Care Packages for Emerging Adults

This has been adapted from a piece written by Rev. Annie Gonzalez and Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen about a survey by India Harris in 2016.

Our congregations are generally pretty good at sharing love. From child dedications for our infants to memorial services at life’s end, our congregations are there for the full journey. So how do we share the love when our beloved high school aged youth grow up, cross that mythical bridge and become official adults? One simple and effective way to stay in relationship with our bridged young adults is through sending care packages their way!

Here's a short list of ideas for what to put in bridger care packages. This list and the activities below were gathered from an informal survey of UU religious educators on social media:

  • Ramen noodles,
  • Handwritten prayers,
  • Homemade cookies
  • Homemade or travel chalices
  • Battery votives
  • Snacks (granola bars, candy, crackers)
  • Useful items (chapstick, pens, note pads)
  • Notes/art from congregants of all ages
  • Fun stuff (decks of cards, silly putty)
  • Church bookmarks
  • Copies of Becoming

The UU Congregation at Shelter Rock made “Mind the Gap” packages. UU Society: East in Manchester, CT invited the whole congregation to participate by putting out a big box and asking for contributions. At the First UU Society in Albany, NY the children made valentines in RE class and the senior high youth group packed up the care packages and included a photo of the group for their friends who had aged out. The youth at Emerson UU Church in Houston, TX baked cookies and made cards to send with the packages. In Grafton, MA, the UU Society held an all-ages potluck with activity stations for making the care package items. Another congregation in the Central East Region brought the parents of the youth alumni together for mutual support and bonding as they bake cookies to send to their kids.

Here are three of the key best practices noticed in the many responses from religious educators:

  1. These UUs know that relationships change but do not end when youth bridge out of a congregation’s youth group and into adulthood. While our congregations tend to focus on ministering to the folks who live in the area and show up regularly to church events like worship, these UUs value staying in relationship with their youth alumni, even if they move away or don't attend worship service. Many emerging adults struggle to find or maintain UU community either as an adult within their home congregation or after moving away from their home congregation. It is so important for our congregations to stay in relationship with these young adults so they know they still have a faith home that loves them.
  2. These UUs know that there are opportunities to minister to multiple groups and ages within one project. It might be easy to think of the care packages for newly bridged young adults as a one-way transaction: The congregation sends the packages and the emerging adults are the recipients of the ministry. But these UUs know that creating the packages is also an opportunity for ministry, whether it’s teaching the children in RE the importance of caring for people in transition, showing the youth that they will always have a faith home that loves them, or providing space for parents to find support as they navigate their child being an adult.
  3. These UUs are thinking inclusively and know that one size does not fit all. Given the prevalence of highly educated folks within our UU communities, we can sometimes fall into the trap of believing that all our young people will enroll in college as they hit adulthood. However, these UUs shared tips about being inclusive of all emerging adults no matter what they are up to. Leah Hickerson Purcell said, “I never call them our ‘college kids’” noting that the boxes are for young people who are working, volunteering, searching, in the military or in school. Other religious educators agreed, and added that not all our youth graduate from high school either, so terms like “high school grads” can also leave folks out. We use the term “emerging adults” to speak inclusively of all our youngest adults.

About the Author

Lifespan Faith Engagement

The Lifespan Faith Engagement office of the UUA puts a justice seeking, radically inclusive faith in action by creating experiences for meaning-making and faithful living, accompanying people to make a home in our faith, and advocating for youth engagement and lifespan faith development.

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