The merger of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries (YaYA) and the Faith Development Office (FDO) into a combined staff group, named Lifespan Faith Engagement (LFE) is a momentous change full of opportunity, and some loss. As part of an intentional process, we've chosen a relational approach to change based on listening first. This is the recording of our inital listening session (one of the takeaways from this listening session was that it is something we will do again).
* A comment received by e-mail that could not be included in the transcript of the text chat accompanying this listening session (off-topic comments have been edited out, for brevity) is included at the bottom of this post.
Please add your thoughts in the comment section and help us keep the listening happening!
Transcript: Text chat accompanying listening session
Hi. My name is Debbie Johnson LeGare. I am writing because I cannot attend the Evolution of Our Ministry to Youth and Young Adults Conversation tonight.
I grew up Unitarian Universalist, attending Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Oak Park, IL since about 1970. I attended Sunday School and my parents were on many boards and committees for many years. The first time I remember enjoying anything about church was as a junior high student when I began to attend UU youth activities. I attended YRUU activities every Sunday morning and every Wednesday night from 1981-1986. I was on the CMD YRUU Youth Adult Council and on the Central Midwest District board for several years in the mid 1980s. I went to Marwood Unitarian Universalist youth camp and Con-Con 1984-86 in NC, IA and OR. I was not aware of strong UU activities in college, but attended Opus 1992-96 in MN, NJ, VA, CA and IA. I have been a counselor at Marwood Midwest Unitarian Universalist Youth Camp (MUUYC) since 1996. I have sung in the Unity Temple Choir, participate in small group ministry and teach Sunday School there as well. I am a lifelong UU who is highly invested in regional and continental UU youth and young adult activities. Spending time in nature with UU youth and young adults has been a primary experience of my life. It was there that I truly learned that each one of us matters, and to truly treat others well. It was there that I began to discover my own truth and my spiritual path. It was there that I learned to lead. It was there, in nature with other UUs that I learned about the UU principles, not by reading them, but by watching people live them. Youth and adults acted these out in a way that could not be conveyed otherwise.
I understand that the UUA no longer supports youth and young adult programming and leaves it to the regional or congregational level. I think this is a serious mistake. The possibility that UU youth might not have access to the life-changing programming is horrible and avoidable. We must nurture and empower our youth and fund denominational programming for them.
Thank you for considering my opinion.
Debbie Johnson LeGare
(Time code is hh:mm:ss- "20:31:40 = 8:31PM, Eastern time.)
20:31:40 From Lucia : A big need is programming resources for folks working in the trenches. We really need more. Will there be more emphasis on that with the merge?
20:33:00 From Kari Gottfried (she/her) : i have a q too :)
20:34:22 From Lucia : thanks! We also need program content.
20:34:30 From Sean Page : When you are thinking outside of the box, how does lay leadership come into play?
20:34:58 From Jennica Davis-Hockett : Lucia does curriculum fit into program content?
20:35:33 From Kathy Smith : Jennica - yes, please. Training is helpful but content is helpful, too.
20:35:42 From Lucia : Curriculum but also content that networks UU youth nationwide/worldwide.
20:38:34 From Julie-Ann Silberman-Bunn : I have a question about ways in which communication occurs, and how information is currently shared with people in congregations? Regions?
20:44:48 From Deborah (she/her) : Sean, the Competencies and the Training for Youth Ministry to/with Youth are actually targeted for lay leaders working with youth: https://www.uua.org/youth/adults-ministry/competencies
20:45:16 From Lucia : Please call DREs and set up short chats with DREs/MREs and some lay leaders. I think you'll get some good feedback about the reality of cnducting program these days
20:54:59 From Joseph Chapot : not a question, just a comment: I wish the UUA was supporting people who are coordinating a congregation young adult ministries or who want to create one, especially because when we are successful, we cause people to join churches. I work at UU San Francisco and the giving of our young adult community more than pays for the my position as the young adult coordinator. In fact, half the people who joined this last church year are young adults. Also, UU San Francisco used to have a Youth and Young Adult Coordinator role, but the job was split in two because youth and young adults require very different needs (ie. one group has legal autonomy, and the other doesn't) So I still don't think it makes much sense to put these two very different groups under the same umbrella
21:02:57 From Joseph Chapot : yes MAX! got to go, but loving the comments coming from the YAs and the youth
21:05:34 From Jennica Davis-Hockett : Max, do you have that written down? If so would you send it to email@example.com?
21:05:46 From Max S-F (he/him) : I’m happy to write something up
21:07:32 From Lucia : Communications opportunities aren't well established with UUA and the trenches. I gave Bart some ideas, but I don't think he understood.
21:17:05 From Jennica Davis-Hockett : And the youth ministry roundtable meets monthly via zoom. and keeps in touch between via email, slack and phone. Then we meet in person at least once a year to do visioning/mission work for our team.
21:17:48 From Sean Page : I think there needs to be a pipeline between youth and young adult programming
21:18:01 From Kari Gottfried (she/her) : but not at the sacrifice of youth programming pleaseeeee
21:18:33 From Sean Page : There needs to be a pipeline in which each community gives back to the previous.
