Theme-Based Ministry at the UU Church of Woodinville, WA
Carrie Krause, the Director of Lifelong Learning, shares how theme based ministry is enriching congregational life at the Woodinville UU Church:
This year is our first year of doing monthly themes and in the process, we also changed the structure of our Elementary age classes. So far the response has been very positive from parents, teachers and children. Our Junior and Senior Youth groups spend one Sunday a month exploring the theme as well. Those sessions are planned by the wonderful advisors, using online resources and the adult SGM sessions the minister writes.
We begin each month with a blog about the theme that goes to FB, web and is tweeted out. Find examples here and here. Sometimes we do more than one blog on the theme, it depends on what the minister and I are interested in.
We try to do a lot of participatory bulletin boards now that we do theme based ministry. This month's is on JOY and people are invited to write a synonym or name something that brings them joy. The kids and adults like adding to it each week.
Carrie curates each month's lesson plans using Tapestry of Faith programs and other curricula, as well as great online sources for activities, like Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. All the children (Kindergarten-5th grade) begin together for a presentation of the subject, break into self-selected activities in three areas - head (reading, journaling, discussion), heart (games, drama, music, body movement), and hands (art, construction, making something), and then return to age groupings to reflect on the day, share joys and sorrows and then do their closing ritual. We have found that allowing for this freedom of choice takes some of the "school" aspect out of the morning and give them time to be with their friends in a relaxed, but focused way. [photo] One is the labyrinth the Hands station created when they were talking about Journeys-spiritual.
The “content” for us has become more about the community built from the entire church looking at the same theme plus each lesson asks the question about why we would consider this important as UU's or which principle we are talking about. We have also been careful to select a wide variety of stories, some UU history, some Biblical, some from other sources and talk about why we are hearing a certain story and the place it has in our faith tradition.
In addition, we create a monthly theme card that is available for all ages to take home with goals for the month and activity suggestions for discussing or practicing the theme. These are posted on our website.
Our adult small groups are discussing the theme in their monthly meetings and the worship services mostly are linked with the theme. The minister, Rev. Lois Van Leer, writes the sessions for “Sacred Time”, the name of the small group ministry program at WUUC. A sample is available here: Sacred Time—Stories from the Margins.
I guess all this is to say that, yes, content is in our program, it just looks different from what older generations are used to seeing. And, yes, theme-based RE takes more time, at least initially, to implement, but it is well worth it!