YRUU A Five-Year Review of Programs for Youth 1989 - Appendix E

YRUU Five Year Review

Return to Governance index | Return to YRUU Five Year Review TOC

Interview with Wayne Arnason

Appendix E.
The Reverend Wayne Arnason, who served as UUA Youth Programs Director during the Common Ground period, was interviewed by Dan Hotchkiss, Ann Harnar, and Gene Navias at the UUA General Assembly in Palm Springs, California, on June 20, 1988. The following summary of Rev. Arnason's views as expressed during that interview was prepared by Gene Navias.

1. How would you describe the history and politics that led up to Common Grounds I and II?

A. The idea arose out of political necessity. Around 1977 the UUA board appointed a task force like this one, but under a negative climate, a sense that LRY had lost general adult support at all levels. Locals had usual problems with limited adult involvement; districts were moribund; what was functioning was doing so "in a vacuum"; adults were detached from or even hostile toward the organization as whole.

B. There was dissatisfaction with youth leadership in Boston. Annual turnover precluded continuity.

C. The number of youth involved was decreasing because adults were not wanting their kids to be involved.

D. Congregations were finding it harder to find adults to be involved. Ideology of youth autonomy was used by some youth to justify detachment and a confrontational attitude.

E. There was a lack of substantive week-to-week programming, but there was a focus on conferences, which were experienced by adults as mysterious and threatening, and by youth as"at the heart of things." There was a lack of appreciation by adults of why the conference experience was so powerful; it became something that was worth fighting for and about.

F. Adults/churches didn't see conferences as sufficient youth group programming, didn't understand the spiritual dimension and the developmental needs that conferences were fulfilling.

G. Increasingly, LRY was serving a minority of youth. Gradually local congregations were organizing alternatives to LRY with a different approach. Such organization took place in some districts such as Michigan and Southwest.

H.Youth autonomy as it was experienced involved a real counter dependency, with some hostility among youth, LRY, and congregations. The youth culture of the 1970s was running out of steam, so our youth were living out a cultural expression that they hadn't helped create. They were being very conformist to a lifestyle (hippy), but thought of themselves as autonomous- a paradox of youth development.

I. The SCOYP Report was a thoughtful, balanced document. The UUA board and President Carnes could not fully address it and picked the most negative criticisms and acted on them. Carnes decided continental LRY was no longer viable and should be ended and a new beginning made. Bruce Southworth knows the politics of the SCOYP Committee with majority and minority reports. The UUA Administration supported the minority report, on which Bruce was the leader. The seed of Common Ground was in that report as written by Ann Heller.

J. In April 1979, the UUA board voted to eliminate funding to the LRY Executive Staff in Boston. Wayne sought to change this decision because he felt it to be ill advised. He felt responsible because he helped to set the pattern of youth autonomy at the 1969 GA. Wayne felt that youth leadership at the continental level should not be given up; if it was stopped, it would be hard to regain.

K. Paul Carnes died; Gene Pickett was elected UUA President.

L. In 1979, the goals of Wayne and others were to save LRY and there was politicking around this. Essentially, Pickett wanted there to be a UUA Youth Staff position. Wayne wanted to save the Youth Staff.

M. Wayne was appointed Youth Director and started in that position in January 1980. At the January 1980 board meeting. the issue of whether to continue or to cut the LRY Executive Committee was considered. At the Board of Trustees Finance Committee Hearing, Wayne proposed funding for a convention to start up a new youth organization from scratch. One goal was to save the idea of youth leadership at the continental level.

N. Wayne was hired to build/create a youth program that had broad denominational support.

0. The LRY board met in the summer of 1980, and its support was needed to get youth involvement in what became Common Ground. The several different parties in Common Ground had their own agendas but were generally open to exploring alternatives. There was enormous time pressure to put Common Ground together.

2. Please describe the assumptions behind Common Ground.

A. Structuring Common Ground with one third of the delegates being adults was absolutely new. The inclusion of adults implied that adult involvement was crucial, that we needed to have greater adult youth dialogue, relations, rapport. The acceptance of that by the youth was a major accomplishment. The adults also discovered that youth wanted to change their organization and were not monolithic in their views.

B. Districts which had no youth programming in many years became involved in Common Ground. Wayne went to almost every district to get such involvement.

3. Please describe the evolution of the current age range.

A. I think originally it was proposed as covering ages 12 to 22 years, but there was no one younger than 14 years there.

B. Some groups of 12 to 14 year olds called themselves LRY.

C. On the floor of Common Ground there were lobbies to include junior-high and post-high. There were no strong voices for limiting YRUU to senior high youth.

