Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades


Thirty spokes are joined together in a wheel,

but it is the center hole

that allows the wheel to function.

We mold clay into a pot,

but it is the emptiness inside

that makes the vessel useful.

We fashion wood for a house,

but it is the emptiness inside

that makes it livable.

We work with the substantial,

but the emptiness is what we use. — Tao Te Ching, translated by J. H. McDonald


This session introduces Taoism (DOW-iz-uhm), an Eastern faith more than 2,500 years old. Taoism arose from indigenous Chinese religion. Its unique approach to the spiritual journey was first recorded in approximately 550 BCE, when Lao Tzu (LAU tsuh) wrote the Tao Te Ching (DOW duh jing), Taoism's most important text. Taoism does not usually refer to "God." It teaches instead "the Tao," which translates as "the Way" or "the Path." The Way is indistinct and incorporeal, it has no personality, and it is infinitely soft and infinitely powerful.

The engagement activity will deepen participants' understanding of Taoism and is encouraged; however, if no engagement takes place outside of workshop time, consider using Alternate Activity 2 to provide an experiential component. Further, consider holding the entire workshop outdoors, to express Taoism's connection with the natural world.

The basic concepts of Taoism are supremely simple, yet its very simplicity can be a trap—if something is "simple," it seems like it should be easy! The tendency to underestimate the depth of Taoism is the biggest pitfall in understanding it. You may need to remind participants that Unitarian Universalism looks simple to people, too: Most people agree with the values inherent in the seven UU Principles. However, living those principles—just like living Taoism—is not easy. Nondogmatic religions (those with no specific doctrine relating to such matters as morality and faith) ask followers to bear a huge responsibility for their own understanding of what is true and good.

If anyone in your congregation is Taoist or has a Taoist background, consider replacing an activity with a guest to speak with the group.


This workshop will:

  • Introduce participants to some fundamental aspects of Taoism
  • Promote discussion of ways in which Taoism resonates with participants' Unitarian Universalist faith
  • Optional: Invite youth to engage with Taoist concepts in nature.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Understand and discuss fundamental tenets of Taoism
  • Explore the Tao Te Ching
  • Realize that sacred texts are subject to different interpretations by both the writers and the readers
  • Experiment with balance as represented in the yin/yang symbol
  • Compare Taoism and Unitarian Universalism and understand how the Taoist tradition can inform Unitarian Universalism
  • Optional: Experience service to the community from a Taoist perspective (Faith in Action).




Welcoming and Entering




Activity 1: Tao Te Ching


Activity 2: Story — A Cup of Tea


Activity 3: So Little, So Much


Activity 4: Equal and Opposite


Activity 5: Fact Sheet


Activity 6: Time Line


Faith in Action: Simply Do It




Alternate Activity 1: Engagement


Alternate Activity 2: Tai Chi