Presentation on youth ministry

Presentation for youth ministry town hall meeting, Sunday, May 10, 10:30 and 12:15.

First, some definitions:

When I talk about “youth,” I mean persons in early and mid-adolescence. In our culture this usually means persons in middle school, typically in puberty and/or early adolescence — and persons in high school, typically in mid-adolescence.

When I talk about “ministry,” I mean that which we do here at UUCPA: doing the work of transforming ourselves, transforming each other, and transforming the world. And of course I mean to imply that such transformation is for the better!

Next, I’d like to review the state of youth ministry at UUCPA:

Here at UUCPA, we have a long history of boom/bust youth ministry. By this I mean that there will be an active high school youth group for a few years, then for a few years there will be no youth group, then we’ll repeat the cycle. I have heard of more than one instance of siblings in UUCPA, one of whom got to attend a robust high school youth group, and the other of whom did not. A similar pattern seems to prevail with our middle school youth.

This history goes back to about 1970. In the 1960s, UUCPA had a high school youth group with some 50 members, as well as a good-sized junior youth group. Then around 1970, the Baby Boom ended, and the number of youth began to drop. What appears to have happened is that our youth program never adapted to this new smaller size, so ever since the late 1970s we have seen a boom/bust cycle, with high school youth groups ranging between zero and ten youth.

That’s the history. What’s going on now?


Suicide prevention resources

At the November Parent Journey meeting, we had an open discussion in response to the three recent local teen suicides. We were fortunate to have Laura Coleman LMFT, who is a UUCPA member, in attendance. Here are some wonderful resources offered by Laura and Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern:

— A great local article from Meg Durbin (whose kids went through the UUCPA Coming of Age program several years ago) on helping those in crisis:

Project Safety Net has links on its homepage to general guidelines for parents of elementary and secondary school-age kids on noting warning signs and talking to kids.

Project Cornerstone has an excellent, evidence-supported approach to building up the kinds of developmental assets that lessen the risk of suicide and other forms of self-harm and risky behavior. Just looking at these developmental assets is really helpful in answering the questions, “What helps? What can I do?”

In our group discussion at Parent Journey, we talked about how “prevention” really takes place years before the time of crisis, when children and teens are developing their identity, values, and sense of self-worth, and finding meaning in their lives. We found the developmental assets from Project Cornerstone to be important and worth examining in detail. There are ideas for how to develop each asset in the links on the page above, and detailed lists of the 41 developmental assets for each age group here.

Adolescent Counselling Services in Palo Alto also has prevention and treatment resources for families.

— Finally, this is a toll-free suicide and crisis hotline number for Suicide and Crisis Service of Santa Clara County (SACS) — Amy suggested that we all put this number in our cell phones, in case we are ever talking to a friend or family member who needs help:

I feel fortunate to be part of a community at UUCPA that already does so much to support the long-view prevention of these tragedies, and I hope we can do even more to have a positive impact on the lives of our families and young people.

— Shannon Jones, coordinator of Parent Journey at UUCPA


Talking about death with children

Our Parent Journey group had a discussion on talking about death with children. Kristen Freeman-Williams put together a great handout on the topic, which is included after the jump. This is definitely one of those handouts you’d like to read before you need it!


UUCPA Church Building Construction in 1958

This film was shot by Donald Borthwick and William Kellogg from March to July 1958. It features the groundbreaking and construction of the church main hall and buildings.  In 2007, Rae and Elton Bell had the 8mm film digitized and transferred onto a DVD to show at a UUCPA celebration. In the 1960s, several hundred children participated in Sunday school each week.