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Just Relations in a Faith Context Workshop

45-Minute Workshop

Suggested Participants

  • Youth Advisor
  • Religious Educators

Goals

  • Foster dialogue between youth and adults in leadership positions
  • Explore some of the safety concerns of youth groups in the congregation
  • Encourage youth and adults to work in partnership to create safety policies and rules for youth activities (may include meetings, oversights, retreats, and conferences)
  • Develop a plan of action for addressing safety concerns in youth groups

Materials
• Copies of “Creating Policies with Youth Groups” for all participants
• Copies of Singing the Living Tradition
• Chalice or candle and matches
• Newsprint, markers, and tape
• Index cards
• Pens or pencils
• Copies of Handout 13, Checklist for Developing Youth Group Safety Guidelines, for all participants
• The congregation’s youth code of ethics and safety policies

Preparation
• Appoint workshop facilitator(s)
• Distribute “Creating Policies with Youth Groups” and ask everyone to read it before the session begins.

SESSION PLAN

Gathering and Centering       3 minutes
Light a chalice or candle and share the words of Albert Schweitzer, reading 447 in Singing the Living Tradition.

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       15 minutes
Refer participants to the practical suggestions offered in “Creating Policies with Youth Groups.” Invite participants to identify their areas of safety-related concerns, such as youth-advisor boundaries or drug use. Write down key words and phrases on newsprint. Ask for clarification and explanation when necessary.
Once you have created a list, ask participants to reflect silently on these areas of concern. Distribute the index cards and invite participants to write down on their cards the two areas that concern them the most. Ask them to put a Y in the corner of the card if they are a youth or an A if they are an adult. Explain that these cards will be shared without names attached but will reveal whether the writer is a youth or an adult. Collect the cards and shuffle them.

Exploring      20 minutes
Redistribute the index cards to the group. Go around the circle and ask each participants to read the two concerns written on the card in their hand. Ask them to identify whether the writer is a youth or an adult.
As these concerns are read aloud, make a check mark next to the concern listed on the newsprint, using different colors for youth and adult concerns. Make one check mark per concern as it is read. If a concern is mentioned multiple times, it should have multiple check marks next to it.
Ask the group the following questions for discussion:
• What are the two or three top concerns of this group?
• What are the top concerns of youth?
• What are the top concerns of adults?
• Are the concerns the same?
Are there differences? Why?

Looking at each area of concern that received prioritization, ask the group to identify:
• those that are already addressed by policies and procedures
• those that are addressed by informal, unwritten policies and procedures
• those for which the congregation has no policies or procedures

In the cases where policies and procedures do exist, ask participants whether they need to be reviewed or rewritten in light of today’s discussion and the essay.
If participants are ready, decide on a time and place for groups of youth and adults to work together to research and develop these policies and procedures.

Closing       2 minutes
Thank participants for their time, their commitment, and their cooperation. Share the closing words from reading 698 by Wayne Arnason in Singing the Living Tradition.
Extinguish the chalice or candle.

2-Hour Workshop

Suggested Participants
• Youth advisors
• Religious educators

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
• Foster dialogue between youth and adults in leadership positions
• Explore some of the unique safety concerns of youth groups (ages fourteen to twenty)
• Encourage youth and adults to work in partnership to create safety policies and rules for youth activities, including meetings, oversights, retreats, and conferences
• Develop a plan of action for addressing safety concerns in youth groups

Materials
• Copies of “Creating Policies with Youth Groups” for all participants
• Copies of Singing the Living Tradition
• Chalice or candle and matches
• Newsprint, markers, and tape
• Index cards
• Pens or pencils
• Copies of Handout 13, Checklist for Developing Youth Group Safety Guidelines, for all participants

Preparation
• Appoint workshop facilitator(s)
• Distribute “Creating Policies with Youth Groups” and ask everyone to read it before the session begins.
• Put chairs in a circle or around a large table so that all participants can see each other.

SESSION PLAN

Gathering and Sharing       15 minutes
Light a chalice or candle and share the words of Albert Schweitzer in reading 447 in Singing the Living Tradition. Invite each person to reflect on someone who has been a mentor or role model to them, someone who has “lighted the flame” within them. Then invite participants to talk briefly (one minute or less) about someone who has been a meaningful mentor or role model for them.
Say something like, “As a congregation, we seek to foster genuine connections between youth and adults, so that we may continue to spark the light inside of each of us. Together, we create a safe community whose light shines brightly, for all to be inspired by.”

