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Upholding Trust in the Religious Education Community Workshop

45-Minute Workshop

Suggested Participants

  • Religious Educators
  • Youth Advisors

Note: This workshop should be conducted with both youth and adult leaders in the congregation. A one-to-one youth-to-adult ratio or a group with a majority of youth is preferred to a group with a majority of adults

Goals

  • Consider the faith community’s and leaders’ responsibility for managing health and safety risk factors and promoting right relationships among adults, youth, and children
  • Explore the components of safety guidelines for religious education programming
  • Share ideas, experiences, and strategies for promoting safety, right relations, and prevention education for religious education staff and volunteers

Materials

  • Copies of “Upholding Trust in the Religious Education Community” for all participants
  • Copies of Singing the Living Tradition
  • Chalice or candle and matches
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Copies of Handout 11, Needs Assessment Checklist for Congregations, for all participants
  • Your congregation’s safety policy, guidelines, and procedures

Preparation

  • Appoint workshop facilitator(s).
  • Distribute “Upholding Trust in the Religious Education Community” and ask everyone to read it before the session begins.

Session Plan

Gathering and Centering, 2 minutes
Light the chalice or candle. Turn to reading 434 in Singing the Living Tradition and read it aloud together.

Focusing, 5 minutes
Review the goals of the workshop and the workshop process with the group. Invite participants to discuss and agree upon the group’s guidelines for openness and sharing. Say something like,
There is much potential for open sharing throughout this program. On many occasions we will invite participants to share what may be intimate material. Therefore, it is important that people speak only when they are comfortable; it is always okay to pass if people choose not to share. By establishing a norm of respect for each other and our expression within the group, we want to ensure safety and right relations for all participants.

Engage participants in discussing the value of respect and confidentiality in a group and the destructive effects of sarcasm and put-downs. Print your group’s guidelines for openness and sharing on newsprint, and post it as a reminder for each session.

Reflecting, 20 minutes
Invite participants to share a sentence or two about why your congregation needs to pay attention to matters of safety, health, and right relations in religious education. Ask them to name one critical characteristic of religious education leadership that the community needs to address these matters. Record these qualities on newsprint.
Read the following, adapted from a prayer by Rev. Thomas Mikelson:

Spirit of Life we acknowledge your presence. We know that here among us are those who have experienced the pains of abuse; that there are those who have caused others the pain of abuse; and that there are some who, by their silence, have been complicit in the harm of abuse. We lift our prayers for all of these.

Spirit of justice and mercy, we give thanks that wholeness and restoration are always possibilities. We seek a deeper understanding of our ministry and of our relations to those who look to us for healing and justice. We seek wisdom and courage to become healers and leaders of our community. We pray that the power of your presence will be with this circle of colleagues as we go forth to live out our calling in ministry and leadership. Amen.

Exploring, 15 minutes
Using the essay’s six guidelines to reduce the risk of abuse and Handout 11, Needs Assessment Checklist for Congregations, engage participants in a discussion of the components of a healthy, safe congregation and the opportunities for leadership and education that the religious education leadership will address in this meeting. Record responses on newsprint.

Closing, 2 minutes
Say, “May we take with us into our meeting the principles of our faith, the knowledge of love, and a vision of hope.

Extinguish the chalice or candle.

2-Hour Workshop

Suggested Participants

  • Religious Educators
  • Youth Advisors

Goals

  • Consider the faith community’s and leaders’ responsibility for managing health and safety risk factors and for promoting right relationships among adults and children.
  • Explore a range of scenarios that could arise in congregations or occur in religious education programs.
  • Consider ways that the faith community, professional and lay leaders, and religious education program staff and volunteers can respond effectively, respectfully, and compassionately when problem situations arise.
  • Explore the components of congregational safety guidelines, the various resources available, and procedures for planning and implementation.
  • Share ideas, experiences, and strategies for promoting safety and right relations and training and equipping religious education staff and volunteers.

Materials

  • Copies of “Upholding Trust in the Religious Education Community” for all participants
  • Copies of Singing the Living Tradition
  • Chalice or candle and matches
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Copies of Handout 11, Needs Assessment Checklist for Congregations, for all participants
  • Your congregation’s safety policy, guidelines, and procedures

Preparation

  • Appoint workshop facilitator(s).
  • Distribute “Upholding Trust in the Religious Education Community” and ask everyone to read it before the session begins.

