Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Activity 1: Covenant

Part of Virtue Ethics

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • Ask your religious educator and/or youth advisor for a standard covenant youth groups use in your congregation. If one exists, ask if you may build on it with the youth in this group.
  • If no covenant exists, have suggestions ready to help the group create one. Find suggestions by researching youth covenants online. You might include:
    • Start and end on time.
    • Respect the space.
    • Assume others' good will/best intentions.
    • Honor diversity of identity, opinion, and approach.
    • Keep personal sharing confidential.
    • Share the floor; make space for the quieter voices.
    • Apologize if you make a mistake.
    • Speak up if someone else's behavior breaks the covenant.
    • Do not feel the need to "fix" anyone or anything.
  • Post blank newsprint.
  • Optional: Copy existing covenant to distribute to the youth.

Description of Activity

Participants decide how they wish to be together.

Explain that a covenant is a promise, an agreement as to how we will relate to each other. Ask if anyone can explain the purpose of creating a group covenant. Affirm that it is important to build trust and safety in the space you share together. You might say:

Throughout the program, participants will share some of their personal dilemmas in making ethical decisions. We need to talk about what can and cannot be shared outside the group, and how we will support each other in a discussion, even if we have differing opinions.

If there is a pre-existing covenant, share it with participants. Does everyone agree with items on the covenant? Is anything missing?

If you are starting from scratch, invite participants to suggest guidelines for how they will behave with each other during the program. Write all suggestions on newsprint. When the group has no more suggestions, propose any suggestions you and your co-leader wish to add.

Ask participants if they would have concerns about or difficulty agreeing to any items listed. Discuss those items and decide as a group whether to keep, edit, or eliminate them.

Pay particular attention to confidentiality. Youth will be invited to share from their experiences facing ethical choices, and to make commitments toward future behavior. Sometimes this will be very personal and private information. The youth may wish to covenant that they will not share others' personal stories outside the group. Or, they may decide it is okay to share what they learned from hearing someone else's story without sharing names of the involved parties. Whatever is decided, remind participants that they may always ask for complete confidentiality when sharing a personal story.

Let the group know that should someone disclose information about themselves or someone else being harmed or harming others, or about the possibility of harm, you are required to report the information to an adult in a position to help the situation. Safety is one need that trumps confidentiality.