By Sierra-Marie Gerfao
What Next? The Future of Children and Youth Ministries
The newsletter deadline is occurring before we have compiled all the notes from our congregational meeting in March on the future of our children and youth ministries. Once they are compiled, our process will include:
- Checking in with participants from the meeting to make sure we accurately captured their work.
- Checking in with families and grandparents who couldn’t make it to the meeting and those who had to leave early to receive their input.
- Conceptually testing ideas with families inside and outside of the congregation (Would this idea serve a need your family has? What interests you or not about this idea? What would make you want to try it out?)
- Developing plans for initial experiments with new forms of ministry for children and youth (attractive and/or missional forms), based on the conceptual tests.
- Deciding what things to set aside or change in order to turn over resources for these experiments. Checking in with congregants and restructuring.
- Engaging the experiments. Learning. Developing other iterations of the experiments. Engaging. Learning. Developing other iterations, and so forth.
We need to care for one another through grief as we move forward, without letting grief drive our decision-making. The future of ministries for children and youth will be different than in the past. This is because the pandemic accelerated changes that were happening in the lives of families in the congregation even five years ago when the Sunday School model was in its final days. There are things we miss from the past. Here are some general notes about themes from the meeting:
- Families in the congregation that have kids living with them (mostly ages 10+) are feeling torn between wanting all that regular Sunday attendance used to offer but feeling a constant pull from many directions. They are trying their best to balance it all in the ways that make sense within the particular contexts of their family lives. Meanwhile, many kids are struggling with mental health issues, stress, and trauma.
- Grandparents in the congregation who have grandkids ages 10 and under are reporting a variety of very real struggles in their adult children’s lives, from financial to mental health, divorces to single parenting and co-parenting between homes, and so on, and they report that it is hard for families with kids to think about going to church, though many feel that their grandkids are being raised with UU values.
- We were able to very quickly name many resources we have to offer the Greater Danbury community, including children and youth. The ideas we had for how to use these assets to meet needs named by families ranged widely, but there were two more evidently recurring themes: (1) partnerships with other faith communities in Danbury and other UU congregations in CT to serve children in the community and (2) multigenerational activities, generational mentorship, and youth-adult leadership partnerships.
Warmly in Faith,
Upcoming in Religious Education
Children are always welcome in Sunday services. Alternatively, for children who would prefer, we have a child-led, play-based Religious Education activities available during services. Additionally, children and youth enrolled in the Our Whole Lives (OWL) Sexuality Education program for 7th-8th graders and 10th-11th graders meet at pre-pre-designated times included on this special programs calendar:
- Sunday, April 2 – Middle School OWL (NO High School OWL); High School Youth Con at Shelter Rock
- Sunday, April 9 – Easter! No regular programs or activities; Possible Easter Egg hunt
- Sunday, April 16 – End of Spring Break; No programs or activities for children and youth
- Sunday, April 23 – Middle School OWL (double session) and High School OWL
- Sunday, April 30 – Middle School OWL (NO High School OWL); High School begins preparation for Senior High Sunday