YRUU A Five-Year Review of Programs for Youth 1989 - Structure

YRUU Five Year Review

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YRUU 5 Year Review - III - Findings and Recommendations

C. Structure and accountability

1. The continental level


The transition from LRY to YRUU involved a shift in the youth movement's structural relationship with the UUA. Liberal Religious Youth was a separately incorporated, autonomous body whose executive committee was funded by the UUA and a small endowment. Until 1969 the UUA employed an LRY Executive Director to work with LRY. LRY then requested and was given complete autonomy from the UUA. After that the UUA had little formal participation in LRYs governance. aside from providing the annual budget.

The relationship between YRUU and the UUA is quite different. Like the Common Ground conferences that wrote its initial bylaws, YRUU's continental decision-making bodies (the Youth Council and its Steering Committee) include youth and adults in a three-to-one ratio. This ratio has been an effective assurance that youth and adults will resolve problems which result from their different perspectives, rather than avoid them. Relations among the UUA, the congregations, and YRUU have been much better than was the case in the last years of LRY. The transition from LRY to YRUU was a shift from youth autonomy to youth-adult collaboration.

YRUU's continental structure is, briefly, this:

The Youth Council is composed of 24 youth chosen by the district YRUU organizations; three youth elected to represent the junior-high, senior high, and post-high age groups, seven adults chosen by the UUA Board of Trustees on nominations from the Steering Committee; and one member of the UUA Board. The Youth Council meets for one week each summer. Its function is roughly analogous to that of the UUA General Assembly, which it resembles in many ways: It makes policy, adopts the themes for the YRUU Continental Conference, passes resolutions, offers leadership training, and is an enriching experience of community, worship, and shared purpose for many participants. Amendments to the YRUU bylaws proposed by the Youth Council must be approved by the UUA Board.

The Steering Committee has eight voting members, including five youth and one adult elected by the Youth Council, the UUA Board liaison, and the youth member of the Religious Education Advisory Committee (REAC). The Steering Committee sets the agenda for the Youth Council and the Continental Conference. Until this year it has met three times per year; it now meets twice per year.

The Youth Office consists of an adult Youth Programs Director, two Youth Program Specialists, and a part-time clerical assistant. The Youth Program Specialists are nominated by the Steering Committee, appointed by the UUA Administration, and are paid from the Religious Education Department budget.

These positions were initially called "Youth Staff" in the YRUU Bylaws and "Youth Staff Interns' colloquially among the Administration. In 1987, the Youth Council adopted a bylaw amendment to change the job title to "Youth Program Specialist," in order to conform with the title informally adopted by recent incumbents and unofficially accepted by the Steering Committee, Youth Council Representatives, and others. While the UUA Board also approved this bylaw change, reactions of members of the Board and Administration ranged from confusion to skepticism about its accuracy and appropriateness.

Lines of authority connecting the Youth Programs Director and the Youth Program Specialists are confused. The YRUU bylaws, UUA job descriptions, and several statements by the Steering Committee give conflicting accounts of the nature of the relationship, calling it "supervisory,"collegiate,"or "associate," or dividing it in various ways. We believe that the current arrangement, in spite of its ambiguity, has been relatively successful, but we think it would be enhanced if the roles of the Youth Council, the Steering Committee, Youth Program Specialists, and the Youth Programs Director were clarified.

We also feel that it is wasteful to have three full time program staff working with so little clerical support.

The Youth Council, functioning in a way that often closely resembles the UUA General Assembly (which many of its leaders attend), has done excellent work on important issues. We found that many of the questions we have dealt with as a committee have been thoroughly explored by the Youth Council. Like any large group that meets infrequently, the Youth Council is limited in the number of decisions it can make and the degree of detail it can or should get into. But its work is generally creative and constructive and deserves more attention than it often gets.

The role of the Steering Committee is an important one. It is unrealistic to expect a committee, even meeting three times a year, to supervise full time staff. But even to implement Youth Council policies, two meetings a year is too few. We see the reduced budget for meetings (from three to two per year) as a serious obstacle to the Steering Committee's continued effectiveness. With their small number of meetings and the rapid turnover of their membership, the Steering Committee faces a real challenge to its ability to guide staff priorities. In some cases, the Youth Program Specialists, lacking both a staff supervisor with a clear mandate and effective supervision from the Steering Cornmittee, have substituted personal interests for YRUU policy in deciding how to spend their time (see "Program Content" below). We think it might help if the Steering Committee strengthened its priority setting and evaluation.

