Minors Applying For Membership

Q. A 16-year-old girl whose parents do not attend our church is attending our Exploring Membership class. She assures us that her parents are OK with this, however I am concerned about allowing someone under the age of eighteen to sign our membership book without our knowing what the parents think about it. How do other churches handle these situations?

A. “A 16-year-old is a minor, and his/her parents or caregivers may have strong feelings about becoming a member of a faith community/ congregation/ church,” says Helen Bishop, a former Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) district executive.

“I hope we would all encourage a 16-year-old to be in dialogue with her/his caregivers or parents about what it means to be a member of a faith community so their family dynamics would be strengthened,” she says. “I believe that’s in the best interests of the young person, the family, and the congregation as well. If there are family dynamics that preclude that kind of dialogue, that’s important for congregational leaders to know about that as well, so as not to get into the middle of a conflict situation between the young person and his/her family.” Most states do not allow people under eighteen to vote on matters that are legally binding, Bishop notes.

About the Author

  • Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

For more information contact interconnections@uua.org.

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