Podcast #1: CRE Goals

We’re launching a new feature in this blog: podcasts! The plan is to have 2-4 new podcasts per month that discuss religious education at UUCPA and UU communities, with an emphasis on information useful to RE teachers and parents.

In the first podcast, Reverend Dan Harper and I discuss the four major goals of the children’s religious education program, and explore one of these goals (preparing children to become Unitarian Universalist adults) in depth.

What do you think of the four goals? What can and should we do to better prepare children to become UU adults?

We’d love to hear your thoughts to these questions, and reactions to the podcast. Please post a comment to this blog entry.

Related link: What’s Next for Our Youth? by Greg Buckland, Massachusetts Bay District of Unitarian Universalist Congregations

8 replies on “Podcast #1: CRE Goals”

Well done Dan and Joe!

Dan said regarding being a UU adult:
We want our children to grow up to be sensitive, moral, and joyful adults. People with intellectual integrity and spiritual insight. And we want them to know that being part of a UU religious community will help them to continue to grow in these areas.

In the fall of 2009, I took a class led by Dan on The Almost Church based on a book by Michael Durall. One of the conversations we had was about distinguishing UU from other religions – what is our role in the larger canvas of religious opportunities that people have in the current time?

Dan’s statement above, while true, does not seem to be to offer anything different or special compared to other religions. I think that most churches could say something similar. So where does this leave us as UU’s? In Dan’s class, the conversation moved in the direction of UUs being a bridge. As UU’s, we do not / cannot reject other faiths or traditions be they conservative, fundamentalist, liberal, christian, non christian, etc. We, with our open minds, helping hands and loving hearts, we are uniquely poised to be a bridge between all faiths working toward a greater good for people and planet.

I think we are moving past “poised”. Our church offered classes just this past Fall on “How to talk to the Fundamentalists in Your LIfe” and “How to talk to people who see things differently.” In the Spring of 2010, we will be chanting together, connecting with each other through sound. We will be meeting in Circles of Friends, in Parent Journey…the list goes on. We are not about who’s right and who’s wrong. We are about being connected and through the connection, disabling the human tendency to objectify and remain distant from what we don’t understand or agree with. It’s easy to judge and have opinions about others. It is our calling, as UUs to move past superficial differences and connect with each person at the level of what s/he most cares about.

The social activism of the past generation was about informing people about issues in hopes that they would ‘see the light’ and, using logic and reason, redirect their efforts to be more in line with xyz solution. Experience shows that knowing more makes no difference. Letting people know their thinking is flawed rarely makes a difference for the better. Friendship, genuine respect (not “tolerance”), love, being teachable, accepting the good that others have to offer you regardless of the religious/spiritual basis of the offering…these are the catalysts for transformation that we are striving for and which are the foundation for the the ‘bridge’ approach that can make a difference for the world of our children.

Our opening words at UUCPA are: Transforming ourselves, transforming others, transforming the world. If we leave people touched, moved and inspired by who we are as human beings, then we have made a difference, one human being at a time.

Joe and Dan in the podcast say that our children know more what it is to be a UU than we adults. I agree. I often see my son noticing things at school and acting according to UU principles without thinking twice. This shows up in conflict resolution on the playground or comments to me that a teacher’s criticism of someone was unfair and he wants to talk about it with me to understand it better before judging the situation. He is more advanced than I was at his age (maybe even now), that’s for sure!

Thanks for putting this very thought provoking podcast together, Joe and Dan. I love our liberal religious community and am so grateful to everyone there for creating opportunities and possibilities for ourselves and others.

Excellent podcast! I think it’s a great idea and well-produced. I think Terry’s question is a good one, but would phrase it slightly differently: What is it about Unitarian Universalism that would compel a young adult to seek us out or stay connected rather than just being a good person? What do we have to offer that is unique? You can be a sensitive, moral, and joyful Catholic, Muslim, Baptist…

I have a feeling the answer will come in the next few podcasts.

Terry@1 : I think that the children’s RE program should help our children and youth understand how UUs are similar and different from other faith traditions. Of course, this implies that the adults at UUCPA know and can articulate the commonalities and points of divergence. ;->

Sean@2 : I don’t think that we UUs have to be all that unique to keep our children and youth, and encourage more of them to become UU adults. I think that UU youths leave UUism when it’s no longer relevant to them, they don’t feel like the time they spend in UU communities is worth what they get out of it, and when the programming at nearby UU churches don’t meet their needs. If UU churches want to keep more of it’s youth, we need to serve them better.

Terry – great response. Your thoughts about UUs as a bridge are resonating with me, as I think some of the more well known and charismatic UU ministers I know are attempting to do that kind of work. It also requires a kind of belief that who is right/wrong is not as important as working things out so that we can live together in something resembling peace. I will be thinking about this for a long time.

Regarding UU kids growing up to be UU adults — From my own perspective as someone who grew up UU, this is not a question about theology, or philosophy, or beliefs. This is really a question about congregations as institutions, and whether our UU institutions support all ages. Terry is right that our UU congregations are not all that different theologically than other liberal religious communities. But the point I’m trying to make in the podcast is quite different — we are losing our kids because our educational system is set up in such a way that we don’t prepare our kids to join our institutions as adults.

So for me as an educator, while these discussions about the meaning and relevance of UUism are important, they don’t bear on the problem at hand, the problem that we only retain about 15% of our UU kids when we should be retaining about 45-50%.

I liked having the podcast. It allowed me to dedicate some thought to this during drive time. My takeaway s are three fold: (it feels shallow compared to Terry’s excellent post, but here it is anyway :-)

1 – Totally agree that we don’t connect the teaching to the church well enough. Changing the UUCPA service to include the kids was a huge and important step towards that. We’re moving in the right direction.

2 – Structuring our class similarly to the way we structure our services would make sense as well. For the blue class, I think we could start by religiously (wording intended) performing a chalice lighting/extinguishing. The rituals have a place in helping our kids feel connected to the church.

3 – Ultimately to keep our kids, we have to reach out to them and engage them. As a semi-serious first step I suggest getting rid of the massage music on the blog and replacing it with some Black-eyed peas!

I ask this question periodically, and have yet to receive a coherent answer. Why do we send the children out of worship after 15-20 minutes? Why spend the RE time doing things “like worship” when there are a large number of people doing ACTUAL worship in the same building? I have visited several non-UU churches that do excellent “intergenerational” worship every week. I put intergenerational in quotes because they don’t characterize it that way. They characterize it as engaging everyone in worship.

I can’t speak to other churches, because I don’t have much experience with other congregations, but to my mind, what we do at our services isn’t very well characterized by the word “worship”. The word I hear more often applied to UU activities is “journey,” and I think its a good one. The UUCPA provides me with two things: 1) An hour long service that is often thought provoking and spiritually stimulating 2) A fellowship of like minded people. My kids are in much earlier stages of their spiritual journey, and I can’t imagine very many services that would address both of our needs in the first area. The intergenerational services seem targeted at the second area and tend to be more ritualistic with the goal of fostering a sense of belonging. Those do seem better suited to the kids … flower ceremonies, water ceremonies, etc.

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