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The Program (Families)

Enduring and changing, the family is an important part of communities and of Unitarian Universalist congregations. Recently, the terms family and family values have become laden with political meanings. With UU Principles as a guide, we can reclaim and recognize the family as grounded in care and experiences of lived diversity. In their strength, endurance, and malleability, families demonstrate lived faith. They are diverse and often held in the eye of the beholder. Children who have parents who do not live together may be singular "keepers" of their family, which cannot be solely defined by locale. Children with families of multiple races and ethnicities may identify themselves as multiracial or multiethnic. Older adults living alone may define their families as being very small or large and extended. Increasingly families are defined by their functionality. How members care for each other matters most. Who is in a family varies widely and contributes to the diversity of healthy variation.

Program Overview

What is a family? What does a family do? Who defines family? This twelve-session program provides avenues for in-depth exploration of the diversity, commonality, and meaning of families. Designed for flexible use by junior and/or senior high school youth, the program combines a photo-documentary project with sessions that engage participants in deconstructing and reconstructing the notion of family. The curriculum relies on facilitators to create a safe space that allows youth to explore freely, to share their own thoughts, prejudices, hopes, and stories. The photo-documentary project allows youth to be leaders in an intergenerational congregational activity. In the process of the program, the youth will:

  • Explore and share preconceptions and lived experiences of family life
  • Reflect on the meanings, functions, stresses, and joys of families
  • Learn about the true diversity of family life, both within their congregation and more broadly
  • Gain an understanding of how Unitarian Universalist Principles can be enacted in families
  • Deepen their respect, appreciation, and care for families through their project and session work
  • Engage in the collaborative, creative, artistic, and ethical representation of families
  • Engage as leaders in an intergenerational congregational project

Program Introduction

Families is a twelve-session, highly interactive youth program designed for groups of eight to twenty participants. It can be adapted for smaller and larger groups. Designed for both junior and senior high youth, it can also be used in a mixed age group. The photo-documentary project will need more or less supervision depending on the skills, maturity, interests, and tenor of the group. The sessions offer choices for activities; they can be adapted for the specific needs of the group. Each session is written to last one hour. Alternative activities are included for groups that meet longer than one hour. Facilitators are encouraged to read each session and make choices that suit their group. Many of the activities require no preparation and can be included at short notice as time permits.

Adapting the Program

Although the program can be adapted to meet a group's needs, the two opening sessions and the closing session are highly recommended. In the existing curriculum, Sessions 7 through 9—which examine family function—can be used out of order or omitted. Extending Families into a longer curriculum is possible by expanding sessions to span more than one sixty-minute period or adding more sessions that exclusively provide time to work on the photo-documentary project. Combining sessions enables the curriculum to be used in full weekend formats or weeklong retreats.

The combination of session-based and project-based curriculum allows participants to explore their own realities of family and experiences of representation before looking more broadly at others. The process of considering one's own lived experiences is a foundation for the sensitive understanding of others. For youth and leaders, the dual experiences of understanding self and others transcend any content about families and builds deeper faith.

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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