Curriculum for Emerging Adult and Youth Program

Author: Rev. Dr. Kate Walker

 

Purpose:

This curriculum addresses how a Unitarian Universalist church can support youth and emerging adults in an increasingly busy and religiously pluralistic country. Youth and emerging adults require a specialized ministry that recognizes multiple and complex transitions and unique developmental needs over a 20-year span of maturation into adulthood. This specialized ministry must compete with multiple events and utilize social media for the time and attention of typical 21st century youth and emerging. A healthy ministry needs to look at how a liberal religious church can offer support and care, as well as appropriate challenges for deep reflection about one’s faith and values.

Introduction:

Every spring I am delighted to work with a group of eighth graders enrolled in the Coming of Age program at Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church, where I serve as the sole ordained minister in Alexandria, Virginia. The Coming of Age program is offered in most Unitarian Universalist (UU) churches, specifically to take advantage of developmental changes around religious identity, much like the Jewish tradition of a bar or bat mitzvah. The children focus on UU history and theology, and go on a trip to Boston, Massachusetts, visiting our headquarters and UU-related historical sites.

 

At the end of the Coming of Age program in June, the youth put together a worship service, during which they share personal statements about their religious identity, such as a faith statement or beliefs on a particular topic. The worship service is very well attended: parents, siblings, and grandparents all in a row. Many other members of the congregation are also there to support and to listen to the young students. I am always impressed and thrilled to hear what they have to say and to bear witness to their increasing maturity and deepening religious identity. I see the proud parent’s love for their children and how happy they are to see the children speak publicly about their faith and beliefs.

 

The 8th graders then engage in our annual Bridging Ceremony where they are welcomed by our youth into the Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU). The graduating 12th graders in turn step over their bridge into emerging adulthood, and hopefully, into an active emerging adult group.  Come September, however, too often I do not see many of the new 9th graders or emerging adults again.  Varied non-church events compete for the time of both the high schoolers and emerging adults, and the priority drops for attending Sunday worship and participating in YRUU or the emerging adult group. I have to wonder how deep and secure is the religious identity of our young UU’s? Have they continued to spend any time and energy on their religious identity? Are they committed UUs? Do they identify as UU? Are they satisfied with their religious identity but do not feel a spiritual need to connect with community? Can they articulate their beliefs in a pluralistic world that is rife with religious emotionalism and heightened judgments? I wonder how they and their families manage in a world of competing interests and massive emotional change? How do they balance the many transitions they experience in life as adolescents and, as they mature, into young adulthood? Do they feel their UU church is there for them? And do they feel ready and prepared to help their church and larger community in service to others?

 

All of these questions compel a deeper exploration into the world of pedagogy, theology, psychology, sociology, and history and into how all these relate to the spiritual formation and religious identity of UU youth and emerging adults (defined by the Unitarian Universalist Association as between 18 and 35 years old[1]). This curriculum is at the heart of a Doctor of Ministry thesis looking at: How can a liberal religious church support the faith formation of UU youth and emerging adults?  It was offered in the fall of 2014, and has been adapted for the wider UU community.  Interviews were conducted before and after with all the participants in order to measure any changes in their religious identity.  The short answer is yes, measurable changes were identified. The long answer is one fall curriculum is not adequate to truly support the formation of the religious identity of our youth and emerging adults.  We need to create long-term programming and mentoring relationships for our vulnerable youth and emerging adults as they grow into their strength as liberal religious UU’s.

 

This program should be seen as one among multiple opportunities in our congregations for our UU youth and young adults to engage in self-reflection during a development stage of questioning, claiming of authority, and exploration of religious/spiritual experiences.  It is a time when their values are still emerging, yet have been established within the folds of a particular liberal religious identity.  Living their values in a supportive and expressive community is crucial to living in a (w)hole and integrated life.  They also need to be connected to each other in a loving community offering support and affirmation as they struggle through joyful and painful events.  The programming we offer is a recognition we are investing in them as well as the future of Unitarian Universalism.

