GoldMine: 5 Lessons Learned (By An Adult)
GoldMine: 5 Lessons Learned (By An Adult)

THESE FIVE TAKEAWAYS WILL GET YOU MINING FOR GOLD

This summer was a busy one for us in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at the Unitarian Universalist Association. After General Assembly, I spent a week at Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Church in Edmonds, WA as staff at PNWD GoldMine Youth Leadership School. I was invited to lead workshops about Race, Identity and Oppression for the youth leaders, a section that had not been consistently run in the past. I also assisted in other ways necessary, including leading a credo group. Here are my top takeaways from this experience:

1. Youth want to go deep in to Unitarian Universalism

Our youth want to go deep in to what it means to be Unitarian Universalists (UU) in the world. They get the 7 Principles. They sort of understand the Six Sources, but once we started discussing JLA's Five Smooth Stones and the Jagged Rocks everyone's mind was blown.

Religious education and faith formation within congregations are great, and we also need other opportunities to go deeply into what it means to be Unitarian Universalist across age ranges. We need more programs for adults like the Southern UU Leadership Experience, more opportunities like GoldMine for youth, and more multigenerational opportunities like General Assembly. At the end of a week of GoldMine, I witnessed 30 youth who had a deeper connection and understanding of Unitarian Universalism and who wanted to share it.

2. Identity and Justice are important to youth

Addressing identity and oppression through a justice framework is crucial for our youth. As UUs, we have been on the forefront of a number of justice issues and we are usually led by some of our youngest activists. High school and college aged youth are in the midst of identity formation, and we must provide safe places for youth to grapple with their internal and external identity crises.

Building the Beloved Community cannot happen through one person's desire or will and it cannot happen silently.  It is through shared learning, sharing of experience and perspective, that we can challenge oppression in subtle ways to bring about greater change.

3. We don't sing enough

Our congregations don't sing enough. Our youth don't sing enough in youth group. Our young adults don't sing enough. YOU don't sing enough.

I heard over and over again how much the youth and adults appreciated singing, and then watched as music would be skipped over for something else.

Take a moment, friends, and just sing.

Do it. Loud and from the bottom of your soul. Don't worry about your neighbor, harmony, or dissonance.

JUST SING.

4. Youth leadership is more than just running meetings

Leadership is a word we use that encompasses deep faith, passion, transformation, service to the community and more. Leadership isn't about running a meeting, keeping stack, or being able to build an agenda. Teaching good leadership is a lifelong process that we must all engage in, which means we have to be good followers too.

I witnessed this repeatedly throughout the week, youth stepping aside to make space for someone else to step up. I witnessed them challenging one another to live into the covenant they created as a community. Our youth are really fantastic at making and living into covenants with one another, it is a practice that many of us could pay attention to more deeply.

Programs like GoldMine remind us that our congregations need to include youth throughout the life of the congregation. This means in worship on a weekly basis, on the Board, in congregational meetings, during coffee hour, etc.

Lastly, investing in deep, transformative faith experiences for youth will show a return of 1000%. Not just for Unitarian Universalism, but for the world. There are thousands of folks who grew up UU making change and building justice in the world. It is imperative that we support youth participation in deeply transformative faith experiences, because we have seen how they transform Unitarian Universalism and the world.

5. Revelation will continue to unfold... but we are doing better.

We have got work we need to continue to do. We need to continue to focus time, energy, and money on faith formation for youth and young adults. We need to build multigenerational communities and congregations, breaking away from adult-centered worship into community-centered worship. We need to continue to teach Unitarian Universalism, and it needs to go deeper than the Principles and the Sources. It needs to be deeper than the same five stories. It needs to be prophetic and spiritually risky.

This means we are moving beyond old models of youth and young adult ministry. We are building new ways of healthy youth ministry and these new ways look different than we are used to. As noted above, revelation is not sealed and will constantly unfold. We need to be open to what will come next and not fear the change it will bring.

A song comes to mind, we sang it a few times at GoldMine.

About the Author

  • As a lifelong Unitarian Universalist (UU), Bart has a great passion for youth and young adult ministry. He served the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans as Director of Religious Education before joining the UUA in the role of director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries...

For more information contact blueboat@uua.org.

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