Family Faith Development

Family Faith Development

The RE Committee and I have been busy planning for the upcoming church year, and I am incredibly excited about what we have in store for WUUC!  Our primary focus this year will be on family ministry.  Studies have shown that the most important factor in determining whether or not grown children remain in church (or come back to church after a break in young adulthood) is their parents’ active involvement in their religious education and their commitment to church life.

Unfortunately, many parents come to Unitarian Universalist churches without the knowledge of how to include religious education as part of family life. Many parents were raised “unchurched” or quit attending church at a young age and never learned how to incorporate spiritual growth and learning into their personal lives, much less into the lives of their children. To that end, we will be starting many programs to encourage the spiritual growth within our families. 

Some of these programs include:

·       Opportunities for families to participate together in the Sunday morning worship service by serving as greeters and lighting the chalice.

·       Take home lessons with activities to reinforce what was taught during the RE class each Sunday, and for families who couldn’t make it to church that week.

·       I will lead several parent groups which will meet monthly to discuss parenting issues, questions, and offering ideas for incorporating UU Spirituality into family life. Tentatively, the list of parent groups includes: parents of High School Students, parents of upper elementary & middle school age children, parents of young children, and parents of children attending 8th-9th grade OWL.

·       Traveling chalice boxes which can be “checked out” from the church by children or families.  Each box will include information on a different aspect of Unitarian Universalism and include activities, games, and ideas on how to integrate our faith and values into daily family life.

I will be reaching out to WUUC’s parents and guardians soon to learn more about ways in which we can support our families.  If you have any questions, comments, or ideas I would love to hear from you. I hope the rest of your summer is a time of renewal, peace and fun! 

It Takes a (Church) Village …

The Soul Matters theme for the month of May is “What does it mean to be a people of curiosity?” I invite you to take some time to be curious about the Religious Education program for Children and Youth at WUUC. We are developing our plans for this summer’s program and next year’s classes and we need your help. Regardless of whether or not you want to work with children or have children in the program, there are many ways you can show your support for this vital ministry. 

It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes the commitment of the whole church to have a vibrant, active, exciting RE Program. Below is a list of many possible opportunities for you to consider. I encourage you to take a few minutes to open your heart and mind and be curious about ways you can support the future generation of Unitarian Universalists. I am happy to answer any questions or explore options with you. 

·       RE Teacher / Assistant — Be a regular presence in an RE classroom as a teacher, assistant, or youth adviser. All lesson plans are provided, and activities are prepared for you. Commitment would be no more than two Sundays per month.

·       Substitute RE Teacher — Help out when there’s a last-minute need for additional help in an RE class on Sunday morning.

·       RE Ambassador — On Sundays when the Director of Lifelong Learning is not at church, the RE Ambassador helps out with anything that comes up unexpectedly, such as a last-minute supply need or finding a sub if an RE teacher / assistant doesn’t make it in to church.

·       Sunday Greeter — Greet families as they arrive, help children sign in for the appropriate class, provide directions, answer questions for new families.

·       Children’s Church Assistant (and Musicians) — Assisting the DLL with one of the all-ages “children’s church” activities that take place quarterly.  On these days, K-8th grade children have a combined program and the regular RE teachers have the Sunday off.  (People willing to lead music during the children’s service would be especially appreciated.)

·       Craft / Activity / Classroom Preparation — Help to prepare craft and activity materials and/or set up the classroom space sometime during the week before the service.

·       Storyteller — Occasionally present the Time For All Ages story during the worship service. Training and assistance selecting stories / activities will be provided

·       Activity Table Leader — During once monthly full community services, sit with the children at the activity table at the front of the sanctuary, assist children with quiet activities during the service and redirect them back to their parents if necessary.

·       Summer RE Assistant — Assist with (or, if you are interested, lead) two or more RE classes in the summer.  A fun and low commitment way to spend time growing in faith with the kids of WUUC!

·       Food Provider — Providing / preparing food or snacks for events such as youth activities, teacher training,  meetings, etc.

