General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Letter from Rev. William G. Sinkford re: Transitions in Youth Ministry

William Sinkford in a formal headshot.

September 16, 2008

Dear Friends,

I am excited to share with you recent positive developments in the transition in our Unitarian Universalist (UU) youth ministry. Based on feedback from the UU youth community and other key stakeholders last spring, we have worked over the summer to enhance the voice of youth on the Youth Ministry Working Group (YMWG). I am delighted to announce that six youth and two youth advisor positions have been added to the group, bringing the total representation to ten youth, two youth advisors, and eight other adults (including young adults).

As you may know, the YMWG is charged with recommending to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA) Administration and Board of Trustees a new framework for UU youth ministry based on the 2005-2007 Consultation on Ministry to and with Youth and the related Summit on Youth Ministry. The Working Group will help us make concrete the vision of a youth ministry that is central to the mission of Unitarian Universalism, offers multiple pathways for involvement, and is:

  • congregationally-based;
  • multi-generational;
  • spirit-centered;
  • counter-oppressive, multicultural, and radically inclusive.

The process for selecting these new youth and advisor members was developed during a productive meeting I had with the 2007-08 Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU) Steering Committee at General Assembly this past June. During the meeting, those present agreed that the outgoing elected YRUU leadership, in partnership with youth currently serving on the Working Group, would be tasked with choosing the additional youth and advisors to serve on the YMWG.

With the support of the UUA’s Youth Ministry Office, the 2007-08 Steering Committee and YMWG youth conducted a wide-reaching application process to select the new members from among over 50 applicants. Those selected will join the returning members at the group’s next meeting from October 3-5 in Waltham, MA. You can find a complete roster of the Working Group, including the new members, at the related page of our UUA website.

In the midst of these developments, I am mindful that some confusion remains about the status of continental YRUU and the state of current services to and programming for UU youth in our Association. Let me try to provide some clarity.

First, it is true that YRUU as a continental organization has effectively ended. In April, the Board of Trustees of the Association approved a 2008-09 budget that shifted funding previously allotted to the YRUU Steering Committee and Youth Council to the development of new youth programs and support for the charge of the Youth Ministry Working Group. Thus, for the time-being, the mantle of continental youth leadership has been passed to those youth ably serving on the Working Group who for the next year will help to shape the future of our Association’s youth ministry. Of course, representative youth leadership continues at the district and congregational level throughout our Association.

I know that for those UUs whose experience in our faith has been positively shaped by participation in Continental YRUU, its end may bring with it some measure of disappointment and hurt. Despite the broad consensus that the current structure for continental youth ministry was not serving our faith well, there is sadness in saying good-bye and uncertainty about what comes next.

Also, since the term “YRUU” is now used to describe many local youth groups and district gatherings, the news of Continental YRUU ending has, in some cases, been mistaken as a message that all youth programming in our Association is suddenly ceasing. This is certainly not the case. The decision to end Continental YRUU will not affect local or regional “YRUU” groups or gatherings. To the contrary, a key goal of this transformation is strengthening our congregational youth ministries and nurturing the role that districts and inter-district collaboration play in successful youth ministry.

Further, it is important to note that core UUA-level services to youth are being and will continue to be provided during this interim period in youth ministry including Youth Caucus at General Assembly, the Chrysalis training program, web resources, curriculum development and youth ministry consultation.

Many of you are wondering: what comes next? And indeed, our UU youth ministry is in a liminal space as we embark on this intentionally interim year. We stand between what has been and what is yet to be. In-between places like these present us with uncertainty for sure, but also with tremendous possibility. It is my hope that we can use this time to generate excitement about the future of our youth ministry, as we allow the Youth Ministry Working Group to carry out its charge.

Befitting the twenty-five year history of Young Religious Unitarian Universalists, we will have a chance to honor and celebrate this important organization and all of its accomplishments at General Assembly 2009 in Salt Lake City. This will also be an opportunity to acknowledge those who have served in its leadership from its inception in 1983 through 2008.

In the meantime, I look forward to keeping you apprised of further developments in youth ministry throughout the year. You can also sign up to receive regular updates about the process by contacting the Office of Youth Ministry at

In faith,

William G. Sinkford