Young Adults Need Special Attention to Feel at Home
June 1, 2001This is Part 1 of a two-part series on forming young adult groups. Part 2 appeared in August 2001.
Darrell Duane of suburban Washington, DC, discovered Unitarian Universalism (UUism) in 1988, attended a few services but just didn't connect with the congregation. The theology fit, but, as a 20-something he didn't feel at home. For the next eight years he attended services occasionally but didn't feel connected. Then one Sunday other young adults invited him to lunch. He discovered there was a whole side of UUism he'd been missing. He began attending young adult (YA) events, then a YA continental conference, and he was hooked. Now he's an active YA organizer in the Joseph Priestley District.
Young adults from 18 to 35 are missing in many of our congregations. Often they don't see others like themselves. Or the Sunday services may not speak to them.
It's not unusual for young adults to be initially thrilled with this new religion they've discovered. They may attend New UU sessions enthusiastically and come to services regularly. But if they don't make friends, and if there's nothing else for them but the Sunday service, one day they're gone.
Keeping young adults means paying attention to what they're looking for. And what they're looking for is generally a group of people like themselves to do things with and a level of activity that goes beyond the Sunday service.
Mark Guttag has helped form UU young adult groups in Maryland and Massachusetts and is a member of a YA group at the UU Church of Arlington, VA (943 members). He and Duane, who is now a YA organizer in the Joseph Priestly District, agree on two first steps that will help keep YAs in your congregation: 1) Designate someone, preferably a young adult, who will greet other YAs every Sunday. 2) organize a YA lunch group every Sunday, even if only two or three initially take part. Guttag and Duane say it's okay for someone other than a young adult to help get a YA group going, but it's important to quickly identify two or three YAs who will take over.
Other first steps:
- Send out a group e-mail asking YAs what activities interest them. Possibilities include game nights, discussions, hikes, potlucks, movie nights, dancing, ski trips, bike rides, special worship services, and social justice projects. If there are other UU young adult groups nearby, consider joint events with them.
- Underwrite part of the cost of organizing a YA group with congregational funds. For instance, provide the main course for a weekly or monthly potluck.
- Most YAs have e-mail and read it frequently. Use it to communicate regularly about church life and local and regional YA events. It will also help YAs who don't come to church services to feel connected.
- Popular times for YA worship services are Sunday and Friday nights. What constitutes a YA worship service? Ask your group.
Be consistent in whatever you do, says Guttag. "I emphasize the 'every week' nature of young adult activities. I believe that doing things every week helps build and maintain momentum for the group."
For information on starting a Young Adult group, contact the Young Adult/Campus Ministry office, or complete a request form for an information packet.
See also the website of the Continental Unitarian Universalist Young Adult Network (C*UUYAN).
For more information contact interconnections @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Wednesday, September 14, 2011.