Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. — Helen Keller, author and activist for people with disabilities
Love Connects Us celebrates important ways Unitarian Universalists live our faith in covenanted community. Moved by love and gathered in spirit, we embrace our responsibility toward one another and the world at large. We encourage one another's search for truth and meaning. We strive to be active in peace-making and other efforts to improve our world.
The sessions explore our legacy, from both Universalism and Unitarianism, of living our connections in loving service, inquiry, and action for social justice. At the same time, the program builds active participants in our faith. Children learn how our actions create a new heritage of connecting in love which will shape the faith of future generations.
By exploring the key ideas of the Blake covenant, participants grow in Unitarian Universalist identity, explore their connections to one another in our beloved communities, and discover ways they are called to act in our congregations and the wider world.
Crafts and games that use tying and knots makes tangible the concept of connections we share with one another. Participants physically explore what it means to be linked to others and how one person's actions can affect the whole system to which they belong. Many activities involve participants in teams or small groups, emphasizing their experience as individuals working together in community.
This program will:
- Introduce the covenant statement by the Reverend James Vila Blake, which many Unitarian Universalist congregations use, and explore the covenant's key concepts
- Build Unitarian Universalist identity by highlighting people in our Unitarian and Universalist heritage who embodied the key ideas in the Blake covenant—people who sought truth in love, dwelled together with others in peace, and helped one another when called on to act
- Demonstrate that we actively create our living faith; we contribute to its legacy when we engage with others in community and work for peace and justice
- Reveal ways in which we are called to help one another and to encourage spiritual growth in our congregations
- Explore what it means for Unitarian Universalists to be connected by love and covenant rather than shared theological belief.
It is suggested that adult leaders have experience with both the congregation and Unitarian Universalism. The ideal teaching team of two adult co-leaders for each session will have some diversity, which might be in gender, age, race or ethnicity, socio-economic class, theological beliefs and/or learning styles. If possible, leadership could include adults comfortable with leading songs or who can contribute musical accompaniment. Additional adult or youth volunteers will be needed to help facilitate small groups in some sessions.
This program is written for fourth- and fifth-grade children. You may find it useful to think about the developmental norms for this age group. Not all children arrive at each developmental stage at the same time, but knowing what to expect overall can be quite helpful, especially to first-time leaders.
In her book, Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2005), Tracey L. Hurd lists characteristics of the older school-age child:
- Uses gross and fine motor skills, which are almost fully developed
- Enters puberty toward the end of school-age years (particularly girls)
- Is influenced by media images
- Engages in logical thinking
- Practices cognitive skills of acquiring, storing, and retrieving information
- Develops specific learning styles (auditory, visual, sensory, and/or kinesthetic)
- Exhibits domain-specific intelligence (verbal/linguistic, musical/rhythmic, local/mathematical, visual/spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, or naturalist)
- Engages in gender-specific play.
Faith Development Skills
- Uses student identity and knowledge as sources of self-esteem
- Engages peers and learns through mutual friendship
- Comprehends the perspective of others
- Works on developing racial, ethnic and gender identities and seeks peers' affirmation of these identities
- Shows interest in concrete aspects of faith and religion
- "Does" religion or spirituality by participating in traditions
- Explores religious or spiritual ideas as a way of deepening faith.
- Interested in moral issues/ what is fair and right
- Practices figuring out what is fair when developing rules
- Moral decision making is complex
- Practices reconciling moral ideals with pragmatic realities
- Demonstrates interest in broader moral issues
- Reconciles the violence of the world with personal own moral code (e.g., violent video games)
- Interest in knowing and living out moral ideas
- Uses the Golden Rule (treat others as you would like to be treated)
- Wrestles with moral dilemmas in relationships
- Demonstrates awareness of societal moral issues and interest in helping to solve community problems
- Ponders increasingly complex moral and spiritual questions.
Integrating All Participants
A group can include children with a range of physical and cognitive abilities and learning styles, food allergies, and other sensitivities or limitations. Adapt activities or use alternate activities to ensure that every session is inclusive of everyone in the group.
Love Connects Us was developed primarily with the kinesthetic learner in mind, offering myriad activities involving both small motor control and large muscle groups. Many participants in this age range need to move and benefit from the opportunity to physically explore new concepts. However, some activities can present a challenge for children with limited dexterity or mobility. Assess the physical abilities of the group early in the program. Many activities have an Including All Participants section which offers specific adaptations to meaningfully include children with mobility and other limitations. Certain activities, in their Preparation section, will direct you to an Alternate Activity that is less physically active and may better engage children's musical or logical/mathematical intelligences.
The loving family unit, of whatever configuration, is the primary source of spiritual nurture and religious education in a child's life. The religious education children experience in Love Connects Us will be enhanced by involvement of parents or caregivers. To help, each session includes Taking It Home for you to download, customize, and share with families as a handout or email.
Taking It Home summarizes the session's content and provides questions and activities to stimulate family conversations and extension activities. With Taking It Home, a parent will have enough details to ask an engaging question, such as "What experiments with air did you do today?" or "What did you think about Elizabeth Blackwell's determination to become a doctor against all the odds?" Taking It Home guides parents to share their own life experiences and wisdom with their children, and to draw out their children's feelings and observations. For example, families are encouraged to share about ideas each person used to think were true and to tell how they gained a new perspective, or to talk about some ways they each feel love is stronger when it is given away. Taking It Home also suggests games, activities, excursions, and/or rituals parents can do with their children, related to the session.