Session Plan

Gathering and Centering, 2 minutes
Light the chalice or candle. Turn to reading 434 in Singing the Living Tradition and read it aloud together.

Focusing, 5 minutes
Review the goals of the workshop and the workshop process with the group. Invite participants to discuss and agree upon the group’s guidelines for openness and sharing. Say something like,
There is much potential for open sharing throughout this program. On many occasions we will invite participants to share what may be intimate material. Therefore, it is important that people speak only when they are comfortable; it is always okay to pass if people choose not to share. By establishing a norm of respect for each other and our expression within the group, we want to ensure safety and right relations for all participants.

Engage participants in discussing the value of respect and confidentiality in a group and the destructive effects of sarcasm and put-downs. Print your group’s guidelines for openness and sharing on newsprint, and post it as a reminder for each session.

Reflecting, 20 minutes
Invite participants to share a sentence or two about why your congregation needs to pay attention to matters of safety, health, and right relations in religious education. Ask them to name one critical characteristic of religious education leadership that the community needs to address these matters. Record these qualities on newsprint.
Read the following, adapted from a prayer by Rev. Thomas Mikelson:

Spirit of Life we acknowledge your presence. We know that here among us are those who have experienced the pains of abuse; that there are those who have caused others the pain of abuse; and that there are some who, by their silence, have been complicit in the harm of abuse. We lift our prayers for all of these.

Spirit of justice and mercy, we give thanks that wholeness and restoration are always possibilities. We seek a deeper understanding of our ministry and of our relations to those who look to us for healing and justice. We seek wisdom and courage to become healers and leaders of our community. We pray that the power of your presence will be with this circle of colleagues as we go forth to live out our calling in ministry and leadership. Amen.

Exploring, 15 minutes
Using the essay’s six guidelines to reduce the risk of abuse and Handout 11, Needs Assessment Checklist for Congregations, engage participants in a discussion of the components of a healthy, safe congregation and the opportunities for leadership and education that the religious education leadership will address in this meeting. Record responses on newsprint.

Closing, 2 minutes
Say, “May we take with us into our meeting the principles of our faith, the knowledge of love, and a vision of hope.”

Extinguish the chalice or candle.

2-Hour Workshop

Suggested Participants

  • Religious educators
  • Youth advisors

Goals

  • Consider the faith community’s and leaders’ responsibility for managing health and safety risk factors and for promoting right relationships among adults and children.
  • Explore a range of scenarios that could arise in congregations or occur in religious education programs.
  • Consider ways that the faith community, professional and lay leaders, and religious education program staff and volunteers can respond effectively, respectfully, and compassionately when problem situations arise.
  • Explore the components of congregational safety guidelines, the various resources available, and procedures for planning and implementation.
  • Share ideas, experiences, and strategies for promoting safety and right relations and training and equipping religious education staff and volunteers.

Materials

  • Copies of “Upholding Trust in the Religious Education Community,” “A Sex Offender in Church,” and “Balancing Compassion and Protection” for all participants
  • Copy of Singing the Living Tradition
  • Chalice or candle and matches
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Copies of Handout 11, Needs Assessment Checklist for Congregations, and Handout 12, Six Case Studies, for all participants
  • Copies of your congregation’s mission statement, religious education vision and goals, and long-range plan, as relevant to these issues
  • Copies of your congregation’s safety/abuse policies, guidelines, and procedures pertaining to volunteer recruitment, supervision, and reporting
  • Safety/Abuse Clearinghouse packet and resources from the Unitarian Universalist Association, including those found on the Unitarian Universalist Association web site.
  • Curricula, books, videos, and other resources listed in this book’s resources section.

Preparation

  • Appoint workshop facilitator(s).
  • Distribute “Upholding Trust in the Religious Education Community” and “A Sex Offender in Church” and ask everyone to read them before the session begins.

Session Plan

Gathering and Centering, 15 minutes
Light the chalice or candle. Turn to reading 434 in Singing the Living Tradition, and read it aloud together. Check in by inviting participants to share in a sentence or two why it is critical that our congregations attend to matters of safety, health, and right relations. Ask participants to name the essential characteristics or qualities of religious education leadership that are needed to address these matters in our communities. Record the leadership characteristics and qualities generated by the group on newsprint and summarize the list items and their importance.
Review the outline for this session, and note any resources you are planning to refer to or use during the session. If this is the first gathering of participants for creating safe congregations work, establish group guidelines. Refer to the Introduction for the procedure.

