This program helps youth develop keen, compassionate discernment about benefits faiths may offer, and why people follow them. Before this first workshop, assess your open-mindedness to the world's variety of faiths. Acknowledge ways leading this program may be a growth experience for you, too.
Think about what you have learned from different faiths, from direct experience or from study. Practice opening your mind by focusing first on positives. For example, identify people of particular faiths whom you have admired; doctrines, world views, or practices that have appealed to you; life- and community-affirming messages that resonate with you.
Now reflect on your broad experience with religion. This program posits that religions exist, and some persist, because they meet human needs. Consider your deepest needs for spiritual, ethical, and moral direction and your need to belong in community. Consider your need for a faith identity and your ultimate questions about life's meaning. At different times in your life, what have you sought from religion? What have you found? What have you observed that other people seem to seek in religion?
If negative thoughts about a particular faith or about religion in general arise for you, examine these now to ensure you can introduce every faith fairly to youth. It may help to recognize that all faiths develop to meet specific needs in a particular context. Faiths survive that continue to meet some level of human need. Allow that a religion which does not meet your needs may indeed meet the needs of others and be sacred for them. Remember that every faith has multiple aspects, including its tenets, the institutions it has generated, people who call themselves adherents, and usually a great variety of world views and religious practices. Was your negative experience based on the tenets of a religion? The actions of people who were living the religion according to their understanding of it? Religions serve to connect us to a source greater than ourselves. Yet, they are of and in the world. They are practiced by people, and people are imperfect. Center yourself in empathy with the human needs religion can serve and realism about the fallibility inherent in a human pursuit of the sacred.
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