Changes to UUA’s youth ministry programs explained

Youth ministry programs within Unitarian Universalism have undergone many changes in the past few years, with some parts disappearing and others being created. If you’d like to get up to date on how they are currently structured and how they can be useful to your congregation, or simply get an idea of what ministry to youth encompasses, there’s a new tool to help you do that.

All of the youth programs are presented as part of a “Prezi” called The Big Picture of Unitarian Universalist Youth Ministry. A Prezi is a single interactive screen of comprehensive information showing the various youth ministry elements and how they are related. A more traditional way of showing such information would be in a PowerPoint presentation with multiple slides. With a Prezi, users can click on the various parts for more information.

Check out The Big Picture of Unitarian Universalist Youth Ministry on the website of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. The information includes names of many books currently used in youth ministry. Most are available through the UUA Bookstore.

The Big Picture of Unitarian Universalist Youth Ministry is one of many items featured on Blue Boat, the blog of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.

Youth groups important, says Common Read author

Eboo Patel, in his book Acts of Faith, describes a conversation he had with a Protestant man after Patel, founder of an interfaith youth movement, made a presentation about the importance of youth programs in religious communities. The man told Patel that he and his wife really enjoyed their church, but their teenage daughter hated it because there was no real youth program. Patel told him, “Change churches. . . Either that or make sure that the church starts a youth program that interests your daughter.”

“In my mind,” Patel writes, “it was a question of priorities. Was he more interested in his daughter liking church or himself liking it?” Most people choose themselves over their kids, he says.

It is an entirely understandable choice, but we should not be blind to the consequences. It means we will continue to fail our religious youth. I cannot help but think of the number of teenagers I know who say that they are bored in their congregations, that their church or synagogue or mosque or temple has little going on for them. The youth minister they liked was let go because of budget cuts. The Habitat for Humanity trip they were planning got canceled because the adult supervisor couldn’t make it at the last minute. The pastor or imam or rabbi can never remember their names.

Too many adults secretly consider the absence of young people in mainstream religious communities the natural course of events, viewing the kids as too self-absorbed, materialistic, and anti-authoritarian to be interested in religion. The result is that adults pay lip service to the importance of involving youth in faith communities, but let themselves off the hook when it comes to actually building strong, long-lasting youth programs. Youth activities are typically the top item in a congregation’s newsletter, but the last line in the budget. Youth programs are the most likely to be funded by short-term grants, and youth ministers are the first to be fired when a religious community has financial problems.

Acts of Faith, published by Beacon Press, is the 2011-2012 Common Read for Unitarian Universalists. Look for a longer excerpt from Acts of Faith in the Spring 2012 issue of UU World.

Youth ministry, other online courses offered by Starr King

An online full semester course on Dynamic Youth Ministry will be offered this fall by Starr King School for the Ministry. Topics include leadership, spiritual development, professional support for youth advisers, denominational polity, adolescent life issues, building intergenerational community, and an analysis of various models of youth ministry and programming.

Registration is open from August 23 to September 3. Contact instructors Megan Dowdell or Betty-Jeanne Rueters-Ward for a course syllabus or to register. Tuition is $1,808. The course begins September 8.

Other online courses this fall at Starr King include: Introduction to Liberal Religious Education, by Helen Bishop; UU Journey Toward Wholeness, the Rev. Sean Parker Dennison; Organizational Systems Thinking for Religious Leaders, Helen Bishop; Our Theological House: An Introduction to Theology for Unitarian Universalists, the Rev. John Buehrens; Aging and Religious Leadership, the Rev. Dr. Devorah Greenstein; Congregational Polity, the Rev. Mark Harris.

A complete course list is available on the Starr King website.