Format:

This curriculum is an eleven-week program designed for emerging adults and youth in a collaborative experience of sharing and learning.  This is not a direct 1:1 mentoring relationship.  Child care should be offered as needed. The participants are asked to commit to attending as many classes as they can, recognizing the more they attend the more they will gain from the program.  

 

For this program to truly support our youth and emerging adults, the minister also participants in designated classes.  If a minister is not available in the case of a lay led community, it is recommended that guest minister be invited, or a trusted lay leader of the community. The minister is also encouraged to meet at least two times with each of the youth and emerging adults in a safe space.  This is a significant time commitment, but it is crucial to bonding, building trust and developing the UU identity of these young UU’s.  It is a long-term investment, making a big impact on everyone’s life.  If the minister or lay leader shows a sincere interest in the youth and young adults, they will respond with their own interest and engage in an important relationship.

 

In addition to class room based programming, there is a social justice project chosen by the participants, and a worship service offered by the participants at the end of the program.  The social justice project will likely take place outside of the regular classroom time.  A designated point person for the social justice program and worship service should be identified early in the program. That person needs to follow up with goals set by the group, and report back in each session.  In addition, in coordination with the minister or Worship Committee, participants who are comfortable are encouraged to act as lay leaders in other worship services, such as telling a story, chalice lighting or offering a testimonial.  The goal is to establish regular worship leadership roles for youth and young adults creating a welcoming worship experience for visiting youth and young adults, in addition to support multigenerational relationships.

 

One session has a guest speaker focusing on people without housing and those at risk of losing their home.  Housing is a foundational need for personal security, and one that our youth, and in particular, our young adults need to learn about housing issues, and have a place to express their concerns.  Due to significant increases in the cost of housing across the country over the past few decades, this topic should be at the top of the list for discussion with youth and young adults. Other topics should include higher education and employment, but within the scope of this program, housing was chosen.

 

The class format has an opening chalice lighting, check-in, activity, check-out and extinguish the chalice. Some of the classes have a guest presenter, hopefully found within the congregation.  Some of the programming invites physical activity, accommodations need to be offered for participants with differing physical abilities.

 

All emerging adults must complete background check.

 

Classroom packet is in the room containing attendance sheets, a form for guests (anyone who is not on the attendance sheet); registration forms; weekly report form; accident report form.

 

Session #1:

Lead: Pre-selected emerging adult or youth

 

Goal: Bonding and building trust

 

Chalice Lighting:

Recommended words

By Martha Kirby Capo

For some, the chalice cup is a communion cup, freely offered to all who would seek the greater Truth. Others see the circle of fellowship in its embracing sides. The sacred hoop of its rim, the ambient energy cradled in its basin, the abiding, grounded strength of its pedestal: may all be lit by the fire of spiritual integrity; so too may we each be bathed in the glow of our shared Truth, multifaceted and radiant.

 

More chalice lighting words can be found at UUA www.worshipweb

Extended Check in: 

Break into pairs.  Decide who is person A and who is B.  Person A interviews person B, and then reverse with B interviewing A.  Two minutes per interview.  Questions to ask: What is your preferred name and pronoun?  What do you do, and/or where do you spend your days?  Ex: school, work or activity.  What are you most proud of?  What are you most frightened of?  What do you want others to know about you?   Person A introduces person B to the larger group, and B introduces A, one minute each.

 

Activity:

KNEE TO KNEE (accommodation can be offered to remain seated)

Find someone you don’t know, or turn to the person standing next to you. 

CALL OUT: Stand facing one another, toes to toes.

Tell each other something you would protest.

CALL OUT: Stand with someone else, knee to knee.

Tell this person something that humbles you.  It could be something that inspires awe or something that is really hard in your life.

CALL OUT:  Stand with someone else hip to hip.

Tell this person about the kind of music or experience it would take to get you shaking your hips.

CALL OUT:  Stand hands to hands.

Tell this person about something extraordinary your hands have done.

CALL OUT:  Stand arm in arm. 