21:19:54 From grace (she/her) : absolutley not at the sake of youth programming though!!! young adult, but in more specific emerging adult programming being more plentiful is what myself and many other young adults need!
21:20:08 From Byrne Dallas Crandell (he/him) : Come to the PWR Emerging Adult Task Force Workshop 4:30 pm Thursday at GA!
21:20:32 From Sarah Lammert (she/her) : Thanks Byrne
21:20:51 From Deborah (she/her) : If anyone didn’t get a chance to ask a question, share a concern, or engage in a dialogue about an answer you’d like to follow up on, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. This is not “the end” - we want to hear from you.
21:20:52 From Sarah Lammert (she/her) : Yes Sean
21:20:56 From Mandy Neff : Sean - yes! I wonder if this merger is actually an opportunity to build stronger support across the ages.
21:21:49 From Sean Page : I agree! It could be an opportunity and innovative.
21:22:12 From Kathy Smith : Speaking as someone who is working as a religious educator at the local level ... what Lucia asked for early on goes for Young Adult programming, too. There is not a lot of material available that helps religious educators provide good, church-based programming for young adults as well as youth. Please more support for churches in providing programming. We keep trying to push youth and young adult programming down to the churches but the work is hard. Training is helpful, but curriculum, program ideas, ways to make things actually work - those things are needed for churches to do the work.
21:22:26 From Ray Hommeyer (they/them) : hi all, I grew up UU and am now going to seminary with plans to seek UU ordination. I'm a YA and am increasingly involved in YA ministry at my church. I'm new to following the national UU conversation, so I don't think I'm yet understanding all the pieces. I do want to say though that my immediate response is excitment about the focus on faith formation! Lifelong faith formation focus has been essential to my faith and well-being.
21:23:48 From Sarah Lammert (she/her) : Thanks Ray
21:24:54 From Lucia : I've never heard of the roundtable. UUA should hire someone with association communications experience. And a youth RE person who understands that the Age of the Cons is over in many regions, so we need local content that links youth (+young adults)
21:25:35 From Carey McDonald : A big part of this staff reorganization is to free up new capacity to address what our needs are, so I want to make sure we capture the needs that have been raised on this call. Here’s what I have in my notes in terms of needs:
- Resources for lay leadership development
- Making sure each of our communities get staff attention
- Make available information on budgets for youth ministry, including national vs local
- Support for young adult communities and empowering local young adult leaders to host events, e.g. YA cons
- Wider participation for youth ministry big picture and change conversations, including developing vision for youth ministry
- Better times, venues, platforms for youth engagement
- Pipelines for young adults to give back to youth ministry
- Resources and materials to help religious educators support young adult ministry
21:26:03 From Jennica Davis-Hockett : The chat will be saved so please put your thoughts in it as we wrap up.
21:26:24 From Kari Gottfried (she/her) : - Focus on actually centering YOUTH voices in the youth conversation *before* decisions are made.
21:26:26 From Deborah (she/her) : The chat-box will also be “saved” as well as the webinar recorded.
21:26:28 From Kathy Smith : Thank you, Carey. Add resources and materials to help religious educators support youth ministry as it changes and flows.
21:26:36 From Mandy Neff : Carey - I’m thinking of the “pipeline” as spanning all ages
21:26:42 From Sean Page : Thank you to the staff who showed tonight. We appreciate it!
21:27:21 From Mandy Neff : Yes thank you all!
21:27:23 From stevie carmody (he/him/his) : I appreciate you all, thank you for this session!
21:27:28 From Christina Rivera : revisit decision to strip the YaYA Office name and/or the ramifications of that decision
21:31:46 From Sam Wilson (he/him) : My observation is that there is a lot of anxiety about this change, just from the 30 or so people present here for this discussion. My suspicion is that some of this anxiety is rooted in trauma. Ministry to YaYas is important stuff and hits many of us at a deep, personal level. My suggestion is that staff utilize skills based in trauma-informed ministry when engaging with others about this change moving forward. I would also personally appreciate more transparency about Bart leaving his position, and, specifically, found his statement on facebook that he would be likely "taking a break from UUism" as concerning. Perhaps that is related to some of the anxiety related to this discussion too (or maybe that's just me!) Thanks everyone for listening, I appreciate you all! <3 PS as a young adult whose life revolves around UU youth ministry, I am sad to lose the YAYA name, and, I appreciate your comment, Christina.
21:32:12 From Jennica Davis-Hockett : We will make this conversation available on the website. Probably on uua.org/blueboat
21:32:26 From Sean Page : Awesome! :)
21:32:28 From Lucia : thanks all!
21:32:30 From Carey McDonald : thanks, Sam
21:32:32 From Kathy Smith : YES, thank you for that, Sam.
21:32:42 From Christina Rivera : thanks Sam!
21:32:46 From Tracy Breneman : Thank you for offering this!