Presenters: Rev. Dr. Douglas Gallager, Rev. Dr. Kendyl Gibbons, Rev. Dr. Justin Osterman, and Rev. Alison Miller. Sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board of Trustees.
Collectively, the predominant Unitarian Universalist (UU) story is an Exodus story of people who wandered from another religious tradition to the Promised Land of Unitarian Universalism. How do "Exodus UUs" and "Homebred UUs" (those brought up UU) find common ground? This workshop, led by four homebred UU leaders, explored what is unique about homebred UU identity and, in dialog with non-homebred UUs, what we all have in common and how to build and maintain connection with succeeding generations of young adults.
Rev. Douglas Gallager coordinated the workshop. There was a brief introduction, concluding with Rev. Alison Miller’s story of staying in Unitarian Universalism. The floor was then opened to comments and questions from the participants, with responses and reflections from the panelists.
As the dialogue continued, a consensus began to emerge on some key areas in which UU congregations and districts might be able to improve the ways in which they attract and retain young adults:
- Raise consciousness that religious life is a lifelong journey. This might include adding classes as well as shifting awareness in the Religious Education department, for example. It might also lead to new or different classes for those entering or returning to Unitarian Universalism as young adults, to enable a deeper spiritual maturity. Older congregants might be encouraged to reflect on and share their reasons for staying connected.
- Integrate the youth of the congregation more fully into the life of the community.
- Recognize that the parish community includes all generations, and act on that realization.
- Give your church to your kids, at least occasionally. Many of the participants spoke movingly of worship services written and conducted entirely by teenagers or college students in the congregation.
- Outside of parish life, a need for an expanded program of college ministry seemed to be expressed more often than any other.
Reported by Bill Lewis; edited by Dana Dwinell-Yardley