Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Families: A Jr. High School Youth Program that Explores the Diversity, Commonality, and Meaning of Families

Activity 1: The Work of Being a Family

Part of Families

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • If available, newsprint used in the first two sessions when the group was defining a family
  • Newsprint and markers
  • Paper and pencils
  • Poster board, markers, and other art supplies (optional)
  • CD player and CD (optional)

Description of Activity

This activity engages participants in thinking about the work that needs to be done to keep a family functioning. It does so through a number of family members' perspectives. Since youth may not have considered the work aspect of family life deeply, several steps that will help them do so are offered in the exercise.

Engage participants in a discussion about the work that is involved in being part of a family. If you have them available post the ideas the group generated about what constitutes a family, during Sessions 1 and 2. You can start the discussion by saying, "Let's review some of the ideas about what we said makes a family. (Review ideas.) Now let's discuss what a family does in order to function." You might start discussion by inviting participants to brainstorm answers to the following questions:

  • What do we need from families?
  • What things do families "have" to do?
  • What do family members provide for each other?
  • What kind of work is involved in being part of a family?
  • Is the work the same or different for each family member?

List, on newsprint, the ideas that the group generates. Encourage participants to think of physical, emotional, psychological, and practical needs. Some groups may brainstorm endlessly; others may simply be satisfied with a broad start. When the group is ready to move on, then do so.

Say to the group, "Like any important relationship, being a member of a family takes a lot of work. Though it is true that we are all born into a family without much effort on our part, you still have to work: work at keeping a family healthy physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Would anyone take the job of being a family member if it was described in detail on paper?" Tell participants they will explore this idea by either (1) creating posters advertising the "job" of each family member or (2) writing job descriptions for each family member.

For either option, explore first with participants the question, "What is a job description?" If it does come up in your conversation, mention that job descriptions contain certain information that the applicant needs; the hours, compensation (salary and benefits), what duties are involved, experience and qualifications needed, who the position reports to, and whether the advertised position supervises others. The group might think of other information useful to include in a job description. If it will be helpful, writes these ideas on newsprint for participants to reference during the activity.

There are a few options as to how to structure this activity.

  • Option 1: Ask participants to design a poster or write a job description that advertises for their job in the family.
  • Option 2: Ask participants to design a poster or write a job description that advertises any job of any family member. It does not have to be their job or any job in their family.
  • Option 3: Create stations for poster making and ad writing that are job specific. You could have a station for a parent, one for a child, one for an infant, one for a youth, one for a grandparent, and/or one for the family cat. Participants could work on the posters or written ads in groups.
  • Option 4: Combine any of the above options, if time permits.

If not working in groups, you might decide to play background music. If working in groups and groups spread out into other rooms, make sure you tell them when they are due back. Give five-minute and two-minute warnings.

When their writing is complete, gather groups together and discuss the exercise. What did the youth learn? Was the assignment difficult? Do the participants think people would select family member "jobs"? Invite groups or individuals to share their work. Engage the entire group in discussion about similarities and differences between families. Have the youth consider the roles of race, ethnicity, class, and sexual orientation: how might any of those attributes affect a family's functioning? Encourage participants to talk freely and openly-their ability to do so is an important step toward talking comfortably about lived and shared diversity.