D. The shift was from LRY as a membership organization that was self-determining to YRUU, which was to be a service organization.

E. Leadership on the continental level are staff, selected on application, and not elected by the grass roots. The Youth Council is the closest thing to old LRY as a democratically elected group.

F. The relationship between the YRUU Council and the UUA staff was deliberately "fudged."

G. The greatest ambiguities were the relation of youth staff to the UUA Administration and to the YRUU Council. This was never made clear; the vagueness was left to help the UUA think it was in control and the Council to think it had power.

H. YRUU Council and Steering Committee are really to provide advice so that service is given to youth programming. This was never spelled out clearly in a flow chart. LRY was to serve its members.

I. YRUU's purpose is to serve the youth and the youth programming of the denomination. Common Ground made every youth a member and no one a member.

J. Wayne believes that the tension between the UUA and the YRUU Council is inevitable and reflects the developmental tension between youth and adults.

K. Wayne did not expect 20-to-22-year-old youth to be so consistently elected to youth staff positions.

L. Wayne hoped that Youth Staff members would be between high- school and college-age youth 17-to- 19-year-olds.

M. Older staff of 21 to 23 years present a problem as adults because they see themselves as self-determining.

N. Wayne envisioned Youth Staff as interns who learned their job as well as sharing the good experience they brought. As such they would expect supervision by the Program Director. The original term used by Wayne was "intern," which was rejected by the Youth Staff as the years went on.

4. What should the Program Directors role be?

A. YRUU needs to continue to have a sense of itself as an organization that invites youth to move through the levels of rank, so YRUU needs to be a leadership development program.

B. YRUU saw itself as a political structure that was like a school for youth leadership. Yet the Youth Office had other programs that serve the youth of the denomination.

C. The staff person does have a responsibility to nurture YRUU, but also has lots of other responsibilities for youth. Adults at Common Ground saw no one else serving junior highers at the UUA and thought therefore that YRUU should do something.

5. Age Range- there's some more to say...

A. I don't think junior high has ever been a meaningful part of YRUU. There was never a junior high constituency of LRY.

B. Junior-high youth inclusion in YRUU was an adult concept, out of guilt and concern.

C. The real question is how and who will serve junior highers.

D. Wayne agreed that we need the staff to serve junior highers and don't have it.

E. Wayne recommends that the UUA needs to provide more programming for junior highers and remove junior highers from YRUU.

F. The big problem with post-high youth is how to relate to youth 18 to 20 years who have a real commitment to the denomination and have no other place to go and how they can be included in good programming.

G. Wayne supported the inclusion of youth ages 19 to 22 years because they would be in leadership positions and those who wanted to would have such inclusion.

H. Wayne, what do you think of our tentative proposal that members would be limited to youth ages 14 to 18 years with cutoff of 19, and that youth Staff members would be up to 20 years at time of appointment? I think that it would work to include most of the Youth Staff we've had.

6. Issue of supervision by Director of Youth Staff

A.Wayne worked out with Youth Staff that it was both good educationally for him to be supervisor and was needed by the UUA Administration. It was, however, dependent on trust. Wayne tried to be very collegial in the office and gentle when he had to pull rank. It required thoughtful use of a collegial style parallel to that of the RE Department.

B. One of the things that is true of the situation is that the Youth Staff Specialists have very differing abilities.

7. What happens if a Youth Staff member isn't capable?

The Youth Staff Director helps either to put the project aside or to pick up the slack, depending on its importance.

8. Behavior rules

A. Wayne believes that the success of behavior standards rests on their being collectively and commonly agreed upon by the Youth. The worst thing that happens is if they are unilaterally imposed by adults. Youth leadership needs to help create and administer them.

B. How kids experience rules being created at the district level will prepare them for continental ones.

C. Rule formulation needs to be a collaborative effort of youth and adults. The council eeds to evaluate the use of rules at Con-Con.

9. District YACs

A. What do you see? "Mine sucks." I don't know about other districts. We had a youth committee and studied and made recommendations to the district board. and they did not follow the recommendations.

B. I'm sad that district programs seem weaker than they were.

C. Common Ground started and motivated adult involvement and support that lasted for some years. We need to provide some new motivation again.

10. How can we increase support and involvement of adults in youth work?

We need to motivate and train adults at the local level. We need commitment of congregations, districts, and UUA. Wayne did a lot of traveling to do work with YACs and provide training. He sees this as a need.


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.

Return to Governance index