·       Family Event Planner — Help to plan an event or two for families in the coming year.  This could be anything from an outing to the swimming pool, a movie night, a hiking trip, Family picnic, or whatever you can dream up!

·       Youth Con Sponsor — Accompany our high school youth to one of the two annual youth conferences for a weekend.

·       Other Ideas? – If you have any special skills or other ideas on how you can support the RE program, I would love to hear them.

Peace,

Bridget

What Are Your Passions?

As March winds down and April approaches, I have been thinking about the March and April “Soul Matters” themes of Journey and Wholeness.  As I listen to your stories and look at the timeline project on the wall of the sanctuary, I learn more and more about what WUUC’s journey has been.  And in talking to many of you, I learn more and more about where you want to go together as this journey continues.  I think it is fitting that the theme of Wholeness follows the theme of Journey this year, because what I am sensing from you all is a desire to journey toward wholeness; a desire to heal the broken places, to grow in beloved community and to more fully live into our congregation’s covenant. 

I am excited and honored to accompany you on this journey.  I have been spending a great deal of time working on educational programming for the next year for both the children and adults which I believe will help us live even more deeply into our covenant and meet our future goals.  My aim is to help the congregation foster and create an even more welcoming and inviting community; to bring an increased sense of joy and wonder to our work together; and to help us all lean into a shared ministry of beloved community.

In that spirit, I would like to encourage you to take some time to think about your individual strengths as well as the strengths of this congregation. 

What are you good at?  What do you love?  What are your passions? What sparks joy in you?

And

What are we (WUUC) good at?  What unique gifts do we have to share?  What talents do we have that can be a blessing to the world?

If you have a few minutes, I would love to hear how you answered these questions. Drop me an email (BridgetDLL@wuuc.org), or call or stop by for a chat during my office hours.  I look forward to hearing from you and learning more about the gifts of joy, passion and spirit we have in this amazing community.

Peace,

Bridget

The Gift of Children in Church

The Gift of Children in Church

As I’ve been getting to know everyone and talking with you all about WUUC, one topic has come up from many different people in various ways; children’s participation in Sunday services.  I think the most important thing to remember is that the presence of children in our church is a gift.  They are a reminder that our congregation is growing, and children are the future of our church. It can be a challenge to integrate children into our services when we aren’t used to it.  If you need some ideas on what you can do, there are yellow cards in the foyer of the church with suggestions for interacting with children in our sanctuary.  A few items from these cards include:

For Adults:

  • Be patient with noises and movement.
  • Welcome children and give a smile of encouragement to their parents.
  • Know where the activity materials are and feel free to offer them to children

For the Parents of Young Children:

  • Relax! Mother Nature put the wiggle in children; don’t feel you have to suppress it in our church.  All are welcome!
  • Sit toward the front where it is easier for your little ones to see and hear what is going on.  They tire of seeing the backs of others’ heads.
  • Sing the hymns, pray and voice the responses.  Children learn liturgical behavior by copying you.

Note that during our monthly multigenerational services, we offer an activity table at the front of the sanctuary.  We are grateful for our Spirit Play teachers for providing activities and sitting with the children at the table. However, if a child needs to leave the sanctuary to go to the restroom, or if they are having difficulty regulating their behavior or emotions at the activity table, they will be sent back to their parents for assistance.   If you have to leave the sanctuary with your child, please feel free to do so.  But if you can, please come back. We believe children belong in holy spaces.

Keep in mind that the way we welcome and interact with children directly affects the way they respond to church, to the divine and to one another.  In my short time here, I have been impressed with how WUUC includes children in all aspects of congregational life, and I look forward to continuing this work with you.

What’s New in RE

Greetings!

First of all, I want to thank all of you for making me feel so welcome at WUUC. Since arriving I have been busy learning how the church functions, figuring out where things are kept, and meeting so many wonderful people.  I am looking forward to meeting the rest of the congregation as well.

