We all know Unitarian Universalist youth ministry is not perfect. In fact, it’s often just a jumbled mess of individuals trying their best to transform the lives of teenagers. Here are the top 5 reasons proving my point.
It's Not the Same Thing Every Week
You can never count on this Sunday being exactly like the last. One week you might be having a deep conversation with your peers and mentors in youth group about God, the next week you might be visiting the place of worship of another faith. The week after that you might be speaking from the pulpit in a multigenerational worship and the following week you might be partnering with other congregants on a social justice project. Every week there is something new, but it's never just the same-old-same-old church experience.
And just TRY to do nothing but go to youth group. Chances are a leader from your congregation will invite you to participate in congregational life in some other meaningful way, or you will otherwise be mysteriously drawn to something weird like the worship arts committee, pastoral care team or even your congregation's board of trustees.
You Won't Be the Same Person You Were When You Walked In
We all know life is full of transitions. When you graduate from Coming of Age, chances are you won't be able to hang on to the person you were when you started. You’re going to just have to deal with the fact that you now have a better understanding of your faith. And the guidance you receive from your mentor? Well, that’s going to be stuck in your head for a while, whether you notice it or not. If you go through Our Whole Lives you'll learn you are going to have to have conversations about consent with future partners that otherwise you would have been able to just sweep under the rug.
And don’t get me started about when you graduate high school! You probably will have made at least one friend who you will know in some capacity for the rest of your life. You may have to go through some really difficult stuff in high school and without your peers and mentors to provide pastoral care, you could have just gone on internalizing your struggles, becoming bitter with the world, and not had to grow from them or find any sort of spiritual resilience. You may be exposed to leadership opportunities that you will simply have to admit changed your outlook on teamwork, accountability and self-confidence and opened doors in your future.
So, good luck getting out of youth ministry unchanged!
You Can't Just Do Whatever You Want
We Unitarian Universalists are bound by covenant. This means we enthusiastically agree to care for one another and ourselves in service of bringing more goodness into the world. Sounds great right? Well sorta, except you can’t get away with being better than someone else, always being right, selfishly using up the earth’s resources to your endless delight or stomping on someone else’s way of being in the world.
Basically you can’t get away with anything! Because if you try, some kind UU is going to say they noticed your behavior was out of covenant. And then they are going to invite you back in! They’re going to tell you that nothing you could do could stop them from loving you and they're going to support you in finding a new way of behaving that doesn’t cause suffering to yourself or those around you. Acceptance?! Forgiveness?! No thank you.
There Are Too Many Choices
Let’s say you’re into deep theological reflection. Great, go to worship on Sundays. Let’s say you’re also into social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement really calls to you. Great, you can probably find a group in your congregation supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
But what if you’re also into having a really awesome movie night, helping the homeless, soulful singing, teaching preschoolers, going on service trips, going to conferences or camps with dozens, hundreds or thousands of other UUs, doing a social justice internship, visiting a different country, dismantling racism and oppression, OR you are thinking about becoming a religious professional? Well yea, there are offerings for all of THAT too. You could do UU stuff 24/7 and still not experience it all. Simply exhausting.
You'll Have to Interact with People Different Than You
Yea sure, you’re unique. But guess what? So is everyone else. If you stick with youth ministry you’ll probably meet people your age who think differently, or are from different cultural backgrounds and have different sexual orientations than you. And—incredibly—you’re probably going to end up liking it.
Not only are you going to have to get to know people your age who are different than you, you’re probably going to have to hang out with people from different generations. You might even have to learn things from their life experience that you could have just ignorantly fumbled through yourself as you grow up.
So, if you’re not fond of new experiences that will expand your mind and heart, want to stay the same as you were yesterday, aren’t interested in making promises to others to continually try to be the best you can be, don’t want to choose from so many opportunities and want to just continue to hang out with people who are just like you, then by all means STAY FAR, FAR AWAY FROM UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST YOUTH MINISTRY!