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Program Structure (Faithful Journeys)

The Faithful Journeys program is built around our seven Unitarian Universalist Principles. Session 1 introduces the concept of a journey in faith and the actual Faithful Journeys Path, which you will create and post for use throughout the program. Starting with Session 2, two consecutive sessions explore each Principle. The first shares a story from our Unitarian or Universalist heritage that exemplifies the Principle; the second tells a more contemporary UU story in which an individual or group's actions express the same Principle. Session 16 introduces faithful action stories from your own congregation and uses the continuing image of the Faithful Journeys Path to help participants summarize and reflect on the overall program. All sessions in Faithful Journeys follow the same structure. Between an opening and a closing ritual, participants engage in up to six activities. The Opening includes a chalice lighting and the sharing of opening words. The Closing guides you to post the session's signpost — e.g., "Get Involved," "Be Fair" — on the Faithful Journeys Path, summarize the session theme, lead a UU Principles song and distribute handouts. If time allows, immediately after the Opening or just before the Closing would be a good time to regularly insert candles of joys and sorrows (Session 1, Alternate Activity 1).

While we suggest opening words to repeat each time you meet, you may wish to settle on other opening words or vary them. Session 1, Leader Resource 1, offers alternate opening words.

Starting in Session 2, after the Opening participants are invited to articulate and share their own faithful actions in a Faithful Footprints activity. They briefly write their acts on a footprint or wheelchair shape for you to post along the Faithful Journeys Path. You will guide them to connect their actions with one or more UU Principles.

Faithful Journeys engages the body along with mind and spirit through Move It! activities in each session. Move It! amplifies the session's theme with an active game, a song, or another movement-based activity.

Every session revolves thematically around a central story from our Unitarian and Universalist faith heritage or our contemporary UU faith community. To ready the children for the story and activate their interest, an activity called Story Basket and Centering precedes storytelling in every session. The story basket will hold one or more objects you bring, related to the session's central story. The centering exercise requires an instrument, such as a chime, which makes a sound that gradually fades away. Before You Start, in this Introduction, further describes the story basket and centering. In the sessions, find suggestions for objects related to the central story.

The Faith in Action activities in each session are optional. Time for them is not included in the 60-minute core session. However, Faith in Action is an important element of the overall Tapestry of Faith curriculum series. Some Faith in Action activities can be completed in one meeting; others are longer-term and require the involvement of congregants or community members outside your group.

Most sessions offer alternate activities. Depending on time and the interests, abilities and learning styles you observe in the group, you may choose to replace one or more core activities with an alternate activity, or add an alternate activity to your session. You may also find alternate activities useful outside Faithful Journeys for gatherings such as worship retreats, intergenerational dinners or other events where some interesting, child-friendly programming is needed.

As you design your program, decide whether the group needs extra meetings to incorporate additional activities or to complete a long-term Faith in Action project. Long-term Faith in Action projects usually need meetings outside your regular session time, with different people or at another location. Before you commit to expanding or extending the program, gain support from congregational leadership and the children's families.

How to Use This Curriculum

The Faithful Journeys program includes this Introduction and sixteen sessions. Each session has its own Introduction, followed by the Session Plan.

In each session Introduction, find:

Quotations. The quotations that introduce each session are intended primarily for the leaders, though at times you may wish to read one aloud to the group as an entry point to a session. Exploring a quotation together can help co-leaders feel grounded in the ideas and activities you will present. These quotations are also included in the Taking It Home section for families to consider.

Goals. Reviewing the goals will help you understand the desired outcomes for the session and connect its content and methodologies with the four strands of the Tapestry of Faith religious education programs: ethical development, spiritual development, Unitarian Universalist identity development and faith development.

Learning Objectives. These show how participants will learn and grow as a result of the experience of the session. As you plan a session, apply your knowledge of the particular group of children, the time and space you have available, and your own strengths and interests as a leader to determine the most important and achievable learning objectives for the session. Choose the activities that will serve them best.

Session-at-a-Glance . This table lists the session activities in a suggested order for a 60-minute session and provides an estimated time for completing each activity. The table includes all the core activities from the Opening through the Closing. The table also shows the Faith in Action activity for the session. Note: You will need additional time beyond the core 60-minute session to include a Faith in Action activity. The Session-at-a-Glance table also presents alternate activities, with their estimated times.

Spiritual Preparation . Taking five or ten minutes to center yourself within the session's purpose and content will support and free you to be present with the children and provide the best possible learning experience. Each session offers a short Spiritual Preparation exercise to focus you on the intangible gift being introduced and help you reflect on its connection to your own life and your Unitarian Universalist faith. Calling forth your own experiences, beliefs and spirituality will prepare you to bring the topic to the group in an authentic manner and help you experience teaching as an event in your own spiritual growth and faith development.

Session Plan

Following the session Introduction, the Session Plan presents every element of the session in detail in the sequence established in the Session-at-a-Glance table. The materials and preparation needed and a step-by-step description are provided for every activity, including core activities, Faith in Action and alternate activities. Additionally, the session plan provides a Taking It Home section with activities for families; Stories, Handouts, and Leader Resources for all session activities; and a Find Out More section with information and resources for leaders and parents to explore session topics further.

Adaptation to include all participants should always be part of your planning process. Under Including All Participants, many activities suggest specific modifications to make the activity manageable and meaningful for children with particular limitations or needs.

If you are reading Faithful Journeys online, you can move among a session's elements: Opening, Closing, Faith in Action, Activity 4, Story, etc. Each element occupies its own web page. You can click on "Print This Page" at any time. However, if you click on "Download Entire Program" or "Download Workshop" you will have a user-friendly document on your computer that you can customize as you choose, using your own word processing program. Once you decide which activities you will use, format and print only the materials you need.

To distribute Taking It Home sections and other handouts or letters to parents, you may wish to go green; download and adapt these documents, then use email to distribute to all children's families.

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 Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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