Thank you to the Central Cluster Youth Adult Committee and Angela Sullivan, DRE at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Colorado Springs for putting together our FIRST EVER district sponsored cluster event. We had ~25 middle school and ~25 high school youth and 8 adults from Colorado Springs, Denver and Golden.
Friday night alone was a transformational experience. Bailey Hohm, Cluster Youth Chair, brought in Rev. Roger Butts from High Plains and a panel of young social activists for our Keynote. It was inspiring and uplifting to hear that following what we are passionate about is what the world needs most from us! Afterwards Jenny Finn from Soma Movement lead us in a physical experiment so to speak. She taught us how to really feel present in our body and showed us how interacting with each other from this place (instead of from our critical judging and anxious minds) can create intimacy and togetherness. She made it ok for us to feel and be awkward, knowing that everyone else in the room was also feeling awkward at times.
Saturday was filled with social justice projects and workshops. We went to One Nation to sort clothes to be delivered to Native Americans living on reservations. We went to All Breed Dog Rescue to care for dogs and learn about homeless pets. We went to Inside Out Youth Services to help them prepare for their Thanksgiving Feast for LGBT folks who may not have another place to go for Thanksgiving. We also went to Acacia Park and gave away free hugs to grateful passers-by. More on all these projects will soon be available on the Youth Ministry page.
We had two absolutely spectacular worships lead by our District Energy Person, Niles Hachmeister. Those worships will soon be available on the Youth Ministry page as well.
Since this was an intergenerational event, we learned a lot about togetherness and identity for varying age groups. An indepth discussion about integrating middle school and high school youth can be found on the Youth Ministry page.
Posted Monday, 29 November 2010 18:00 Written by Jennica Davis
The term "Immersion experience" comes from Katie Covey's Full Circle; Fifteen ways to grow lifelong UUs (2004). Immersion experiences are longer than an overnight where working hard together, stepping out of your comfort zone and immersing yourself in the group brings a greater sense of self, and community. The transformative nature of an immersion program will likely change the dynamics of your group in amazing ways.
If you think your youth group would benefit from an immersion experience, follow these tips for creating a successful program.
Communicate a clear mission and vision:
Supporters, financial and otherwise, need to know exactly what they’re supporting. Most importantly, all youth and youth allies participating need to have a clear understanding of the goals of the program and their role in making it happen.
Partner with another organization or build relationships within the community:
While it might cost more to partner with an organization, it is invaluable to have someone on the ground that is familiar with the area and communities you’ll be working in. If you choose not to partner with another organization, build relationships with the folks you’ll be working/staying with before your trip. The experience is only as real as the people who share them.
Congregational support is crucial to success:
It is the organizers’ job to promote the benefits of the immersion experience in their own congregations. Financial support is important but emotional and spiritual support will really show participants their efforts are worthwhile. The most successful programs are those that the congregation is proud to support.
Plan ahead and know that practice makes perfect:
The transformational effects of an immersion program begin in the planning stages. While a once in a lifetime immersion experience will likely be transformational, an annual event can become more fine tuned each year.
Multiple ways of funding will ensure economic access to all participants:
No youth should be prohibited from going because they can’t afford it. Get creative, think small and think big. A combination of small monthly bake sales and large community events with higher admission prices will allow anyone who want to contribute to your endeavors an avenue to do so. Also, think outside the church.
Organize leadership roles and delegate tasks:
Part of the experience is discovering your potential as a leader. While it is important for safety sake to have one or two ultimate decision makers, identify leadership opportunities for participating youth.
Make it truly intergenerational:
Intergenerational means that youth and adults alike are learning and working side by side. Each participant, no matter their age plays both roles, teacher and student. The bonds developed during an intergenerational immersion program will last well past the experience itself. Remember that healthy boundaries between youth and adults need to be set by adults and made explicit to youth.
Measure the impact and tell the story:
Set measurable goals that can be accomplished within the time frame of your trip. Continue the process by sharing what you’ve learned with your community, supporters and future participants, it will help participants synthesize what they learned.
Stay informed and connected.
Full Circle; Fifteen Ways to Grow Lifelong UUs. Katie Covey, 2004.
We Would Be One; a History of Unitarian Universalist Youth Movements. Wayne Arnason & Rebecca Scott, 2005.