Over the next several weeks, I will focus primarily on the RE program for the children and youth. I plan to meet with the teachers for each age group and learn how I can better support them and all of WUUC’s young people. In addition, I plan to contact each of the parents at WUUC in order to learn more about you and how we can best serve your families.

I spent last Sunday evening with the Senior Youth Group (YRUU) and had a wonderful time meeting and working with several of the youth. The group packed up your generous donations of menstrual supplies and loaded them into my car. On Thursday I made a trip to Compass Housing Alliance (CHA) in Seattle to drop them off. CHA estimated the value of the donation at $1,500! Thank you so much for your generosity and for supporting our youth in their social-action activities.

If you have any questions or suggestions or just want to introduce yourself, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am available by phone and email, or we can meet in the office.

Thank you again for the warm welcome and your patience as I learn your names and learn how WUUC works.

Peace and laughter,

Bridget

Dear Parents of Children and youth in Soulful Exploration at WUUC:

As our church year comes to a close, I want to take this time to review our time in Soulful Exploration and share the scope & sequence for RE programming in 2017-2018. I am so very thankful to all of our volunteers who helped our program run smoothly this year. It is not an easy feat to transition the management of a religious education program, but our many volunteers were accommodating, helpful, and supportive in this year of transition. In all we had at least 40 volunteers contribute to child and youth RE this year. Parents, please take some time in the next few weeks to thank your child’s teacher/facilitator and the REALL committee.

If you have a Sunday or two free this summer (June 18-August 20), the Super Summer Sundays for K-5th grade needs teachers to lead these fun sessions with light stories introducing UU concepts and fun activities, games and songs. Kara Marler (a UU young adult and former WUUC youth) is home for the summer and will be coordinator for the program!  Sign up to be a summer teacher online or on Sunday at the REALL table in the foyer.

We are recruiting teachers for the fall now too. You can express your interest in any of the classes below by  signing up at:

  I want to be a Soulful Exploration Teacher!

Below you will find four sections;

  • Overview of Soulful Exploration at WUUC
  • A breakdown of each program outlining:
    1. The specific objective of the program
    2. A review of this past year’s program
    3. Next year’s plans
    4. Hopes for the future

A full review of this document will hopefully provide you with a clear picture of the vision of our RE program for children and youth at WUUC. This information, as usual, will be available throughout the year on our website under Soulful Exploration and in the weekly blogs. In this document and on the website, you can look ahead and keep track of what your child should be learning through their progression in our program. The curriculum will shift often, but the learning objectives remain the same every year for each age range.

Overview of Soulful Exploration for Children and Youth at WUUC:

PencilsIt is the goal of faith development programming in Preschool-12th grade to provide children and youth with skills to thrive in the world as compassionate, ethical, and responsible Unitarian Universalists. Methods for coping and resiliency offered in religious education at WUUC are justice-oriented, rooted in Unitarian Universalist sources, guided by our 7 principles, contemplative, experiential, and compassionate.

More importantly, it is my hope that in the future, we are able to equip parents to be the primary religious educators of their children. Our thematic ministry has the potential to encourage multi-generational conversations around the “big questions” in life. Parent support groups help parents navigate the complexities of raising children in the 21st century. Worship and transition programming provides opportunities for our families to connect to mystery and the sacredness in life. This all requires continued active participation in our program as volunteers, attending family chapels, providing constructive feedback, and helping us shape child and youth ministry in our church with your love and support.

In our Nursery through 5th grade program, we view spirituality as an integral part of a child’s exploration and discovery. We strive to create an environment that nurtures that discovery through story, art, music, games and sharing. We honor various learning styles and build our sacred time together with thoughtful consideration for each child’s differences.

In our Youth Groups (Jr. and Sr. Youth) we focus on 8 strands of development: leadership, connection across ages, spiritual development, beloved community, justice making, pastoral care, faith exploration, and identity formation.

