A Religion for Our Time

A Passionate Commitment to Young Adults

The sixth episode of the "A Religion for Our Time" video series describes how the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, California, transformed itself from a graying congregation into a multigenerational one. How is the congregation’s commitment to young adult and campus ministry programming grounded? Through a staff person focused on eighteen- to thirty-five-year-olds!

Download Episode Six (MP4) (right-click to save the file).


Rev. Peter Morales: As someone with a daughter who's a young adult (how did that happen), the need for excellent young adult programming in our congregations is very dear to my heart. But beyond the personal, attracting and serving young adults is crucial to the future of our movement. Check out this inspired programming, at the First UU church of San Diego.

Narrator: What's inspired is simple but incredibly powerful. A fierce commitment to young adults.

Alice King: I believe that young adults are not our future. I believe that they are our present.

Narrator: It wasn't always this way. Only a few years ago, most of the congregation was over 60. One young woman remembers coming each week to hear Arvid Straube's sermons. He approached her one Sunday.

Brittany Thornton: I sort of spilled my guts and said, I'm really lonely here. I love coming here, I love listening to sermons, but I don't connect with anyone. I don't know anyone my age. And I remember he leaned in and he's like, I'm working to change that.

Narrator: The key was to hire someone to work with young adults, based on a UUA study.

Rev. Dr. Arvid Straube: They had done the demographic study that showed the tremendous potential for young adult and campus ministry in our particular neighborhood area, and offered us a grant to fund the first three years.

Narrator: With a grant from the UUA's Mind the Gap program, they hired Alice King.

Alice King: We have an 18 to 24 group, a 25 to 35 group, and we have Unitarian Universalists at UCSD, on the UCSD campus in La Jolla, California.

Dylan Barth: I come here for an hour and a half, two hours, once a week and all of a sudden I feel connected to people once again. And I can talk about things are just aren't on the surface any more.

Narrator: It's called PAUSE, Progressive Alternative Unitarian Universalist Spiritual Experience.

The Jubilee Singers: May your life be as a song --

Julianne McCall: It's really quite a pleasure to, every week, come and ask a different, really significant, deep question, and to learn from each other.

Dylan Barth: There's not many places like that on campus. You think there would be, but, there's just a few special times that. Deeply personal things that you can talk to somebody about.

Stephanie Morgan: It is a way to kind of have that connection with UUism without actually going to church. I mean, I'm not saying that's a good thing. If I could, I would be there every Sunday. With school it's extremely hard

Daniel Teplitz: Unitarian Universalism really is a really important part of my life. I couldn't let go of it for four years to go do something else.

Alice King: We do campus ministry because young adults need ministry now, not in the future sometime. And we can't wait for them to come back to us. We need to make sure that they understand that we want them and we expect them to stay involved in our faith, and in our movement. And in our denomination.

Narrator: In San Diego, this effort actually starts with a retreat for high school seniors.

Alice King: We looked at things like, what is Unitarian Universalism to you, and what has your faith brought you. And, how can it carry you. Into your young adulthood. We ended with a worship service at the labyrinth that they have there. And so, most of worship was spent with the walking the labyrinth. And thinking about their journey and stepping forward. And crossing the bridge.

Narrator: Much like the campus ministry program, the young adults meet once a week. They play and explore. They talk and connect.

Lauren Way: It's a place that is challenging. That pushes boundaries, that makes you think.

Thea Grantsmith: I get to share ideas with people. It's all about acceptance and comfort.

Jessica Ray: I can say what's on my mind. And you can talk about things that matter.

Steve Swanson: And it pretty quickly became something I was unwilling to miss. Even when I was very busy with other stuff.

Lauren Way: It's an opportunity to be spiritual and be in fellowship, but it's also got a social justice focus. Which is really a beautiful thing. And I think something is important to a lot of us in this demographic, and in this faith community in general.

Narrator: Social justice is a big part of the district camp, too. Along with workshops and fun shops, and other fun camp things, even a variety show. It's a time to get away and be together.

Lauren Way: And it, yeah, it's the best weekend ever.

Narrator: This video would have been much longer if we'd included all the nice things people say about Alice King and her work with campus ministry and young adults. She says, having someone on staff is what matters. Clearly that needs to be someone who cares deeply about strengthening a religion for our time.

Alice King: It's holy ground. To be present with them as they move on their life's and through their life's journey, for this little bit of it, from the 18-35, it's holy ground.

For more information visit the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego website.