15 Year Review - Available Resources
Published resources for UU youth programming are developed and produced by the Youth Programs Director, the YRUU Programs Specialists, the Youth Council and its Steering Committee, the districts, local churches, and, from time to time, individual youth. New resources are continuously being created, so this review only captures a moment in time.
Given that the youth population is in a constant state of flux with leadership aging out as new inexperienced youth come in, resources and publications are important tools for passing along accumulated wisdom. Advisors, religious educators and ministers are continually asking for more resources in support of their ministry with youth. In order to be most effective, existing publications must be periodically updated and perpetually publicized so that those in need can readily find and use them. Currently, youth are asking for resources on worship, social action, building better youth groups, and issues concerning gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth.
In 1989, the YRUU Five-Year Review recommended the creation of a "new guide for group worship experiences for youth." To date, this has not been fulfilled. However, there are worship resources available in the current handbooks as well as the Ministry With Youth Module reader. In addition, YRUU has been given a grant from the Fund for Unitarian Universalism to hold a Spirituality Conference which is scheduled for May 1998. One of the intended outcomes of the conference is the creation of a worship resource book.
The following books have been published by the Youth Office in collaboration with the Youth Council and its Steering Committee:
- YACs to SACs: A Guide to District Programming, 1995.
- How to Be a Con Artist: Youth Conference Planning Handbook for Unitarian Universalists, Jason Happel et al, 1992.
- The Local Youth Group Program Handbook (currently being revised, expected in 1998).
- Youth Advisor's Handbook, Shell Tain, 1996.
These handbooks are available through the UUA Bookstore, along with several books written by Christian educators on ministry to youth, games, and building community in youth groups. These books are publicized in the UUA Bookstore Catalog under Religious Education - Youth. A collection of recommended books and curricula is also displayed for browsing at the Ministry With Youth Renaissance Module, Advisor Trainings and Leadership Development Conferences, and a printed bibliography is provided to participants. In addition, the Ministry With Youth Renaissance Module includes a reader that is a good resource for information on the "Five Components of Balanced Youth Programming." This reader is also distributed at Advisor Trainings.
We would like to commend the relatively recent publication dates of the above-listed handbooks. We also note the gap of over ten years since the most recent previous editions of the Youth Advisor's Handbook and the Local Youth Group Program Handbook, published in 1984 and 1985, respectively.
Youth Council has directed the Youth Office to provide the following pamphlets and handouts that introduce YRUU and support its values:
- Young Religious Unitarian Universalists
- Welcoming Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth into YRUU Resource for UU Youth who are Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender or Questioning
- Creating Rules in UU Youth Communities
- Recommended Racial Justice Action Projects (96-97)
- Con-Etiquette Compromise: Creating Smoking Policies
- District Youth Newsletter Handbook
- First Time Attendee Packet
- Principles for Establishment of Community
- Five Steps to Community Building
- Five Components to Balanced Youth Group Programming
- Consensus Decision-Making: What Makes it Work?
- Finding Consensus in a Meeting
- SAC PAC (for district social action coordinators)
These resources are provided to people on the local and district level by request and free of charge.
The Youth Office publishes Synapse, the YRUU newspaper which is mailed twice yearly to all congregations and all UU youth who request it; The Spider, an information packet designed to be the communications organ for Youth Council Representatives; and Youth Advisory, a newsletter on advisor issues sent to all advisors and congregations who request it. A section on "Youth" written by the Youth Office is included in each REACH packet.
Synapse, for which the YRUU Program Specialists serve as editors, is the primary communication link from the Youth Office to the YRUU population. A district or local group may submit their mailing list for Synapse subscription and those who attend the continental conference are also added. Recently, the Synapse mailing list has been about 12,000. The newspaper is budgeted for two issues a year at $3500 per issue, which is a cutback from three issues that occurred in 1989. Occasionally in recent years, a two-page Synapse (in lieu of the third issue) appeared in the World (at a cost of $2500). That budgetary item also no longer exists. The 1996-97 Steering Committee has gone on record as strongly recommending funding for another annual issue of Synapse.