Youth Ministry Consultant
Mountain Desert District
Posted Sunday, 31 October 2010 15:50 Written by Jennica Davis
Your staff in the Pacific Western Region (Mountain Desert District, Pacific Northwest District, Pacific Central District, Pacific Southwest District) is working to make training accessible and affordable to busy religious leaders. To that end, we are pleased to announce a series of fall webinars. (see below). More are in development for winter session.
A webinar is a live online educational presentation during which participating viewers can submit questions and comments. In a webinar, each participant sits at his or her own computer and is connected to other participants via the internet. In our case, this is a web-based application where the attendees access the meeting by clicking on a link distributed by email (email invitation) to see the conference and call into a phone number to hear the conference.
Each webinar is $15 and you are welcome to experience it in a group with a speaker phone gathered around the computer.
Fall 2010 Webinars (all starting times are Pacific Time Zone)
Making a Case for Unitarian Universalism
Teacher Tips for the RE Classroom
Youth & Young Adult Ministry in Small Congregations
To register and submit payment click here: surveymonkey.com/s/MJ73KJ2
For program descriptions, go to pnwd.org and click on “events.”
Posted Tuesday, 26 October 2010 13:34 Written by Deborah Holder
The outline of Rainer and Geiger's 2006 book Simple Church is, well, simple.
Clarity --> Movement --> Alignment --> Focus.
The church's purpose is to move people through a process of transformation. That purpose must be clear and explicit and all programs must be aligned with the purpose. If a program is not aligned with the focus of the church, Rainer and Geiger suggest it must be eliminated or revised. Is your youth ministry program aligned with the purpose of your church? Do you know what your church's mission statement is?
Our daily experiences teach us that simplifying is rarely an easy process. How does a UU sift through vast truths to find which ones sit right with her, utilize the inefficient and messy democratic process when he finds himself a leader, employ the rational mind while still reveling in the awe of mystery, and stay simple all the while?
A webinar presented by the Pacific Northwest District on "Spiritual Maturity and Healthy Differentiation" suggests that to be spiritually mature is to find solace in complexity. Sharon Daloz Parks states "mature wisdom is not escape from, but rather engagement with, complexity and mystery" while Benson and Elkin suggest that "experiencing a sese of personal well-being, security and peace," trusting in the process of life and having faith in humanity are crucial dimensions of a mature faith.
How can we use a simple process to explore a complex world? A dialogue is beginning on the Youth Ministry page. Join us.
Posted Monday, 04 October 2010 09:50 Written by Jennica Davis
The implementation of the Simple Church concepts depends on our clear understanding of congregational mission. Mission is always a constellation of practices through which we share our Unitarian Universalist “good news." I know he was not thinking of us but G.K. Chesterton speaks well for Unitarian Universalists in his poem Xmas Day,
GOOD NEWS: but if you ask me what it is, I know not;
It is a track of feet in the snow,
It is a lantern showing a path,
It is a door set open.
“A door set open” is a wonderful image for the radical hospitality we offer religious and spiritual seekers. Our good news is that your spiritual longings and experiences will be respected here. We acknowledge that truth is bigger and deeper and more profound than any one of us can perceive. Therefore, your truth is needed.
Bring your whole self and share in the fulfillment of our shared mission. The right path is in community. Each of us needs to soften our focus on self in order to see more clearly the opportunities before us. Here you will find companions on the quest for a whole and meaningful life. Here you will find solace during those harrowing times that life delivers to each of us. Here you will find community joining you in celebration of life’s milestones. Here you will find encouragement for the work of integrating a principled life. Here you will find challenge to keep you engaged and honest in your spiritual development. This is our common Unitarian Universalist mission to the religious seeker.
Each congregation will offer this hospitality in unique ways based upon their gifts. What is most important is that the path is clear and illuminated with the door is set open welcoming each new seeker, their questions and their gifts. Remember: “We need not think alike to love alike.” It is a worthy conversation.
If you need help we are always here. Nancy
Posted Tuesday, 21 September 2010 05:48 Written by Nancy Bowen
What information should be protected on the web? What about images, particularly pictures of children? What about names, phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, the church directory, newsletters?