Focusing, 10 minutes
Read to the group the following, adapted from a prayer by Rev. Thomas Mikelson:

Spirit of Life, we acknowledge your presence. We know that here among us are those who have experienced the pains of abuse; that there are those who have caused others the pain of abuse; and that there are some who, by their silence, have been complicit in the harm of abuse. We lift our prayers for all of these.

Spirit of Justice and Mercy, we give thanks that wholeness and restoration are always possibilities. We seek a deeper understanding of our ministry and of our relations to those who look to us for healing and justice. We seek wisdom and courage, to become healers and leaders of our community. We pray that the power of your presence will be with this circle of colleagues as we go forth to live out our calling in ministry and leadership. Amen

Review the goals of the workshop and the workshop process with the group. Invite participants to review the group’s guidelines for openness and sharing. Distribute copies of Handout 11, Needs Assessment Checklist for Congregations. After each question is read, engage participants in their responses to it. Note policies, procedures, resources, and resource people in place to address the safety needs in your congregation.

Reflecting and Exploring, 65 minutes
Use this meditation as a springboard for a group discussion about the concept of right relations, particularly in the context of a religious education program. Ask participants to share any points from “Upholding Trust in the Religious Education Community” that stood out for them or raised questions or concerns for them as congregational leaders. Discuss the opportunities for leadership, education, justice, and ethical action.

Take a 10-minute break. When you return decide which of the following options, based on the size of the group, you will use to set up this exploration exercise:

  • Divide the group into six groups of two to six people. Distribute copies of Handout 12, Six Case Studies, and assign each group one of the situations described. Ask each group to discuss the situation and ways that congregational leaders might respond. Ask the groups to record their responses and be ready to report to the whole group in 20 minutes. Tell them they may make use of or refer to any of the resources you have provided when formulating their responses.
  • Pass out copies of Handout 12, Six Case Studies. Ask half of the participants to read and reflect on situations one through three and the other half to read and reflect on situations four through six. Invite them to each find a partner to share their thoughts on the ways congregational leaders might respond to each of the three situations. Ask the participants to be ready to gather for a group discussion in 20 minutes. Tell them they may make use of or refer to any of the resources you have provided when formulating their responses.
  • Distribute copies of Handout 12, Six Case Studies, and ask the participants to take 10 minutes to read and reflect on each of the six situations described, taking notes or formulating ideas about the ways congregation leaders might respond to these situations. Tell them they may make use of or refer to any of resources you have provided when formulating their responses. When time is up, ask the participants to briefly share their ideas for each of the six situations, allowing 5 minutes for each situation.

Integrating, 15 minutes
Ask the participants to reflect on the information and ideas raised during this session and to offer any comments they may wish to share about the discussions and the process used for the session. Ask each participant to write down up to three aspects of safety and risk management that they will commit to work on in their congregation during the next six to twelve months. Alternatively, ask participants to reflect on “Balancing Compasssion and Protection” and “A Sex Offender in Church.” Engage them in a discussion about their responses to any of the following questions:

  • Haffner articulates three myths that are prevalent about child sexual abuse. How has this essay increased your understanding of these complex issues?
  • What policies and procedures has your congregation codified to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse in your UU community? Do you have a Limited Access Agreement? What work still remains to make your congregation safe for all?
  • What is the moral message from this case study for your congregation, lay leaders, and religious professionals?

Closing, 5 minutes
Invite participants to share one or two words that describe a thought or feeling with which they will leave this session, allowing participants to pass if they choose. Depending on the group size and meeting space, you may stand or sit in a circle and pass around a small chalice or candle. In closing, you might want to sing a song or read these closing words by V. Emil Gudmundson:
And, now, may we have faith in life to do wise planting that the generations to come may reap even more abundantly than we. May we be bold in bringing to fruition the golden dreams of human kinship and justice. This we ask that the fields of promise become fields of reality.

Extinguish the chalice or candle.

For more information contact safecongregations @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, April 22, 2011.

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