Occasionally, questions arise concerning the appropriateness of specific content items for Synapse (i.e., four letter words, explicit material). Since Synapse is the communication arm of continental YRUU, the YRUU Steering Committee should be designated as the Synapse editorial board to advise the editors on content issues as needed.
Our interviews and information gathering suggests general approval for the publication, with the express desire for more issues, more often and more widely disseminated--again pointing to the ever-present need for better communication.
The Spider is a bi-monthly publication for YRUU Youth Council Representatives published by the Youth Office. It contains district reports, announcements of continental opportunities and other information and serves as the main avenue of communication from the Steering Committee and the Youth Office to the YCRs. In addition to being sent to Youth Council Representatives, The Spider is sent to district presidents, district religious education chairs, district executives and UUA field staff.
The Youth Advisory mailing list is difficult to update and maintain, but it is nonetheless critical. As discussed in the "Communication" section of "Adult Support," the establishment of an advisor networking and advocacy organization would do much to facilitate communication with and among youth advisors.
The most exciting new information resource available to UU youth is the internet. The opportunity it provides for youth and adults across the continent to reach out and support one another is bound to have a positive impact on problems of communication, the dissemination of information and consistency in programming. Given the geographical isolation of many of our congregations and the number of UU youth without access to district or continental activities, this new way of creating electronic community will only increase in utilization. However, books, pamphlets and, especially, human resources will continue to be critical elements for running effective local, district, and continental programs.
Unitarian Universalists seem to have taken to the electronic highway with incredible speed. It is probably safe to say that most UU youth know more about computers than their elders, and many active YRUUers use the Internet regularly. The UUA has created a venue for UU youth who have internet access to connect with each other through YRUU-L, the on-line mailing list for YRUU. Religious educators have their own list, REACH-L, where discussion also can occur around youth issues. The heavy advisor use of the YRUU-L soon made apparent a need for a separate on-line mailing list for discussing advisor issues, and in November of 1996 ADVISOR-L was launched.
In addition to these lists, there is a YRUU web page (http://uua.org/YRUU) which is maintained by the Youth Office. Related web pages are being created all the time by district YACs, local groups and individual youth, bringing new opportunities for youth, advisors, DREs and ministers to share information and resources. At the time of this report, the YRUU Web Page includes:
- Creating rules in a UU community
- Creating smoking policies
- Information for first time conferees
- Post high school information
- How to create district newsletters
- Community building
- Five Components of balanced youth programming
- Racial justice projects
- How to run a successful meeting
- Code of Ethics
- Planning Youth Sundays
- Continental and District calendars of events
The YRUU Web Page, and on-line resources in general, should be utilized by YRUU and the Youth Office to the fullest extent possible. The Youth Advisor's Handbook and other available publications and pamphlets should be considered for dissemination through the internet, with the understanding that there are a number of factors to be weighed in such a decision. In addition, control of the YRUU Web Page should remain in the Youth Office, with Steering Committee serving as its editorial board.
Transitional Age Range Support Junior High
While many of the available youth group resources can be used with Junior High-aged youth, most congregations do not include 12- and 13-year-old youth in YRUU activities. DREs in particular have expressed a desire for the development of more youth group resources designed specifically for use with the Junior High age. According to the Youth Office, the Local Youth Group Handbook, currently under revision, will have a section specifically dedicated to ministry with Junior High youth. Additionally, it is the Youth Office's intention that all aspects of programming in the handbook will be applicable to the Junior High age range.
To address the needs of youth who are aging out of YRUU, the Youth Office has published, as mentioned above, a pamphlet entitled "The Post High School Survival Kit". Currently, this pamphlet is being updated. Institutionally, the next stop for a young person in UUism is the UU Young Adult Network (UUYAN), formed in the mid-80s to address needs of UUs between the ages of 18 and 35. However, recently there has been discussion on the YRUU-L online mailing list that many former YRUUers in the college age range (18-22) do not feel they have enough in common with the 25- to 30-year-olds to feel comfortable in UUYAN programs. Campus ministries, which have experienced tremendous growth in recent years, is one answer to this problem. But it is important not to assume that this meets the needs of all 18- to 22-year-old UU young adults. Non-campus young adult programs need to be reviewed for their inclusiveness of the 18- to 22-year-old age range. The current revision of "The Post High School Survival Kit" would benefit from consultation with the continental UUYAN and the Young Adult Ministries Office to add the perspective of people who have made the transition.