The UUA youth budget (including income from the LRY endowment, which was transferred to the UUA) is under the control of the UUA Board and administration. The UUA pays for the Youth Council and Steering Committee meetings, staff salaries and benefits, the publication of Synapse, and all other costs of the Youth Office. YRUU costs appear in the Youth Office budget together with those of a variety of other youth programs, which has made it difficult for the Youth Council or the Steering Committee to have a clear sense of YRUU's budget allocations and expenditures. We believe that a discrete budget would strengthen YRUU's fiscal awareness and planning.


  • 1. We recommend that the title for the youth members of the Youth Office staff be changed from "Youth Program Specialist" to "YRUU Program Coordinator." This more accurately reflects the extent of expertise and responsibility, as well as clearly defining their primary affiliation with YRUU rather than other youth programs supported by the UUA.

  • 2. We recommend that the Youth Programs Director be clearly identified as the supervisor of the Youth Program Specialists.

  • 3. We recommend that the position of the assistant who reports to the Youth Programs Director be upgraded to full time.

  • 4. We recommend that the Youth Council continue to establish policy and program priorities for YRUU, and that the Youth Office and the Steering Committee clarify the division of responsibility for UUA youth programs among YRUU, the Youth Staff, and other entities.

  • 5. We recommend that funding sufficient for three meetings of the Steering Committee per year be restored in future UUA budgets, beginning with fiscal year 1989-1990.

  • 6. We recommend that the Steering Committee develop a process through which the Youth Council's year-by-year priorities concerning policy and programs are annually evaluated in the light of YRUU's purposes. This review should cover maj or activities of the Youth Office, such as staff travel, Synapse, program materials, etc. The Youth Staff should engage with the Steering Committee in conducting this evaluation.

  • 7. We recommend that YRUU's full program costs appear in the UUA budget separately from the "Youth Programs" budget lines, and in a similar degree of detail.

2. The district level


We found great variety in the health of district YACs and in the success of the youth conferences and programs they conduct. To flourish, district YACs need a continuity of committed and skilled adults to work with the youth, who can only serve for a limited period.

We also found great differences among the districts in the liaison between the district board and the Youth-Adult Committee (YAC) or other body charged with providing district youth programs. Some districts have both a youth and an adult YAC member on the board. Others have a YAC liaison who attends board meetings without the right to vote. In still other cases, there seems to be no formal arrangement at all. The experience of our most successful districts shows that youth programs are best served when there is a formal liaison between the district board and the Youth Adult Committee.

It is important that district YACs be in regular communication with all district committees concerned with youth programs. and especially the district RE committee.

Both youth and adult members of the UUA Youth Staff have been successful in helping district YACs when one of them has made a consultation visit. Budget constraints and reductions, however, have reduced the possibility of this service. We believe that this type of consultation should take precedence over travel to continental-level events that benefit a smaller number of youth. We have found a frequent lack of communication by district YACS and groups sponsoring youth conferences with UU youth who have not recently attended such activities. This is not always the conference planners' fault- address lists are hard to keep up to date, and mail often gets lost in congregation offices. But it is important to the trust between the youth movement and the congregations that all UU youth be invited when events are planned under YRUU auspices.

Youth advisors need help in dealing with the considerable responsibilities they take on when their group sponsors a conference. Advisors in a district or cluster need to do some vital networking to check out and support plans for a conference, clarify their role in supporting a smoothly running conference, and know strategies for dealing with problems.


  • 1. We urge all districts to provide for ongoing and official representation of youth and of adults who work with youth on district boards and religious education committees.

  • 2. We urge district staff, officers, and boards to accept responsibility for the recruitment, training, and support of adult advisors for district youth programs.

  • 3. We urge the Youth Office to publish the long awaited conference planning manual to assist groups and districts in planning and conducting good conferences, and to emphasize conference planning skills when they consult with district leaders.

  • 4. We urge district YACs and other conference planners to send information on their activities to each congregation In their district.

See the YRUU Continental Structure Flowchart [Sorry, this isn't archived]


Translated from the original text document to htm by Lorne Tyndale, YRUU Programmes Specialist September 1993 - August 1994. The document was on lryer.org. I have placed the document on this site as I've been notified that lryer.org appears to be down.

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