Senior Youth (YRUU)

Learning Objective: The goal of our senior youth program is to aide our youth’s navigation of the later years of the “synthetic-conventional” stages of faith development. This is the age where youth begin to integrate faith into their daily lives and claim identity as a Unitarian Universalist. Praxis is the methodology underpinning this program; learning, acting, reflecting. The social justice aspect of our faith is emphasized in this age range.

2016-2017: This year our High School youth group tried a new social justice-oriented project-based curriculum. They researched topics to explore, decided as a community to study gender inequality, developed a thesis, and conducted research to examine gender inequality in our local community. The project results, as well as many fun experiments, will be presented at the Youth Social Justice Assembly on June 11th at 11:45 to 1:15 in the Sanctuary. Please show up to support our youth, childcare and a light lunch will be provided.

2017-2018:

  • Continue our project-based curriculum with a new social justice focus, possibly around Black lives or transgender rights.
  • Integrate more spiritual practice and ritual in each of our meetings.
  • Participate in the Full Community Service as worship leaders/helpers each month.

Hopes for the future:

  • Extend the Senior Youth experience beyond Sunday morning.
  • Host youth worship events and retreats for WUUC youth and the larger community.
  • Create a youth community room that is utilized throughout the week by our youth.

 

Jr Youth (JRUU)

Scope: Addressing the early “synthetic-conventional” faith development stage for ages 13-18, where the youth begins to see from other’s perspectives. Our program serves two needs in the development stage:  to introduce world religions and world faiths in conversation with Unitarian Universalism and teach social justice through the skill of empathy building for those less fortunate and/or socially marginalized. World religions allows our youth to differentiate Unitarian Universalism from other faiths, begin to claim their own religious identity (whether it is Unitarian Universalist or some other faith), and become well-versed in respectful interfaith dialogue. Our social justice studies prepares our youth to be responsible citizens who care for their neighbors and the world.

2016-2017: Neighboring Faiths

This year our youth studied the Neighboring Faiths curriculum of the UUA. On Sundays they discussed the various faiths that we might encounter as world citizens. They discussed the tenets of these faiths and developed respectful dialogue skills in relationship to these faiths. On select days they visited faith houses of the traditions that they studied and experienced worship from the perspective of the other’s faith. They returned to their classrooms to reflect on this learning and contextualize their learning in the framework of Unitarian Universalist faith.

2017-2018: Social Justice (tentative)

  • Learn about major social justice movements in the US and engage in social actions that are in line with other Unitarian Universalist efforts.
  • Continue with our Simpsons curriculum around social justice
  • Once monthly we will participate in the Full Community service.
  • Middle School Our Whole Lives sexuality education classes

Hopes for the Future:

  • Encourage more interaction between our Jr. and Sr. Youth through an occasional combined youth worship experience
  • Hold coming of age intensives/retreats  for 8th-10th grade
  • Host a Jr. Youth “CON” at WUUC
  • Have our Jr. Youth participate in more District and Regional Events

 

child-

2017:Elementary-Kindergarten-5th Grades

2018: Elementary-2nd-5th Grades

Scope: Addresses the needs of children in the mythic-literal stage of development, where children learn virtues and values through story, myth, ritual, and play. Our Elementary age classroom introduces the rituals and worship of Unitarian Universalism, tells moral tales that capture the heart of Unitarian Universalist ethics, and engage in embodied learning practices to integrate those learnings through various learning styles.  

In our elementary program at WUUC we believe strongly that we shouldn’t duplicate the traditional classroom that many of our children participate in during the week. We believe that church is the place where learning happens through the religious experience of worshiping and exploring in community. Knowing that in the mythic-literal stage of development children in this age range often  mimic the morality that adults value, to encourage wholesome development, it is important to shy away from indoctrination of values and encourage self-exploration of each child’s own morality and values.

