Early adolescence is a tender time. Emotions run close to the surface or get stuffed far below; friends can be closer than ever or painfully absent. Our capacity for reasoning grows by leaps and bounds. Through friendships and mentoring relationships, we engage in the age-old question “Who am I?,” doing the serious (and not so serious) work of identity formation—gender identity, racial identity, and religious identity. We long for a place where we will find acceptance and affirmation, compassion, courage, inspiration and a chance to make a difference. Unitarian Universalism is that kind of place.
Parents of early adolescents celebrate the growing capacities of their younger youth, nurturing resilience in the face of the stresses of this crucial time. Unitarian Universalism offers:
- community and acceptance,
- joy and love of life,
- exploration of ideas and beliefs,
- development of ethics and values, and
- a chance to work alongside others to make the world a better place.
Our aim is to grow people who know themselves and are valued for who they are, with all their gifts and quirks. Our programs build social confidence, personal and religious identity, and friendship bonds that cross generations and last into the high school years and beyond.
Unitarian Universalism has helped me become the person I am, a person with very few bias beliefs and a person who will go out of his way to help someone, even if I do not know them.
—Ian Wilson, 14, from the Coming of Age credo he delivered to the Community Unitarian Church of White Plains, NY
Every congregation chooses its own programs, therefore each congregation offers something a little different. Many of our congregations offer two hallmark programs for young people in middle school and early high school: Coming of Age and Our Whole Lives.
Coming of Age
In Coming of Age programs, we explore not only what it means to be Unitarian Universalist (UU), but what it means to be you. Over the course of a year, youth gather for fun workshops, retreats, and justice projects. With mentors and guides, participants explore what they believe, what they find meaningful, and how to build a spiritual “toolkit” to help them as they face the joys, sorrows, wonders, and challenges of being human. Most Coming of Age programs culminate with a rite of passage where each youth shares a Credo, a statement of their beliefs and values. Congregations design their own Coming of Age programs, often using the Coming of Age Handbook as a resource.
Our Whole Lives
Through Our Whole Lives, our groundbreaking progressive sexuality education curriculum, we learn about safety and respect. In this comprehensive program, we apply Unitarian Universalism’s seven values-based Principles to a very personal aspect of life, recognizing how our actions affect others and learning to live responsibly. Our Whole Lives programs for Grades 4-6 and for Grades 7-9 are two important components of this lifespan series.
Unitarian Universalist congregations offer many vibrant and meaningful programs for younger youth:
- Riddle and Mystery invites 6th graders to explore life's Big Questions: God, death, fairness, truth, and how to know right and wrong.
- Heeding the Call: Qualities of a Justice Maker uses inspiring stories, role-play, and hands-on justice projects to explore empathy, courage, joy, courage, and other qualities of those who make a positive difference in the world (including 7th through 9th grade participants!)
- Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th and 9th graders uses field trip experiences to deepen understanding of the world, broaden knowledge of human religious expression and embolden their spiritual search.
Engage with a congregation near you to see how it’s done!