Tell this person about something about your family or friends.

CALL OUT:  Stand with someone new again, this time back to back.

Tell this person something you have turned your back on that you feel good about, and another that you feel bad or sad about.

CALL OUT:  Find another person, stand ear to ear.

Tell this person something about yourself hardly anyone knows.

CALL OUT:  Find another person, stand forehead to forehead. 

Tell this person what you think about this activity.

Activity:

Play Team Architect: a game where you get each team to build something with a few strange materials. For example, you could give each team a packet of pop sticks and a roll of sticky tape and get them to build a bridge which will support a heavy book. Or give each team a few sheets of newspaper, an egg and some string and invite them to make an egg support. Each team egg support has to stop the egg from breaking when dropped from a certain height.

After the allocated building time is up, come together and the structures or inventions are tested.

 

Activity:

Sharing Popcorn style:  What do you want out of this program? What do you not want? People can pass.

 

Check out: 

30 seconds per person, “How are you doing?”  People can pass.

 

Extinguish the Chalice: 

We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth,

          The warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.

          These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

 

Session #2:

 

Lead: Minister or senior lay leader

Goal: Sharing, bonding, and review of future social justice project and worship.

 

Chalice Lighting:

Recommended words

By Martha Kirby Capo

For some, the chalice cup is a communion cup, freely offered to all who would seek the greater Truth. Others see the circle of fellowship in its embracing sides. The sacred hoop of its rim, the ambient energy cradled in its basin, the abiding, grounded strength of its pedestal: may all be lit by the fire of spiritual integrity; so too may we each be bathed in the glow of our shared Truth, multifaceted and radiant.

 

More chalice lighting words can be found at UUA www.worshipweb

 

Check in:  Recommend limit to no more than 2 minutes per person or less, people can pass.

 

Activity:

WHICH IS MY SECRET

Write something down on a note card that no one else will know about you.  Combine all the cards.  Pull one out at a time and ask each person who they believe it is.  Each person casts their vote and is tallied.  After all the votes are cast for each card, go back through the cards and read them.  This time ask the person who wrote the card to let the group know and briefly share about what they wrote.

 

Activity:

Quotes from a bowl (Resource #1):  One by one, each person picks a quote from a bowl and briefly reflect on its truth and meaning.  Go around as many times as possible.

 

Activity:

Look at schedule for worship participation and final worship service.  Brain storm on Social Justice projects.  Designate leaders for the social justice project and the worship service.  Those people will need time each session to process and update plans.

Check out: 

30 seconds per person, “How are you doing?”  People can pass.

 

Extinguish the Chalice: 

          We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth,

          The warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.

          These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

 

Session #3:

Lead: Pre-selected emerging adult or youth

 

Goal: Taking care of our church buildings and grounds

 

Chalice Lighting:

Recommended words

By Martha Kirby Capo

For some, the chalice cup is a communion cup, freely offered to all who would seek the greater Truth. Others see the circle of fellowship in its embracing sides. The sacred hoop of its rim, the ambient energy cradled in its basin, the abiding, grounded strength of its pedestal: may all be lit by the fire of spiritual integrity; so too may we each be bathed in the glow of our shared Truth, multifaceted and radiant.

 

More chalice lighting words can be found at UUA www.worshipweb

 

Check in: 

Recommend limit to no more than 2 minutes per person or less, people can pass.

 

Activity: 

Look at schedule for worship participation and final worship service.  Process and update plans for social justice and worship.

 

Activity:

Everyone volunteers for church through clean up on property or grounds.  Accommodations need to be addressed so everyone of differing physical needs can participate.

 

Check out (if possible):  30 seconds per person, “How are you doing?”  People can pass.

 

Session #4:

Lead: Minister or lay leader

Goal: Explore ideas and concepts of God

Chalice Lighting:

Recommended words

By Martha Kirby Capo

For some, the chalice cup is a communion cup, freely offered to all who would seek the greater Truth. Others see the circle of fellowship in its embracing sides. The sacred hoop of its rim, the ambient energy cradled in its basin, the abiding, grounded strength of its pedestal: may all be lit by the fire of spiritual integrity; so too may we each be bathed in the glow of our shared Truth, multifaceted and radiant.

