NEW! Youth Ministry Facilitators
YOUTH GROUPS IN THE 21st CENTURY
Unitarian Universalist youth groups have been the primary delivery model for congregational youth ministry for the last half-century or so. LRY, or Liberal Religious Youth, grew out of the 1960's and '70's empowerment movements. LRY was a completely autonomous organization - all of its national board members were under the age of 20, and they shared an apartment and office space in Boston while they served their elected terms.
In the 1980's, the world had changed dramatically and the pendulum had swung a little away from the uber-empowerment model of the '60's. LRY dissolved, and the UUA launched Young Religious Unitarian Universalists, YRUU, a program-based model of youth ministry with staff and resources to support the growth of congregationally based youth groups with increasing opportunities for adult support, mentoring and partnership.
Moving further into the 21st century, we know that so much of our cultural touchstones have changed since the 1980's. It's reasonable to think that effective and vital youth ministry will be changing as well. We know that today's youth are passionate about justice, deeply relational, and yearning to be part of something larger than themselves. Unitarian Universalism has so much to offer.
Veterans of YRUU will recognize what the UUA identified as the six interwoven components which combined to make up a balanced youth program:Worship, Community Building, Social Action, Learning, Leadership, and Youth-Adult Relations.
In 2011, the UUA introduced the re-written and updated Ministry with Youth Renaissance Module. It includes this reconceived model of the core components of youth ministry in the early 21st century, configured as a web. Elements include:
Covenantal Leadership; Multigenerational Relationships; Spiritual Development; Beloved Community; Justice Making; Pastoral Care; Faith Exploration; and Identity Formation.
This model illustrates the many ways in which youth may move between these elements and developmental tasks quite organically. Moreover, it illustrates the importance of integrating youth ministry into the whole of congregational life, and not relegate it solely to the church basement one night a week. Youth Ministry is part of all of the ministries of our congregations, and our congregational missions and ministries must include all of our generations to remain vital. We expect that Youth Ministry will grow to involve much more than just the traditional youth group.
Resources for 21st Century Youth Ministry
The reality of staffing patterns in many of our congregations means that there are only a handful of our churches that have a paid staff person solely dedicated to youth ministry. More often, it is considered to be the Director of Religious Education's job, in those congregations with full-time religious educators. It may also fall to a minister or a lay-led committee. Too often, youth ministry does not receive the attention it deserves.
Staff from the four New England Districts are preparing to launch an initiative which will help equip congregations to expand their youth ministries. We think this will be especially helpful to our smller congregations which do not currently employ a Youth Director.
The Clara Barton, Mass Bay, Northern New England, and Ballou Channing Districts will recruit and train a cohort of Youth Ministry Facilitators (YMF's). We will provide them with the best available trainings in faith-centered, healthy, and vibrant youth ministry practices. These YMF's will be matched with congregations who wish to offer a high quality Unitarian Universalist Youth Ministry event. They will work with your congregation's religious professional and lay leadership (youth and adult) to share the tools, skills and expertise you need to plan and implement a successful program serving youth in your (and neighboring) congregations. In the process, you will begin to build your own capacity for integrating youth ministry into the life of your congregation.
The Powerpoint presentation at this link was shared with the North Atlantic Chapter of LREDA's annual meeting in the spring of 2012. It describes the reason behind this experimental initiative, and how we expect it will work at its launch.
Youth Cons and Other Inter-Congregational Events
Youth Conferences, or "Cons," are the predominant model of inter-congregational youth ministry today. We know that they allow many youth to develop identity, and explore spirituality and leadership while connecting to our faith in a larger context by meeting and sharing with youth from other congregations in their region. For some, the energy created by a larger group can be electrifying, especially for worship and social action. We also know that the "Con" model does not work for all youth. YMF's will work with congregations who wish to hold a traditional "Con" for their own youth and youth from nearby congregations. YMF's will also work with congregations to explore other possible ways of bringing youth from multiple congregations together in a different format.
Lay leaders who feel a call to work with youth need some basic training, networking, and support. And our congregations have an obligation to ensure that all volunteers who work with youth have safe and healthy boundaries. Congregations working with Youth Ministry Facilitators will be able to use District resources for background checks for all Youth Advisors working on your YMF event. We are also developing an online Youth Advisor Basic Training that they will be able to watch in preparation for participating in a YMF event.
For more information, please contact
kbellavancegrace [at] uua [dot] org (Karen Bellavance-Grace )
Director of Faith Formation
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