Call and Response: Journeys in UU Lifespan Faith Development

Qualities of a Leader: Time for All Ages

By Gail Forsyth-Vail

This inauguration week is an unsettling one for many Unitarian Universalists. While some view the new presidency as an occasion for hope and a fresh start, many others anticipate the immediate future with anxiety. If you are responsible for a Time for All Ages this Sunday, you need look no further for a story than the Fall 2016 UU World Family Pages. "Leader of the Birds" is an ideal story for this moment.

yellow-rumped warbler on pine brand, blue sky background

Tell this story in an interactive way, adding sounds and short questions to keep the children engaged. Show pictures of the named birds to help children visualize the action in the story. Afterward, invite children to name some human leaders. Guide them to name not only political leaders, but social justice leaders such as Dr. King and Rosa Parks. Leave time to offer the central question raised by the story: What qualities should a leader have? Suggest that children and families consider and talk about that question.

There are a number of ways to follow up your telling of "Leader of the Birds" in religious education groups or with small groups of children. Some good activities are offered in the Family Pages. You might have a group brainstorm the traits a leader needs. Invite children to name times when they have been a leader and ask them about their experience. Make a mural or poster that shows the qualities of a leader from the children's point of view. Here are more:

  • Ask if the contest the birds devised was fair. Was the warbler wrong to use trickery? What else might the warbler have done? What might the others have done to better include smaller birds?
  • Rewrite and illustrate the story using local birds or local animals as main characters.
  • Use simple props to act out the story.
  • With older children and middle schoolers, invite conversation about the presidential inauguration. How can their UU Principles help them decide which political or social justice leaders they want to follow?

If you do use it, we'd love to hear about how it works with the children in your congregation, and what activities you use to respond. Pictures are very welcome!!

Next Steps!

"Leader of the Birds" was printed in the Fall 2016 issue of UU World magazine. It begins on the first page of the pull-out Families section. If you don’t have a copy of the magazine, download the Families section as a four-page PDF file, online. The Tapestry of Faith Toolkit Book, Stories in Faith, has a longer version of this story with more suggestions for reflection and response activities.

If members of your congregation are marching in the Women's March in Washington, DC, or locally, here is a blessing by Rev. Erika Hewitt that you might share through e-news or social media.

Read Let's Roll -- Reaching out like never before in the age of Trump, by Carey McDonald, and take action!

About the Author

Gail Forsyth-Vail

Gail Forsyth-Vail, a credentialed religious educator, master level, is the author or developmental editor of several UU history curricula and resources. Before retiring, she served as interim director of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Lifespan Faith Engagement Office.


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