Theme-Based Ministry at the First Unitarian Society of Denver, CO
The First Unitarian Society of Denver (CO) has been doing theme-based ministry for many years. Director of Religious Education Eric Bliss says, “Our monthly themes permeate everything we do, from Sunday worship services to the chalice lighting at Board meetings to children and youth religious exploration and more.”
“Whole SoUUl Living” is the name they’ve given to monthly themes, which are intended to focus and connect the ongoing reflection, discussion, and religious learning of the community. First Unitarian Denver publishes quotes and resources on their website each month that relate to the theme, including questions for reflection and sharing.
Children and youth begin each Sunday in the Sanctuary and participate in A Time for All Ages before being “sung out” to their respective classrooms.
Elementary aged kids participate in theme-based Workshop Rotation. Every month Whole SoUUl Living theme is threaded through worship, committee meetings, small group ministries, and religious exploration classes. K-5th grade children explore these themes each week through different experiential workshops: Arts and Crafts, Theater and Dance, and “Wild Card”, in which a gifted member of the congregation works with the class’ Journey Guides (Lead Teachers) to share a talent or interest related to the Whole SoUUl Living Theme. Each week is different, interactive, engaging, and fun! So engaging, in fact, that the average weekly attendance has increased by 50%! RE teachers also explore the monthly theme in weekly Teacher Reflection Circles that include a theme-related chalice lighting and centering time.
In the spirit of embracing the high tech, social media influenced, youth culture, FUSDEN's middle school group uses an original curriculum called “Video Days.” Each month the class examines questions related to the month’s Whole SoUUl Living theme, using smart technology (phones, tablets, etc) to record their efforts and explorations. While youth are encouraged to bring this technology from home, the congregation also has some to share. The plan is to showcase some of the class’ work throughout the year during worship and other specific events.