Since the last review there has been some increase in the amount of curricula available for youth. However, to ask what youth-oriented curricula are available from the UUA is different from asking what youth-oriented curricula are currently in use by UU congregations since some congregations may be using out-of-print curricula (1) (see Appendix F for curriculum notes). Therefore, it is important to note that this review primarily considers available and anticipated curricula, rather than materials which have been in use.
Curriculum Mapping is one place to begin when looking
for curricula. The UUA Bookstore Catalog (2) describes the 1996
edition of Curriculum Mapping, A Guide to Unitarian Universalist
Curricula as "a directory of the most effective and widely
used UU curricula currently available." Curriculum Mapping
lists six Junior High curricula (3), four Senior High curricula
(4), three Multi-Age Resources with some relevance to youth (5),
and one curriculum (6) under Elementary Resources "easily
adapted for high school and intergenerational use." Each
curriculum's strengths and weaknesses are reviewed. REACH
(Religious Education Action Clearing House), "A packet of
resources for lifespan RE programs" published twice a year
and sent free to every UU congregation, should be consulted to
obtain up-to-date information about new curricula.(7)
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We wish to challenge two apparent operating assumptions of the UUA Religious Education Department: 1) that curricula should be created in thematic, multi-session packages after lengthy development and field testing; and 2) that there is no demand for new senior high curricula.
The latter assumption is the result of a philosophical emphasis from the Religious Education Department on developing youth leadership and YRUU programs, as well as a widely held perception that congregations have also shifted emphasis from religious education classes to YRUU programs. We have found that some are trying to run both classes and youth groups, and a few have only classes. One of the five components of balanced programming for youth groups is learning. While we acknowledge that learning can also happen experientially, it is important that we not lose sight of the need some congregations have expressed for guided learning resources.
Half-year and year-long theme-based curriculum packages are appropriate for children's religious education. Youth, on the other hand, like adults, need to be given the opportunity to be flexible, exercise some options and even direct for themselves their mode of learning. One way to afford youth some degree of control of their learning process is to develop an alternative curriculum model which focuses on short-term four- to six-week mini-courses and single session workshops. Such short-format, workshop-like curriculum units can be made adaptable for use either in local youth groups or at weekend and week-long youth conferences. In keeping with our philosophy of youth empowerment, consideration must also be given to designing these curricula so that they can be facilitated by either youth or adults. For youth who have come into our religious movement at high school age, there is a particular need for a short-format curriculum which introduces Unitarian Universalist principles and traditions.
One advantage in the development of short-format curricula is that it can be done more quickly than the standard multi-session packages that are developed over a period of years and include extensive field testing. However, another advantage is the vast resource of youth-led, short-format workshop materials that exists in the youth themselves. There are a number of standard conference workshops that have been passed in grass-roots fashion from conference to conference by youth leadership across the continent. A set of guidelines on how to develop and publish workshop curricula would facilitate the youth in fully utilizing the wisdom and creativity they already bring to their own programming. With the proliferation of desktop publishing, curricula can easily be published by youth and distributed on-line to other groups and districts. From time to time, these grass-roots generated materials can be collected by the Youth Office for more formal publication.
Life Issues for Teens (LIFT), a 20-session theme-based package dealing with interpersonal communication, relationships, life crises and transitions, is the only curriculum described in the current Local Youth Group Program Handbook. Published in 1985, by now LIFT is dated and lacks an approach which reflects our UU philosophy of youth empowerment. While the life issues this curriculum deals with are still relevant to teens, these topics might be better served in a different curriculum model.