 

More chalice lighting words can be found at UUA www.worshipweb

 

Check in: 

Recommend limit to no more than 2 minutes per person or less, people can pass.

 

Activity:

Presentation and discussion on concepts of God.  (Resource: PP presentation)

 

Activity:

Look at schedule for worship participation and final worship service.  Process and update plans for social justice and worship.

Check out: 

30 seconds per person, “How are you doing?”  People can pass.

 

Extinguish the Chalice: 

          We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth,

          The warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.

          These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

 

Session #5:

Lead: Pre-selected emerging adult or youth

Guest: Invite a guest speaker from a local shelter, direct service agency or food pantry.

 

Goal: to have a better understanding about those living without shelter, are at risk of losing their home in our community.  Ask: how we can be helpful?

Chalice Lighting:

Recommended words

By Martha Kirby Capo

For some, the chalice cup is a communion cup, freely offered to all who would seek the greater Truth. Others see the circle of fellowship in its embracing sides. The sacred hoop of its rim, the ambient energy cradled in its basin, the abiding, grounded strength of its pedestal: may all be lit by the fire of spiritual integrity; so too may we each be bathed in the glow of our shared Truth, multifaceted and radiant.

 

More chalice lighting words can be found at UUA www.worshipweb

 

Check in: 

Recommend limit to no more than 2 minutes per person or less, people can pass.

 

Activity: 

Support the guest speaker with presentation with technology if needed. Have some prepared questions.

Activity:

Look at schedule for worship participation and final worship service.  Process and update plans for social justice and worship.

 

Check out: 

30 seconds per person, “How are you doing?”  People can pass.

 

Extinguish the Chalice: 

          We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth,

          The warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.

          These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

 

 

Session #6:

Leader: Pre-designated emerging adult or youth

Guest: Invite a member of the community who authentically practices Judaism, Christianity, humanism, Earth-centered tradition, Buddhism or another UU connected faith.

 

Goal: Exploring our Six Sources

Chalice Lighting:

Recommended words

By Martha Kirby Capo

For some, the chalice cup is a communion cup, freely offered to all who would seek the greater Truth. Others see the circle of fellowship in its embracing sides. The sacred hoop of its rim, the ambient energy cradled in its basin, the abiding, grounded strength of its pedestal: may all be lit by the fire of spiritual integrity; so too may we each be bathed in the glow of our shared Truth, multifaceted and radiant.

 

More chalice lighting words can be found at UUA www.worshipweb

 

Check in: 

Recommend limit to no more than 2 minutes per person or less, people can pass.

 

Activity:  

Personal testimony and presentation from guest

 

Note:

Support the quest with technology or activity as needed.  Have questions ready to help spark discussion.

 

Activity:

Look at schedule for worship participation and final worship service.  Process and update plans for social justice and worship.

Check out: 

30 seconds per person, “How are you doing?”  People can pass.

 

Extinguish the Chalice: 

          We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth,

          The warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.

          These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

 

 

Session 7:

Leader:

Pre-designated emerging adult or youth.  The minister or trusted lay leader can also lead this session.

Goal: How to talk about being a UU?

 

Chalice Lighting:

Recommended words

By Martha Kirby Capo

For some, the chalice cup is a communion cup, freely offered to all who would seek the greater Truth. Others see the circle of fellowship in its embracing sides. The sacred hoop of its rim, the ambient energy cradled in its basin, the abiding, grounded strength of its pedestal: may all be lit by the fire of spiritual integrity; so too may we each be bathed in the glow of our shared Truth, multifaceted and radiant.

 

More chalice lighting words can be found at UUA www.worshipweb

 

Check in: 

Recommend limit to no more than 2 minutes per person or less, people can pass.

