Children's Faith Development

Children drumming at First parish UU Bedford, MA.
Girl lights a chalice at the start of worship at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder, Colorado.

"We are Unitarian Universalists: a people of the open mind, the loving heart, and the helping hands." The children often recite words like these when a chalice is lit to begin religious education time.

Parents and caregivers come to Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations for communities that help raise children to become kind, respectful, fair-minded, caring, and strong enough to side with love and fight for justice. UU religious education and participation in worship, social justice work, and multigenerational gatherings reinforce what parents teach at home. We nurture truth-seeking, spirituality, and progressive moral values that will continue to shape and support our children as they grow.

Children’s programming usually occurs on Sunday mornings. Most congregations have a nursery for babies and toddlers during worship and offer age-specific programs from preschool on up. It is common for UU religious education programs to combine story, song, art, movement, discussion, and play to engage children with many learning styles, abilities, and activity levels. Program content varies; many congregations rely on Tapestry of Faith curricula, offered by the UUA online at no charge.

Understanding Children's Faith Development

  • Nurturing Children and Youth : A Developmental Guidebookby Tracey L. Hurd (Toolkit Book), describes the faith journey from early childhood in terms of developmental stages. What sorts of questions do we ask, and what depth of answer do we seek, at different stages? What activities work at different stages to engage children or youth in faith exploration?
  • Full Circle : Fifteen Ways to Grow Lifelong UUs, by religious educator and lifelong UU Kate Covey, reports on her interviews with 82 men and women ages 25 to 87 who were raised as UUs. She suggests ways for UU congregations to meet the needs of their children and youth for a faith they can keep.
  • The Gift of Faith : Tending the Spiritual Lives of Children, by Jeanne Harrison Nieuwejaar, shows how religious community profoundly serves a child’s natural need for spiritual growth and religious grounding. It explores the crucial role of parents as their children's primary religious educators; an accessible, inspiring book.

Welcoming Children in Our UU Congregations

  • Come Into the Circle : Worshiping With Children by Michelle Richards (Skinner House) offers readings, song suggestions, and ways to worship with children in your congregation.
  • A Child's Book of Blessings and Prayers, collected and introduced by Eliza Blanchard, draws material from around the world to encourage giving, service, and gratitude. It includes words to bless the morning, share at bedtime, honor a birthday, even give thanks for a friend.
  • Welcoming Children with Special Needs : A Guidebook for Faith Communities, by Sally Patton, advocates and offers specific ideas for congregations to welcome and meaningfully engage children with special needs and to support their families.
  • What If Nobody Forgave? collected and edited by Colleen M. McDonald brings the seven UU Principles to life in 19 tales with basic messages about truth and right living. Buddha, Jesus, and the Sufi masters of Islam are among the spiritual teachers represented. Each story provides discussion questions, activities and a reading list.
  • A Lamp in Every Corner, by Janeen K. Grohsmeyer brings UU-inspired stories to children, including stories about historical UUs, UU symbols and rituals, and our Principles.

Nurturing Children and Youth A Developmental Guidebook

By Tracey L. Hurd

This book belongs to the Tapestry of Faith Toolkit Series provided by the UUA Faith Development Office. Toolkit Books provide background knowledge, inspiration, and practical guidance to program and lead UU faith development and to help us explore and live our faith in our congregations,...

Nurturing Children and Youth

Children share "gems of goodness" in the Tapestry of Faith program, Moral Tales, for grades 2-3.

Children take turns sharing Gems of Goodness that represent times they showed compassion or fairness, in the Tapestry of Faith program, Moral Tales.

Children hold Standing on the Side of Love signs as they participate in Immigrant Rights Protest in San Diego, CA.

With Justice and Compassion (PDF, 63 pages) is a curriculum to engage UU children in immigration justice.