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Activity 4: Elevator Speeches (15 minutes), Session 5: Unitarian Universalism

In "Amazing Grace," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Optional: A stopwatch

Preparation for Activity

  • Optional: Decide if you want to time the activity.If your meeting space does not have a clock with a second hand, obtain a stopwatch for this activity. Be prepared to show a youth how to operate it.

Description of Activity

Participants practice talking about Unitarian Universalism.

Say to the group:

Although the story we just heard is not a story created by UUs, it affirms something we, too, believe: that wisdom and truth are found in many different places, from different sources, and that no one religion owns all the truth or the answers to life's big questions. Did the youth in the play talk about this UU belief? If you were explaining your faith or what UUs believe to another sixth grader, is this something you would talk about? What if you had a short period of time to do so? What other UU values and beliefs would you share?

Tell the group that some Unitarian Universalists practice an “elevator speech”: a short explanation of their faith that they could give between floors while talking to a stranger on an elevator. Some young people call this a “playground speech."

Invite youth to play a playground speech game. They will take turns pretending to be on the playground with another sixth grader, who will ask, "What do Unitarian Universalists believe?" There is one rule to the game: the speechmakers must say, "Unitarian Universalism" or "Unitarian Universalists," not "UU."

Optional: if you think the group could use help, brainstorm on newsprint some beliefs and/or values held by the group. These should include beliefs about virtue and sin, as discussed this far, but could include other beliefs. Use questions to solicit input, such as, “What do beliefs and values do you share with each other about how we should live our lives? What about beliefs about how we should treat each other? As a Unitarian Universalist, what is important to you? What activities do we participate in here at church and in the community?” After participants have suggested a good amount of material, give youth a couple of minutes to review the list and pick out what they might use in their playground speech. They should talk about what Unitarian Universalism means to them, not feel compelled to compose a definitive description of our religion.

Designate an area to be the playground. Collect two brave volunteers to start the game. Let volunteers decide what they are doing on the playground and who will ask the question and who will answer first. The questioner asks, “What do Unitarian Universalists believe?”; the speechmaker replies. Then, reverse. Get two new volunteers and play again, until everyone who wants a turn has played or you run out time.

Optional: A fun alternative is to time the answer. Ask for volunteers to be the bell and the timekeeper. Give the timekeeper the stopwatch, if needed, and demonstrate how to use it. The questioner and answerer go to the playground and play until the bell says “ding." Then, the question is asked and the answerer has two minutes to answer. The timekeeper should call time after two minutes. Timing the game is intended to make it more fun; if it causes stress to participants, stop the timing.

If the game is hard for youth, lead it as a small group activity, where each small group composes a playground speech. Each speech will need to fit the beliefs of every individual in the group

Save a few minutes to debrief with the following questions:

  • What UU values or beliefs showed up in more than one speech?
  • What was this exercise like for the speechmakers?
  • Did listeners get a good picture of what some UUs believe?
  • If you had more time to practice, do you think playing a game like this would help you feel more comfortable talking about Unitarian Universalism? What else would increase your comfort level?

Encourage youth to keep practicing their elevator speeches. Remind them that since our spirituality changes and grows over time, so might our elevator speeches. Unitarian Universalism is a living faith, so we expect it to change and grow, too.

For more information contact web @ 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, October 26, 2011.

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