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4 Year Leadership Track for Youth
4 Year Leadership Track for Youth

Ever think to yourself, “ACK! There are too many awesome Unitarian Universalist youth opportunities out there, how am I ever going to do them all!?” Sometimes it feels like a high stake game of checkers where you just can't figure out the strategy.

Luckily, programs are offered year after year so you don’t have to do everything by your next birthday. Freshman can use  this infographic to map out your perfect four year plan. Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors, can use this same infographic to track progress on your leadership journey. (See the year-by-year breakouts in the sidebar.) If it still feels overwhelming, don't hesitate to reach out to us in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, we can help you plan your course. Staying connected to Unitarian Universalism does not end when you bridge. The bottom of this infographic features suggestions for continuing your connection to Unitarian Universalism as an emerging adult.

Note: the programs and opportunities listed in the infographic are open to youth 14-18 so even if it recommends attending a specific event in your second year of high school, for example, you can still attend it in your third or fourth if you didn’t do it as a Sophomore. Many of these opportunities can be repeated year after year. Also, this is not a complete list. Make sure you check with your Minister, Director of Religious Education and regional Congregational Life staff for other opportunities.

Year 1 Opportunities

Spiritual Development

Participating in the Sunday service is a great way to feel more connected to your faith and other UUs and get a sense of the “behind the scenes” effort it takes to put on a worship service. If you serve as usher, light the chalice or do a reading in the service, someone might tap you to be a member of the Worship Arts Team in the future.

Community Leadership

In addition to opportunities in your congregation, district or regional conferences (called cons or rallies) and camps are a great way to feel part of something larger and meet people from different areas. Attending General Assembly, the largest gathering of UUs in the world, and participating in the Youth Caucus can be a transformative experience. Who knows, someone might invite you to serve on a con or rally planning team, as a camp counselor or to apply for Youth Caucus staff.

Social Justice

Many congregations host an annual service-learning trip where you can learn about other communities and work with them. This is a great way to bond with your community as you step outside your comfort zone. Every year the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office hosts an Intergenerational Spring Seminar in New York City, co-led by youth, where youth and adults gather to explore some of the most challenging issues facing humanity today. And, don’t just learn about social justice – do justice at Activate! GA the UU College of Social Justice event before General Assembly.

Year 2 Opportunities

Spiritual Development

Many congregations invite their youth into the pulpit at least once a year to do a youth led worship. Planning a worship is a great way to get connected to your minister, share your ideas and discern whether you might want to make ministry a career one day. Attending the Chrysalis Chaplain Training, which may be hosted by your regional Congregational Life staff, is a great way to do some spiritual discernment about how you can best serve others. By leading a worship service or attending a chaplain training, someone may recommend you for leading a worship service at GA or applying for Summer Seminary.

Community Leadership

Kick your community leadership into high gear in your second year. Some districts or regions have committees you could serve on, perhaps your district/region’s version of a Youth Adult Committee that may plan conferences or support the well-being of congregational youth ministry. For Youth of Color, attending Thrive Youth will help you explore your racial and ethnic identities, practice transformative leadership skills, and create authentic, supportive community. Many districts/regions host youth or intergenerational leadership schools that prepare you for a long life of leadership. After you have had a couple of experiences join Luminary Leaders, a network of exceptional Unitarian Universalist youth leaders from across the nation.

Social Justice

The UU College of Social Justice hosts a number of Activate! trainings: in Boston about climate justice, in Tucson, Arizona about immigration justice, and in New Orleans about racial justice and Beloved Community, and can take your congregation’s service-learning trip to another level.

Year 3 Opportunities

Spiritual Development

After you’ve gotten some worship experience in your congregation, at a conference or a camp, consider serving on the Worship Arts Team at General Assembly. It takes many people to coordinate worship arts at GA, so contact the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries to get you connected with the right people.

Community Leadership

Now is the time to put your leadership skills into action by teaching religious education (RE) in your congregation. RE is not just for children, middle school and high school youth, you could even partner with an adult to teach an adult RE class. Your congregation may host a summer camp and there are tons of UU camps across the nation: consider serving as a camp counselor at one of these transformational camps. If you’re interested in joining an intergenerational team to serve the more than 300 youth who attend GA every year, you can apply to be on Youth Caucus staff. Running for Youth Observer on the  Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees is another excellent way to put your leadership in action. This is a two-year position, elected annually. You serve with another youth so during your first year you are mentored by another youth, and during your second year you mentor another youth.

Social Justice

After you’ve experienced a taste of the UU-UNO Intergenerational Spring Seminar, consider serving on Spring Seminar staff. If you had a good time at Activate! last year, or missed the opportunity last year, you have another chance of attending one of these transformational programs.

Year 4 Opportunities

Spiritual Development

Now that you’ve gone out and experienced what the world of Unitarian Universalist youth leadership has to offer, bring it back to your congregation and join the worship arts team to bring alive the spirit of Unitarian Universalism on Sundays. If Unitarian Universalist leadership calls to you as a profession, apply for Summer Seminary, which is an immersion program for youth interested in perusing a career in Unitarian Universalism.

Community Leadership

Now that you’ve gone out and experienced what the world of Unitarian Universalist youth leadership has to offer, bring it back to your congregation and co-facilitate your youth group, perhaps using Be the Change!, the youth multiculturalism and anti-racism project developed by teh UUA, or a Tapestry of Faith curriculum like A Chorus of Faiths or Virtue Ethics. Join your congregation’s Board of Trustees or a committee or team to practice your leadership skills in partnership with other UUs. For Youth of Color, return to Thrive Youth as a staff member. And return to your district or region’s leadership school as a staff member.

Social Justice

Now that you’ve gone out and experienced what the world of Unitarian Universalist youth leadership has to offer, bring it back to your congregation and join your congregation’s social justice ministry, reaching out to positively impact your community.

Beyond the Youth Years for Young Adults

Spiritual Development

M ake a deeper connection to your congregation- whether you’re staying at your home congregation or venturing to another city, state or country- by joining its Worship Arts Team, or a small group ministry. Wherever you are, you can participate in Meaning Makers, a year-long spiritual development program for UU young adults. Through in-person retreats, virtual small group ministry and mentorship, emerging adults explore the central questions, “Who am I and how can I live my Unitarian Universalist (UU) faith in the world?”

Community Leadership

Whether you’re staying at your home congregation or venturing to another city, state or country, make a deeper connection by teaching religious education classes to children, youth or other adults. Consider participating in or facilitating a Small Group Ministry or young adult group. If you are going to college, start or join a campus ministry. For Young Adults of Color, don’t miss Thrive Young Adult ,where you will build transformative relationships with other Young Adults of Color, learn community organizing skills and craft a strategic vision for anti-racism work within and beyond our Unitarian Universalist faith.

Social Justice

Whether you’re staying at your home congregation or venturing to another city, state or country, make a deeper connection by joining your congregation’s social justice ministry. Reach beyond your congregation and join young adults from across the nation working for climate justice with the UU Young Adults for Climate Justice (UUYACJ). Continue your relationship with the UU College of Social Justice by doing one of their awesome summer internships, or attending GROW Racial Justice. Stand on the Side of Love wherever you are by bringing the campaign to your congregation.

About the Author

  • Jennica first joined the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in 2014. She began her ministry with youth as a youth advisor at First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, her hometown, in 2008. Since then she has served as Youth Program Coordinator and Religious Education...

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