 

Activity:

*Name & Motion

Form a circle.  Ask people to introduce themselves by saying their name with a positive descriptor and an action, moving around the circle one by one.  For example, Energetic Erin, said while jumping and clapping.  Everyone will say that person’s name together along with that person’s motion.  Continue around the circle. 

 

Variations:

The group must remember round.  The person who started steps forward a couple steps into the circle and everyone else does their name and motion while they watch.

See how fast you can go!! 

 

Note:

Accommodate so everyone can participate.

 

Activity:

watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nh0TY4gig_Q&list=PL489B927BB0C4BF9A&index=2

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhTFO7cNrSA&index=4&list=PL489B927BB0C4BF9A

 

Activity:

Discussion: how do you talk about UUism with others?  Do you want to talk about your faith and your church with others?  Is it uncomfortable? Why? Do you want to evangelize about the UU church?  What do you say about your faith to yourself and to others?

 

Activity:

Look at schedule for worship participation and final worship service.  Process and update plans for social justice and worship.

Check out: 

30 seconds per person, “How are you doing?”  People can pass.

 

Extinguish the Chalice: 

          We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth,

          The warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.

          These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

 

Session 8:

Leader: Pre-designated emerging adult or youth

Guest:  Invite someone from the community who practices meditation and can teach different forms of meditation.

 

Goal: Finding our inner peace and voice through meditation

 

Chalice Lighting:

Recommended words

By Martha Kirby Capo

For some, the chalice cup is a communion cup, freely offered to all who would seek the greater Truth. Others see the circle of fellowship in its embracing sides. The sacred hoop of its rim, the ambient energy cradled in its basin, the abiding, grounded strength of its pedestal: may all be lit by the fire of spiritual integrity; so too may we each be bathed in the glow of our shared Truth, multifaceted and radiant.

 

More chalice lighting words can be found here:at UUA www.worshipweb

 

Check in: 

Recommend limit to no more than 2 minutes per person or less, people can pass.

 

Activity:

Support the guest presenter in teaching different forms of meditation.

 

Activity:

Look at schedule for worship participation and final worship service.  Process and update plans for social justice and worship.

 

Check out: 

30 seconds per person, “How are you doing?”  People can pass.

 

Extinguish the Chalice: 

We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth,

          The warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.

          These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

 

Session 9:

Lead: Pre-designated youth or emerging adult for social justice project and worship.  The minister or trust lay leader may need to attend.

 

Goal: Finalize plans for social justice project and worship

 

 

Chalice Lighting:

Recommended words

By Martha Kirby Capo

For some, the chalice cup is a communion cup, freely offered to all who would seek the greater Truth. Others see the circle of fellowship in its embracing sides. The sacred hoop of its rim, the ambient energy cradled in its basin, the abiding, grounded strength of its pedestal: may all be lit by the fire of spiritual integrity; so too may we each be bathed in the glow of our shared Truth, multifaceted and radiant.

 

More chalice lighting words can be found at UUA www.worshipweb

 

Check in: 

Recommend limit to no more than 2 minutes per person or less, people can pass.

 

Activity:

Play Helium Stick

You can do this team building activity with a single group (maybe as a team growth activity for your small group) or as a bigger group team challenge.

You'll need a group with at least four or five people in it, and then one leader.  Accommodation may need to be addressed so everyone can participate.

Get the group members to line up in a line in pairs (one on either side). It doesn't matter if there is an odd number. Then get each person to face towards each other. Get each person to be staggered and place a hand in front of them with their index finger pointed out. Place the pole on top of all of the index fingers so it is resting evenly. Make sure all index fingers are touching the pole.

The aim of the activity is to get the group to completely lower the pole to the ground without anyone losing touch with it at any stage. This is why it is important to have a leader or instructor watching carefully to catch them out.

A common occurrence as the group begins the team building activity for the first time is that everyone will be so focused on keeping their index finger touching the pole that the pole will actually start rising instead of lowering. Have a laugh with the group!

The secret is for the group to settle down and take it slowly.

