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Participants (A Chorus of Faiths)

A Chorus of Faiths works best if the group includes a critical mass of older youth (16 to 18 years old), as the program requires time commitments outside the workshops. Obtain the support of your congregational leadership and the youths' families. Work with the religious educator when planning outside activities to ensure your compliance with congregational safety policies.

This program would best follow Coming of Age and/or A Place of Wholeness faith development programs.

Developmental Norms, Ages 14 to 18

You may find it useful to think about developmental norms for this age group. Not all youth arrive at each developmental stage at the same time, but knowing what to expect overall from 14- to 18-year-olds can be quite helpful, especially for first-time leaders.

In her book, Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2005), Tracey L. Hurd discusses developmental characteristics of older youth:

  • practice increased cognitive skills
  • express growing interest in abstract values and moral principles
  • engage in moral relativism
  • become less egocentric and more interested in the larger society
  • struggle with gender and sexual identities
  • continue to develop ethnic or racial identity
  • need to belong and have a sense of self worth
  • demonstrate empathy
  • conceptualize religion as an outside authority that can be questioned
  • question faith, sometimes leading to deeper ownership of personal faith or disillusionment
  • deepen or attenuate religious or spiritual identity
  • explore sexuality
  • navigate greater risks relating to alcohol, drug use, and unsafe sexual activity
  • sustain the personal fable that "it couldn't happen to me"
  • consider friendships and peers important, with some shifting of alliances.

Integrating All Participants

Unitarian Universalism is an inclusive religion and A Chorus of Faiths an inclusive program. No one should be excluded from the program or its activities by real or perceived physical or other limitations.

The program provides suggestions for adapting some activities under the heading Including All Participants. By changing approaches as suggested or substituting alternate activities, you can help make every workshop inclusive of youth with a range of physical and cognitive abilities, learning styles, food allergies, and other sensitivities or limitations.

Be aware of activities that might pose difficulties for youth who are differently-abled. All spaces, indoor and outdoor, need to be accessible to anyone who might be in the group. Check the width of doorways and aisles, the height of tables, and the terrain of outdoor landscapes. When meeting in small groups, ensure the accessibility of all meeting spaces.

Most workshops invite participants to read aloud. Allow participants the opportunity to pass on any roles that require reading. Be prepared to support young people who wish to read but need assistance. Be alert to group dynamics; be ready to do what is needed so it is safe for participants who need assistance to ask for and receive it.

Find out about participants' medical conditions and allergies, particularly to food. Make sure all the youth can eat the food you plan to provide. Workshop 1 has an activity that uses Cracker Jack(R), which contains peanuts. Workshop 2 includes a game with a snack and an alternate activity with oranges.

The program mixes active and quiet, expressive and listening, and whole group and individual activities. It offers alternate activities to substitute for core activities if they better suit the group or if you have extra time. Let your knowledge of different participants' learning styles guide your selection of activities.

In the Teacher Development section of the UUA website, find descriptions of a helpful resource book, Sally Patton's Welcoming Children with Special Needs. Another helpful resource is Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. The congregation's religious educator is another resource for adaptations to make workshops as accessible as possible.

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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