2016-2017: Spirit Jam

(Kindergarten-5th Grades) This year in Spirit Jam we explored the monthly themes that our adult worship is based upon in hopes of encouraging communication between parents and their children about the “big questions” in life. In each class we opened with a meaningful worship, sharing our joys and concerns, music, and getting to know each other. We continued our sessions with a story or moral lesson around our theme of the month and closed with embodied learning activities in age-specific groups. Guests from within our community often presented activities such as yoga, gardening, visual arts, dance, music, and etc.

2017-2018: Spirit School

(In 2017 this group will include 2nd-5th Grades only) Next year in Spirit School we will return to the roots of the Sunday School movement.  Robert Raikes and Thomas Stock first established a Sunday school for the poor and orphaned in Gloucester in 1780 with the intention of providing literacy classes to youth who were often forced to work for their survival and lacking basic education or a path out of poverty. In the 21st century, there has been a call for our churches to again fill the void of public education. The arts are poorly funded and being removed from our children’s curriculum in school.

We believe in the power of the fine arts to inspire creativity, change lives, and to help our children embody the best of our values. We will begin with our opening worship and continue with a brief reflection on the month’s theme. We will continue each week with a hands-on creative art activity. 5th Sundays will be reserved for an in-house or wider-community public service activity.

September 10th will be our kick-off family chapel. Parents please join us for a fabulous multi-generational worship experience.

Future Goals:

  • Introduce meditation and contemplative practices through an embodied learning curriculum
  • Provide regular family worship experience for this age range
  • Begin a parenting support group for this specific age-range

 

Boy2017: Preschool

2018: Spirit Play (Preschool-1st Grades)

Scope: In the intuitive projective age range our children are operating in their particular worlds of experience where the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred, in this stage of development,  there is much creative space for imaginative play and exploration. At WUUC, our goals in our programming are to foster an awareness of the “other” and to help children navigate new realizations about “mystery”, questions about “god/God,” and cope with the reality of death and dying. Our program at WUUC lovingly guides our children through this stage through mythical tales, stories about our faith, and poignant lessons on the reality of life. It is in this classroom that our children become most familiar with Unitarian Universalist history and theology.

2016-2017: Me and My World

(Preschool) We engaged in the Me and My World curriculum, guiding our children through an awareness of self to the realization that there is a world beyond our senses. Each lesson progressively advanced our children with love and mindfulness through seeing themselves clearly and safely exploring other people and the nature that surrounds them.

2017-2018: Spirit Play

(Next year, this group will include Preschool-1st Grade in one cohort.) Spirit Play is our new curriculum for Preschool-1st grade. Each week children enter this specialized classroom for a montessori-like experience of Sunday School. Lessons begin with a “unique” and scripted story-telling of either the lives and works of Unitarian Universalists, the seven principles, the six sources, or holy days. These stories come with props that are kept in story baskets on child accessible low shelving. Children then have an opportunity to engage in individual artistic or creative play of their choosing in the classroom. Each story told throughout the year will be made available so that children can choose to utilize the story baskets to retell the stories of our faith, the child’s ability to make a story their own reinforces learning.

I would like to include a testimonial about Spirit Play here:

The children quickly step into the routine of being greeted by the doorkeeper and entering the classroom in anticipation of their time together.  The sacred space that has been created allows for creative wondering and an opportunity to explore the stories personally through re-telling or through art materials provided.  The materials allow the children to remember and connect to the stories and to independently work with them.  It is exciting to see a four year old take their mat and the story basket of the morning and tell the story in their own way or to see a five year old interpret the story through painting or clay work.

The children are learning about our Unitarian Universalist principles and values at an age-appropriate level.  Their own ideas are encouraged and valued at the same time.  They are learning that asking the big questions about life and death is natural and important. The children are engaged and the parents are happy that they are so enthused about going to their morning classes.  We have had no problem getting people to volunteer as storytellers and doorkeepers because it has been so rewarding.
-Lynn Sabourin, UU Religious Educator

Future Goals:

  • Expand our Spirit Play story set
  • Acquire more self-exploration learning tools and art supplies
  • Recruit more volunteers for Spirit Play instruction and material construction