There are a hundred different things to think about, and that can sometimes be overwhelming. Congregations want their websites to be sources of information for visitors, but also a resource for current members. So, information should be available, but not too available. Where's the line?
We modeled this policy after those of other similar websites, but also expanded the scope beyond just our website to include other promotional uses, and our practice of supplying the UUA with contact information of our members for the purposes of UUWorld subscriptions. We also made sure to create an opt-out process for the use of any personal information.
Once our policy was written, the Communications Committee presented it to the congregation's Council for approval, where it passed handily. Now we have a document that we can look to when we have questions about what we should or should not share on our website, in our newsletter, or in our promotional publications. Having this conversation allowed us to make thoughtful decisions on these issues, rather than trying to go on "gut feelings" of various individuals involved in the use of this information through committee work or other church functions.
What kinds of issues does your congregation consider when looking at the information you share publicly? Do you have a policy in place? How would you go about starting that conversation?
Posted Tuesday, 14 September 2010 16:18 Written by Jess Cullinan
Many youth programs depend on a superstar youth advisor to carry the program. You know the type: a vibrant, energetic youth advisor with great communication and organizational skills and vast theological information. The youth look up to him, the congregation can depend on her. Under his guidance, the YRUU program thrives. It seems like she can do it all! And then, after a couple years, he gets burned out and leaves. Numbers dwindle, confusion ensues and a job description is posted in the hopes of the next superstar willing to start the program over. While research suggests it takes at least five years to implement a sustainable youth program, superstar youth advisors usually serve for less than four years.
I do not want "Superstar" as part of my Youth Ministry Consultant title. I want to help build sustainable youth programming across the district that does not depend on my particular leadership style to thrive. Mark DeVries in his book Sustainable Youth Ministry points to four key building blocks that create a stable foundation for youth ministry:
These documents should be drafted and revised as a community, with as many "stakeholders" present as possible. The YRUU Youth Adult Committee is working on these documents for the district, but we need more adults to join the team. There are four YAC positions open.
Do you need help or advise on developing these four building blocks for your local youth group? If there is enough interest, I would like to host a youth advisor training on the Friday of the Annual Meeting/Youth Assembly. Contact me ASAP so I can put the details together.
Posted Monday, 06 September 2010 10:58 Written by Jennica Davis
People with mental disorders and their loved ones fill our pews, our streets and our jails. To help address this reality, Mountain Desert District Justice Ministries is offering a fall program that helps congregations in supporting those with mental disorders and their families. Increasingly, mental health practitioners are coming to recognize the value and importance of religious community in coping with the real anxieties that come from living in a chaotic and sometimes de-humanizing world.
Mental Health and People of Faith is an opportunity to not only become educated but also a time to engage with other lay and professional religious leaders on an important topic that too often remains closeted in our congregations. For example, 10-25% of women and 5-12% of men develop depression sometime in their life. It takes a toll on the person, family members, the workplace and all of the person’s associations, including the church. It keeps one from becoming what one wants to be, and doing what one wants to do with one’s life. In suicide, depression is often an underlying condition. Informed and equipped congregations can literally help saves lives.
Topics to be covered in October include mental disorders and myths, understanding and care of mental disorders including depression, anxiety, mood, and personality disorders along with the opportunity to share congregational stories. All congregational care-givers and particularly those of you involved in RE programming will want to learn about children’s mental health and the healing process.
Unlike in the past, today there is increased awareness of the beneficial relationship between spirituality, organized religion, and mental health. Congregations offer a structure for reducing existential anxiety in a chaotic world offering a sense of hope, meaning, and purpose and thus emotional well-being. This compelling, interactive, and affordable program offers church staff, seminarians, and leadership teams a day filled with inspirational expertise and practical training.
It’s probably worth a conversation. If you need help, we’re always here!
Our facilitator, Rev. Barbara Meyers, is the author of The Caring Congregation Handbook, a program for educating congregations about becoming intentionally supportive of people with mental disorders and their families. Affiliated with the Mission Peak Congregation in Fremont, CA, the Reverend Meyers produces a monthly public access TV program called Mental Health Matters.
Registration Deadline: October 15, 2010
Posted Monday, 30 August 2010 15:53 Written by Deborah Holder
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