15 Year Review - Appendix B
Testimony From Youth Advisors
The following are some answers advisors gave to a series of questions posted on the ADVISOR-L on-line mailing list concerning support from their congregations and their personal philosophy of UU youth programming:
From the west coast: "I gather that the Youth Office and continental YRUU have one philosophy, and congregations largely have another. The continental level works from a paradigm of abundance. Youth have an institutional culture of effective youth leadership grounded in spiritual practice, supported and empowered by dedicated adults. The congregational level often works from a paradigm of scarcity, with staff viewing youth programming as a tedious extra tacked onto their job. Many advisors work without substantial support from the congregation and without awareness of denominational resources. I suspect that many successful congregational youth programs still consider themselves peripheral to the congregation and that the congregation stays more aware of, and takes more pride in, its pulpit ministry, its social action, its children's RE, its UUSC and UUWF and Interweave chapters. How many congregations consider their ministry with youth as one of their finest achievements?"
From the Mid-west: "I am somewhat fearful of to whom I can be speaking, since there appear to be so many opinionated adults who have yet to fully attend a YAC event, yet are more than willing to share their skewed and frequently inaccurate viewpoints. YAC has had to respond to several letters (that were not even sent directly to YAC) full of nonsense and false statements. It's hard to trust. I wish there were more adults, ministers and DREs, involved in our district activities, so that there were a larger pool of persons who were aware of the ongoing process. Sometimes I feel like I am the only youth advocate around."
From the West Coast: "We have just two advisors, both of us very dedicated to improving our youth program. It has grown and become recognized as an important aspect of our lifespan education programming. Our part-time DRE until this year had no involvement in our program except in letting us know what info got mailed to her that might be of interest to us. This year, we had a mini-crisis when we tried to enlist more volunteer help and got a very enthusiastic volunteer who had some emotional maturity problems. We all handled it well, coming together quickly. Our most excellent interim minister helped smooth relations before real crisis occurred. The DRE decided, even though she had little time to spare and acknowledging our autonomy in programming, that it was in everyone's interest for her to be more aware of what's going on with us. We agreed. We have started trying to meet on a monthly basis for communication and general support. It has been useful."
From the Mid-west: "Adult advisors need support in learning how to support youth without actually doing the things that youth can do for themselves. I would like to receive materials from the district that acknowledge me as a current youth advisor; support me in the "Big Picture" of what I am committed to providing for youth; inform me of conferences, meetings and other resources available to me; and provide me with an avenue for communication and feedback at the district level."
From the East Coast: "In so many districts, advisors are asked to make a tremendous investment of their time and deepest selves with little support, acknowledgement or compensation, "taking risks to build a vision of youth ministry not owned by their congregations, or supported passively, not actively. Youth are best served when 'empowerment' comes from the larger congregation, not just from individual advisors."
From the Northeast: "I would say at our church and in much of our district the programming philosophy is: safety, validation, empowerment, delight, community, and love. We provide a network of caring adults committed to the physical and emotional safety of all our youth. We provide activities and programs that serve to empower and validate their feelings of accomplishment and self-worth. We provide experiences that delight and create a sense of personal availability to the world at-large. We strive to continually build our relationships with each other from small groups, to large, to the community around us, to the world. We generously give and abundantly receive love."