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Making Families Matter: Affirming and Nourishing our Faith Communities
General Assembly 2006 Event 4023
- Dr. Tracey L. Hurd, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Children and Families Programs Director
- Rev. Keith Kron, Director, UUA Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns
- Rev. Phil Lund, Lifespan Program Director for the Prairie Star District of the UUA
What do our families need? What do our families yearn for? The workshop participants suggested many answers; most often mentioned were: opportunities to interact with children at church, a larger church network, and to feel connected to a wide variety of people. There was general agreement we need the entire community to raise our children with Unitarian Universalist values, and we need a strong social element to motivate our children to keep them coming.
We yearn for recognition of all families. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT), or interfaith families have little choice other than UUism. But do we have a clear understanding of what we mean by the word "family"? Furthermore, do outsiders and newcomers understand what we mean? A set of " Family-affirming Reflective Questions" can help us to define family ministry.
How many people does it take to make a family? Dr. Tracey Hurd told of a man who explained his reason for coming to church. "My wife was always urging me to come to church," he said. "She died two years ago, and she has been even more relentless since then." Perhaps this man was yearning for a family.
Some people may have a family-shaped hole in their lives. Families are intergenerational, and if a family has no grandparents living nearby, they may need to create or adopt local grandparents. The greatest needs are usually those of single-parent families, who may yearn for an extended family.
"Family" is sometimes a code word for "children." The children's needs are generally the most acute, but different types of family may have different needs. Be open to a variety of needs. For example, there is a saying: "Every adult needs a child to teach; it's the way adults learn."
What do our congregations do—or not do—to signal how much families matter? Are children welcome in the worship service? Do we feel they are welcome, and more importantly do they feel welcome? Many of the workshop participants reported that the children are not allowed to be children, they are expected to behave like adults, and children who disrupt the adult aura are guided toward the child-care rooms.
The speakers asked, "How many youth and young adults attend your worship service? Why, or why not?" One workshop participant commented that "Bridging ceremonies" are really "Cliff ceremonies." Youth and young adults are a rare species, only occasionally sighted in our worship services. Does your congregation have a campus ministry?
The Search Institute has tools to assess how well your church is meeting the needs of each type of family, though if you use the resources at this site you will need to translate Christian language into UU; for example, "Bible Study" will need to be translated as RE.
There are many resources at the UUA Family Network. Also, Hurd has written a book that is available from the UUA Bookstore, called Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook.
Reported for UUA.org by Mike McNaughton; edited by Margy Levine Young.