I have had the privilege of being the Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst for 4 years now. As any veteran DRE knows, change is something that often needs to be approached delicately, and in small increments. For at least my first 2 years, consistency and a non-anxious presence were my main goals. With that said, I have been slowly moving toward a more cooperative and inclusive feel for our Religious education programming, and feeling the urge to pull the youth group in tighter while still allowing them the independence they so need at this age and stage of development.
For the first time since I have been at the helm of the program I decided to implement a tapestry of faith curriculum for our Senior Youth group. In previous years, the youth would attend a retreat in the late summer and loosely establish their own curriculum for the year. This year the overlying theme for our religious education program is UU Identity, and so I chose for them the curriculum titled “A Place of Wholeness”. This seemed fitting as we are also running our Coming of Age program this year, and most of the youth are also attending that.
I expected some eye rolling and push back from the youth, as they were accustomed to a more unstructured class time. I was very pleasantly surprised to find they love it! They have enriching discussions, and some have even taken on the responsibility of co-leading workshops with their advisers. They still have their social time at occasional overnights.
I have every intention of continuing with a TOF youth curriculum next year. This experience has shown me that often the youth are more open and flexible than I might anticipate, and that balancing structure with freedom can be a key element in a successful youth group.
In Faith & Service,