Families are the primary influences on the faith development of their children and youth. As a program leader, you take on a special role: supporting families in your congregation as they guide their children in Unitarian Universalist faith development. By involving parents in Riddle and Mystery, you can deepen the religious experience of both youth and their families.
Involving families in the faith development of youth can be a more delicate process than involving families in the faith development of younger children. As youth attain and protect the increasing independence that appropriately comes with growth, they may insist on the freedom to develop and hold their own ideas and to pursue their own spiritual practices. Religious educators and parents should respect and nurture the increasing maturity of youth and the independence it earns, even as they continue to offer solid guidance and careful oversight. Help parents to see that youth who remain on spiritual paths through adolescence are usually cause for celebration, even if the paths sometimes lead where parents themselves do not wish to go. The test is not whether a youth agrees with their family, but whether the youth’s choices are thoughtful, positive and safe.
Each session offers Taking It Home resources that include conversation topics and other activities to extend the session at home. Among them are suggested trips, photo challenges, and family faith in action projects to help others in some way connect to the Big Question. Some sixth graders will be as open and sharing with their families as they were in earlier years. Others may be moving into new views of self and fresh expressions of independence, and so be less receptive to familial exchange. While sixth graders are still too young for great independence, most have already started along the way. Encourage parents to respect increasing youth needs for privacy when doing so is safe and appropriate, yet also to remain open and available for those times when their youth step back toward the family for a moment of renewed closeness and support.
Invite families into the sessions. Adult or older youth volunteers can be very helpful with art and craft activities and small group work. Parents who bring musicianship, storytelling or artistic skills will help foster participants' sense of connection between their families and their religious education experience. Faith in Action activities offer ideal opportunities to engage parents and other congregants in youth projects.
Session 6, Thinking of Death, specifically suggests engaging family members. Use the session as a model for others to which you might invite parents and/or siblings.
The WCUU/KCUU studio broadcast activities in all sessions offer the option of making a real video, which could be edited and shared with family members or the wider congregational community.
The leader/parent relationship is very important and must be both welcoming and reassuring. When parents bring their youth to experience Unitarian Universalist religious education, they need to feel confidence not only in the safety, fun and learning you will provide, but also in your faith leadership. As a religious education leader, you can support and inspire parents to bring intentionality and excitement to their critical role in their youths' faith development.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
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