Junior High Curricula
The About Your Sexuality (AYS) curriculum is the most significant youth curriculum developed by the UUA and used in our congregations. In addition to being a human sexuality education program, AYS is designed to develop group bonding and communication skills. Therefore, AYS at the junior high level plays a critical role in relation to high school-aged youth programs, as many AYS groups go on to become the nucleus of the local youth group.
Originally published in the early 1970s, About Your Sexuality was most recently revised in 1983, with an AIDS supplement added in 1985. For some years, it has been widely felt that a new approach was needed to the subject of human sexuality. As a result at the time of this report, a highly anticipated curriculum, Our Whole Lives (OWL), is being developed. This is planned to be a life-span curriculum with units for children, youth and adults. The junior high component of OWL is currently being field tested in 40 sites and, if successful, will be available within a year or so. A senior high component is also being developed which will be field tested beginning September, 1997. A former YRUU Programs Specialist has been hired as Sex Education Outreach Coordinator for the OWL Project to help develop an advocacy manual which will promote comprehensive sex education to other denominations and secular organizations.
Neighboring Faiths, the new version of the fondly remembered Church Across the Street, takes a broader approach than the original. In view of the fact that World Religions: A Year's Curriculum for Junior Youth, which up until now has been the most recent curriculum on the subject, is no longer available, the new program has been eagerly anticipated.
While there are more curricula available on the junior high level than on the senior high level, new resources are needed which will help our junior high youth develop leadership skills, an understanding of and appreciation for their own UU traditions and sources, and their own spirituality. Our UU philosophy of youth empowerment can also be introduced in junior high curricula.
Recognizing that the transition into adolescence can be the most significant in a person's life, in recent years a growing number of UU congregations have offered a Coming of Age program to their 7th and 8th grade youth. These programs are designed to help young people develop a strong sense of self-worth, a meaningful set of values, and explore their identity as UUs within the context of a demanding and complex society. While there is no UUA-published resource for Coming of Age programs, a collection of congregationally developed materials is available from the Youth Office. It has been the philosophy of the Religious Education Department that Coming of Age programs work best when the local congregation is invested in developing or adapting their own program to reflect local concerns, resources and opportunities.
This philosophy does not exclude the possibility that a guidebook or adaptable model curriculum may be a welcomed resource in many congregations trying to launch such a program for the first time. Youth Council 1996 addressed the need for a model program and work is progressing toward its development. The tendency among local congregations has been to emphasize the transition from church school into congregational membership, which does not address the transitional process into YRUU. We hope that Youth Council's initiative will lead to a richer experience for junior high youth and help them stay involved with our religious communities until they are old enough to join YRUU.
Curricula for Isolated Youth
Other than the scouting-oriented Religion in Life
booklets, there are no self-study curricula available for youth
from congregations with no youth programming. While curricula
alone will not resolve the problem of isolation, current technology
provides an opportunity to offer curricula to isolated youth.
Weekly on-line "classes" or "chats" could
fill the need for exploration of Unitarian Universalism, UU approaches
to spirituality, as well as ethical, social and other issues.
Toward this end, On The Path, a curriculum on spirituality, is
already in the process of being made available on line.
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- Recommendation: That the Youth Programs Director establish a schedule for reviewing and updating the published resources of the Youth Office.
- Recommendation: That Steering Committee examine the Synapse distribution systems and mailing list, and consider new funding sources for an additional issue if desired.
- Recommendation: That Steering Committee serve as the editorial board for Synapse for the purpose of advising the editors on questions of appropriateness of specific content items.
- Recommendation: That the Youth Office consider putting the Youth Advisors' Handbook and other publications and resources on-line.
- Recommendation: That Continental UUYAN and Young Adult Ministries be consulted in the revision of the "Post High School Survival Kit" to add the perspective of people who have made the transition.
- Recommendation: That the Religious Education Department create, as well as invite the creation of, short-format (up to six sessions) curriculum modules for youth which may be youth led; that one such module specifically provide a model for developing short-format youth-led curricula.
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