It matters what we believe.
Some beliefs are expansive
and lead the way to wider and deeper sympathies.
Some beliefs are like the sunshine,
blessing children with the warmth of happiness;
some beliefs are bonds in a universal brotherhood,
where sincere differences beautify the pattern;
some beliefs are gateways
opening up wide vistas for exploration.
Some beliefs nurture self-confidence and
enrich feelings of personal worth;
some beliefs are pliable like the young sapling,
ever growing with the upward thrust of life.
It is important what we believe.
And what a child believes is also a serious matter
— not a subject for jest or sentimentality. — Sophia Lyon Fahs
Children, though natural questioners, are not skeptics, for whom doubt is an end in itself. Children are as open to belief and faith as they are to questioning. They are looking, as we are all looking, for things on which they can depend, values they can faithfully live by, ideas that make sense, things to believe in. — Rev. Earl Holt in Religious Education at Home
In our Unitarian Universalist congregations, we attend to our beliefs and values by coming together. We support one another and look to our shared Principles to guide us in making just, ethical choices about how to live and how to treat others. When parents bring their children to our congregations and religious education programs, they know that rather than a specific set of beliefs, children will gain tools to help them pay attention to what they believe. They know their children will be encouraged to articulate their beliefs and values, and be guided to translate their beliefs and values into attitudes and real-life actions.
Many children come to church without complaint; many enjoy coming. This session helps all children understand why it matters that they come to church. They ask a mirror question: "How does my coming to church help me live and grow?" and a window question, "How does coming to church help me see the world, and my place in it?"
Children who do not come regularly may not have friends in their religious education group. In this and other sessions, pair "regulars" with newer children to build feelings of connectedness and belonging.
The Faith in Action activity provides an opportunity to extend the story's direct teaching—feed your enemies—and reinforce that your congregation is a place where lessons like this are learned. You may like to split this session across two meeting times to ensure the Faith in Action is included.
For Activity 4, A Church Journey, you will need several adult volunteers. Invite the adults well in advance. Use the guidelines provided in Leader Resource 1, Guide for Adult Participants, to prepare them. Confirm their participation a few days before the session.
If you have time, Alternate Activity 1, Walking Meditation, nicely follows Activity 4. Instead of returning directly to the room after speaking with adult congregants, bring children to a large, open area that has space to accommodate everyone. Guide them to use the walking meditation to reflect on the session's mirror and window questions, or simply to review the ideas they have heard about why adults in the congregation come to church, and why it matters that children come, too.
This session will:
- Guide participants to consider a variety of ways they do, or might, find meaning and value by participating in religious education and congregational life
- Introduce the concept of church (congregational) relevance and its uniqueness in purpose
- Demonstrate that adult Unitarian Universalists value congregants who are children
- Challenge participants to connect their participation in religious education and the life of the congregation to other parts of their lives, and guide them to envision personal problems as opportunities to exercise their faith beliefs.
- Begin creating their individual Window/Mirror Panel for a group display
- Play a game while getting to know others in the group
- Hear a story in which a lesson from church helps a child solve a problem, and extrapolate how their own religious education can be relevant to their own, daily life experiences
- Hear adults express where they find meaning at church and why children are important to the congregation
- Identify and express their individual appreciation of their Unitarian Universalist congregation and the time they spend involved in it
- Optional: Explore the congregational facility by touring it together.