Over the years that I have been a Unitarian Universalist minister I have heard people in congregations say that religious education and inclusion of youth and young adults is an important value to them. I also have observed how often the actions within our congregations speak louder than those words of inclusivity. The actions that I have seen tell me that children need to be strictly controlled to keep out of the way of adults, youthful opinions are not welcome, and worship doesn’t include youth and young adult needs.
Lest you think I am being overly harsh, take a good look at your own congregation. Identify any way you can find where youth are included in the work of the church. The Youth Ministry Working Group Report of 2009 lifted up some pathways that should be created, or made explicit, in congregations:
- planning, participating in and leading worship
- engaging in spiritual reflection and discernment through small group ministries or other programs
- singing in the choir and providing instrumental music in worship
- providing religious education to children
- co-facilitating youth-adult faith development programs
- providing and receiving pastoral care
- serving on committees and boards (in addition to youth-specific and religious education committees)
- helping to plan and lead social service and social justice projects
When it comes to our young adults, how connected are they to the life of the church? Are there young adults on the board or leading committees? Do they participate in the social activities and worship? Is there programming that addresses the particular needs of people who might be entering the work world, finding a mate, starting a family, or learning how to live a moral life in a complex media-saturated environment that elevates greed over goodness?
While it has been thirty years since I was a young adult, I do remember how I had to work at being welcomed in a UU congregation. I was embraced by my peers and tolerated by my elders. Is this still true for your church or fellowship?
I discovered this article at the UU Planet site. It discusses the needs of a young adult with children in one congregation. Perhaps it will stimulate some discussion within your congregation on what can be done to be more inclusive of young adults.
Unitarian Universalism has been known as a faith where people have come from another religious tradition. But we also have a solid core of youth and young adults among us. These people are our future and are with us right now. How we integrate them into our communities of faith will help determine what Unitarian Universalism will be in a generation. If we do the right things, they will stay and prosper and bring their energy and talents to strengthen our faith. If we ignore them and do not provide their needs, we will follow the path of other major denominations and sink into oblivion. It is your choice. What will you make?
Yours in the Faith,