Building Community in Multigenerational Congregations

multigenerational group birthday party

An "Un-Birthday" party at the UU Church of Bloomington IN

Multigenerational Fellowship Hour

At the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church of Greater Lynn, Swampscott, MA, Religious Educator Karen Brown reports: This year we are trying to create monthly multigen Fellowship Hours. Everyone loves the kids in the Parish Hall. I set up a couple of special tables for kids to eat and play. In September we had a great ingathering multigen service and came together after church with a picnic and fun activities for children. In October we had pumpkin carving and the kids wore costumes. We had spooky food and everyone had a great time. I'm planning a Christmas Party during the Fellowship Hour and in January we will have a mask-making party (Janus). February our Jr. High kids will do Mardi Gras. It's a great to get people interacting with the kids in this way.

Mystery Buddies

"Mystery Buddies" is a program that many UU congregations use to foster multigenerational relationships. Faye Mogenson, Director of Religious Educationat the First Unitarian Church of Victoria, Canada says: We've been doing this here for ages, and it seems to go over well. We give each pair a "code name"-an historic UU. For the buddy party, we ask junior Buddies to bring the savory food items, and senior Buddies to bring the sweets. We provide paper brain teaser puzzles and ice breaker questions for buddy pairs to use, and then offer entertainment that all ages can enjoy. A professional storyteller, a magician, an interactive science presentation are some we've used. Recently, what we've liked best for activities is circle dancing! We've held the Buddy Party on the day of our Partner Church service and had a Hungarian Dance group come to perform a dance or two, and then lead us in a few dances.

Terry Ward, Director of Religious Education at the First Unitarian Society of Oklahoma City explains that they use the names of famous Unitarian Universalists to match Mystery Friends. Terry creates a bulletin board and on reveal day she puts paper placemats at each table with containers of crayons. The Mystery Friends look for the standup place cards with their UU name to meet each other. As friends linger over lunch, drawing and playing games on the paper are easy ways to create conversation. Read more about the program here.

At the UU Church of Charlotte, NC, Director of Religious Education Kathleen Carpenter shares: I give each person a mystery name of a famous UU. I encourage them to write about themselves as well as learn something about their mystery person. They write using only the mystery names. I put up envelopes with mystery names printed on them for letters to be delivered. After a month of writing there is a reveal party. I have each pair bring the same canned food and they find each other that way at the party. We have pizza and introduce everybody. This year I will have some games out to play since many enjoy the same board games. Learn more about the program here.

Introducing Mystery Buddies

Here’s an imaginative way to promote the program from Barb Friedland, DRE at the Thomas Jefferson UU Church in Louisville, KY. This video shows you how.

"Un-Birthday" Party

One congregation created an "Un-Birthday Party" as an alternative to a flagging Mystery Buddies program. They set up 12 tables, one for each month of the year; each table had an unfrosted cake (12 different flavors), frosting, cake decorations, name tags, and a list of "famous" UU's born in that month. People of all ages went to the appropriate table for their birth month, introduced themselves and shared stories about their birthdays-a favorite celebration or unusual activity, why they like having their birthday in that month, etc. Some of the older adults brought a picture of themselves when they were young. They talked about the "famous" UU's at their table. While they talked, they decorated their cake and when cakes were done at all tables, everyone sang "happy birthday to us". After that, they were free to visit other months to sample different cakes (with permission from the appropriate person). Everyone loved it. This could also be a monthly celebration of birthdays (just be sure to do all 12 months-those with summer birthdays sometimes miss out!)

UU Camps and Conference Centers

The mission of the Unitarian Universalist Alliance of Camps & Conference Centers (UUACCC) is to foster and promote the success, growth, and well-being of UU camps, retreat and conference centers. UUACCC brochure

Is your congregation using multigenerational ministry? How has it made a difference in your setting? How have congregants, families, or staff groups been changed through multigenerational ministry? Share your story by emailing

Mystery buddies celebration at the First Unitarian Church of Victoria, Canada.

Mstery solved! New buddies at First Unitarian Church of Victoria (Canada) Mystery Buddy Celebration.

Two new friends at Mystery Buddy celebration at the First Unitarian Church of Victoria, Canada.

More new friends at Mystery Buddy Celebration

Mystery friends Spaghetti and Meatballs

Mystery Friends "Spaghetti and Meatballs" at the UU Church of Charlotte NC

Mystery Friends Bulletin Board

Mystery Friends bulletin board at the First Unitarian Society of Oklahoma City

Mystery friends Rain and Rainbow

Mystery friends "Rain" and "Rainbow" at the UU Church of Charlotte NC

Drumming Circle at Summer Institute.

Drumming Circle is one of the most popular events at Ohio Meadville Summer Institute.

Mystery Buddies Video