If you're running this activity with multiple groups then you could do it as a race which could make things even funnier - just make sure you've got someone judging each group so there is no cheating.

 

Materials Needed

Long & light-weight pole

 

Activity:

Make final arrangements and plans for social justice project and worship service.

 

Check out: 

30 seconds per person, “How are you doing?”  People can pass.

 

Extinguish the Chalice: 

          We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth,

          The warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.

          These we carry in our hearts until we are together again

 

 

Session 10:

Leader: Pre-designated emerging adult or youth.  The minister or trusted lay leaders can also lead this session.

Goal: to invite and deepen participants in understanding their life purpose, theodicy, world view and values. These are four fundamental ways of understanding the world.

 

Chalice Lighting:

Recommended words

By Martha Kirby Capo

For some, the chalice cup is a communion cup, freely offered to all who would seek the greater Truth. Others see the circle of fellowship in its embracing sides. The sacred hoop of its rim, the ambient energy cradled in its basin, the abiding, grounded strength of its pedestal: may all be lit by the fire of spiritual integrity; so too may we each be bathed in the glow of our shared Truth, multifaceted and radiant.

 

More chalice lighting words can be found here:at UUA www.worshipweb

 

Check in:  Recommend limit to no more than 2 minutes per person or less, people can pass.

 

Activity:

* Game: I’VE GOT THE POWER

Make a circle. One person has a ball.

Whoever has the ball of power directs what everyone else does. 

Then I pass it on the next person, and so on until it returns to first person.

 

Discuss:

what it is like to follow orders, act as a group, or when you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do?  What is it like to be the leader and have all the power?

 

Activity:

Have the designated leader(s) guide the group in responding to these questions:

Life Purpose:

 

What do you see as your place in the world? Or How do you fit in the world?

Keep personal, and non-directive

Is there a sense of something for you to do?

 

Theodicy:

Theodicy means a judgment about God and God’s goodness and omnipotence, given the existence of evil. The philosophical approach looks at the function of the universe (its purpose and design), its benevolence, consistency and rationality, and the role of justice. This term gets to the core of “why things happen,” particularly in light of the presence of evil or, more accurately, tragedy. Religion provides a viewpoint for the emerging youth and young adults to use as they encounter tragedy in their lives, particularly if it is personal.

 

Questions on theodicy:

 

1. Say something bad – terrible, tragic, unexpected – happens in your life, or to someone you know.  Think about that kind of event for a minute.  How do you understand or make sense of life when things are going really badly?

2. Some people believe that everything happens for a reason, while others believe that things happen randomly and without purpose.  Others fall somewhere in between.  How about you? What do you believe along that line? Try to be specific.

 

 

Worldview:

 

 

People have different images of human nature.  Where would you place yourself on these scales?

 

a) Human nature is basically good              Human nature is fundamentally perverse and corrupt

 

 

1            2             3               4                   5                 6                 7

 

 

b) The world is a place of strife and disorder.          Harmony and cooperation            prevail in the world.

 

1               2                 3                4              5                6               7

 

 

 

 

Life Values:

 

Mixed survey of qualitative and quantitative

 

Qualitative questions:

 

What is the most important idea or belief in your life?

 

 

Is there a principle by which you try to live your life?

 

 

Are there principles or ideas that make no sense to you, or that seem really unimportant?

 

 

Think for a minute about what it means to be a person in society and the world.  What do you feel are the best the worst human attributes? 

 

 

What types of people do you admire most?

 

 

What types of people disgust you or turn you off the most? Why?

 

 

What attributes to you admire the most in yourself? 

 

 

What admire the least in yourself?

 

 

Check out:  30 seconds per person, “How are you doing?”  People can pass.

 

Extinguish the Chalice: 

          We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth,

          The warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.

          These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

 

 

 

Session 11:

This is a post worship celebration of the program.  Potluck food and drinks, or the church can provide or even invite to treat at local restaurant. 

 

 

[1] http://www.uua.org/re/youngadults