete. We’ll connect with our UU principles, learn about heroes from within as well as outside of UUism who exemplify the values we hold dear, and will build a warm classroom community together.
Youth Focus (6th-12th graders): In this special space just for older youth, our 6th-12th graders will build community together as they explore what it means to be UU youth, how our UU principles inform how we live our lives, and what power young UU’s have to change the world. Our multi-year program cycle includes the Neighboring Faiths world religions program as well as UU Identity curricula. In the 2018-19 year, from August-January we’ll engage with the big questions of life and faith with the Riddle & Mystery program, and then from February-May we’ll develop our skills as justice makers with Heeding the Call.
Preschool Program (3-5 years old): A warm and welcoming classroom experience for young children who are best served with one special space they can experience as their own, and a small team of leaders who they will build comfort with through being in class together consistently. This year’s curriculum, Chalice Children, delves deep into our Unitarian Universalist faith. It strives not just to teach about our faith, but also to provide experiences around the strength of community, the wonder and awe that transcend everyday understanding, and life issues we all share.
Of course, these programs will only work with help and support from our TVUUC adults. We’re beginning to gather our volunteers for next year, and there are many meaningful ways to help make this vision a reality, with varying levels of commitment. We’re looking for leaders/coordinators for our program spaces, as well as assistants, short-term spiritual practice and service project leaders, event helpers, and much more. If you’d like to learn about what this year’s program will be like for your kids and youth, or about opportunities to take part as a volunteer, please contact gro.c1537553111uuvt@1537553111ayole1537553111nireh1537553111tac1537553111. Let’s build something beautiful together, friends!