Focusing       50 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. Ask participants to describe a safe youth group. Ask: How do people feel in a safe youth group? What do they see and hear that can make them feel safe? Write down key words and phrases on newsprint as participants speak. Be sure to solicit input from both youth and adults.
After a number of participants have had a chance to respond, turn to a new sheet of newsprint and say, “When we talk about safety in youth groups, we also talk about issues of power.” Invite participants (youth and adult) to describe what they think about when they hear the word power. Write down key words from their responses on newsprint.
Then begin to discuss responses. Participants are likely to have many negative associations with the word power, and their responses are likely to include examples of “power over,” power in which one party controls the other party’s resources or behavior. If this is the case, point out this emphasis. “Power over” is the kind of power that unethical leaders can exploit over vulnerable youth. This is one of the reasons we encourage training and codes of ethics for adults who work with youth. We need to keep “power over” in mind when we write policies.
Invite participants to think of a different kind of power. “Power with” is shared power, in which those who are vulnerable by nature of status and age are able to have their voices heard, their experience honored, and their leadership cultivated.
Ask participants to share some examples of “power with” that they have seen, either in the church or elsewhere. Some examples you could bring up include:
• a council in which all members have equal influence, regardless of status outside the council
• a family in which children and adults put their pocket change in a piggy bank and decide together which charity to donate it to
• a classroom in which students and teachers create a curriculum together

Remind the group that sharing power with youth involves respecting youth as active participants and leaders in the community. Read aloud this quotation from Meg Riley:

Youth will be ministered to by Unitarian Universalist congregations as they are respected as community members. We believe that, as youth are empowered to be full members of UU communities, both they and the communities will be strengthened. The phrase we use is Power Shared Is Power Multiplied. Youth empowerment does not mean that adults are disempowered. It is not either/or. Youth empowerment means that the more empowered youth are as youth, the more appropriately empowered adults will be as adults.

Invite responses to this quote, then explain,

Our task in today’s workshop is to set the stage for youth and adults to work together, sharing and multiplying power. When power is shared and multiplied, safety can be shared and multiplied. Our goal today is to create safety with empowerment.

Reflecting and Exploring     20 minutes
Refer participants to the practical suggestions offered in the essay “Creating Policies with Youth Groups.”
Invite participants to identify their areas of safety-related concerns, such as youth-advisor boundaries or drug use. Write down key words and phrases on newsprint. Ask for clarification and explanation when necessary.
Once a list has been created, distribute the index cards and invite each participant to write down the three areas that concern them the most. Ask them to put a Y in the corner of the card if they are a youth, and an A if they are an adult. Explain that these cards will be shared without names attached but will reveal whether the writer is a youth or an adult. Collect the cards and shuffle them.
Redistribute the index cards to the group. Go around the circle and ask each participant to read the three concerns written on the card in their hand. Ask them to identify whether the writer is a youth or an adult.
As these concerns are read aloud, make a check mark next to the concern listed on the newsprint, using different colors for youth and for adult concerns. Make one check mark per concern as it is read. If a concern is mentioned multiple times, then it should have multiple check marks next to it.
Ask the group the following questions for discussion:
• What are the three top concerns of this group?
• What are the top concerns of youth?
• What are the top concerns of adults?
• Are the concerns the same?
Are there differences? Why?

Integrating       20 minutes
Looking at each area of concern that was given priority, ask the group to identify:
• those that are already addressed by policies and procedures
• Those that are addressed by informal, unwritten policies and procedures
• Those for which no policies or procedures exist

In the cases where policies and procedures do exist, ask participants whether they need to be reviewed or rewritten in light of today’s discussion.
If participants are ready they may begin to assign groups of youth and adults to work together on researching and developing these policies and procedures.

Closing       15 minutes
Invite participants to gather in a circle. Thank them for their time, commitment, and good ideas. Explain that safety and empowerment require time, patience, and trust. Affirm the good work that they have done today. Then invite each participant to share something they found meaningful in today’s workshop and something they will do as a result.
Offer these closing words from Elizabeth Martin, a former youth from Fourth Universalist Society in New York City:

In YRUU, I learned how to get along with others. Youth and adults, together. We worshiped, played games, cooked, ate, talked, and sang. I discovered myself. . . . I have built friendships I hope to keep for years to come. Most importantly, my memories of YRUU continue to make me feel loved and safe. During the moments when I was in YRUU, I was safe.

Close with a blessing, such as “So may it be in our community, and beyond. Go in peace.”

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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