SCOYP -- Report of the Special Committee on Youth Programs to the UUA Board of Trustees
In seeking to fulfill its charge, the Committee has taken these steps and followed this process:
A. Gathering of information
Questionnaires and requests for information were sent to the following groups and individuals:
- LRY Federations
- UUA District Boards
- UUA Interdistrict Representatives
- Unitarian Universalist ministers and Directors of Religious Education - 1976-77 LRY Continental Executives
- Directors of UU Camps and Conferences (Summer)
- LRY'ers attending the 1977 LRY Continental Conference
Summary statements from the questionnaires have been compiled and are available to the UUA Board of Trustees.
Information from the 1977 UUA Annual Questionnaire from Churches and Fellowships regarding youth.groups was tabulated.
Statements of Goals from the 1976-77 Continental LRY Executive Committee were received.
B. Position Papers.
Each member of the Committee developed an individual position paper to help clarify key concepts of concern:
- Goals of youth programming, including the gaining of a religious perspective and rites of passage
- Role of advisors and adults working with youth
- Youth autonomy
The Committee held four meetings:
October 22-23, 1976, Boston, Massachusetts; included a meeting with LRY Continental Executives
March 16-20, 1977. Atlanta, Georgia; included attendance at the Southeast Program Development Institute on Youth Programming (on the 19th and 20th)
May 19-22. 1977. Minneapolis, Minnesota; included a consultation with Gisela Knopka, D.S.W., and staff from the Center for Youth Development at the University of Minnesota
October 26-29, 1977, Boston, Massachusetts; included sessions with representatives from the LRY Board, LRY Continental Executives, and Dr. Paul Carnes, UUA President
D. Readings and Resources Used by the Committee.
- "Follow the Gleam," an unpublished history of LRY by Wayne Arnason
- Review of the denominational history of financial support for youth
- "The Problems of Faith Development in Young Adults," pamphlet by the Alban Institute
- "A Short Subjective History of UU Youth Movement." by C. Leon Hopper
- Material describing LRY given the Committee by LRY
- People Soup
- LRY Advisors Handbook
- Attended the Southeast Interdistrict Program Development Institute on Youth Programming
- Interview and consultation with Dr. Gisela Knopka and her associates at the Center for Youth Development and Research, National Youth Worker Education Project, University of Minnesota
- Individual Committee members met with or attended five UUA District Boards, FUURL, three UUMA Chapter meetings, the 1977 LRY Continental Conference, RE Continental Conclave, Rowe Camp, IARF conference, Starr King School, LRY Federation conferences, UUA General Assembly, UUA Staff, UUA Youth/ Adult Committee, and 76-77 and 77-78 Continental LRY Executive Committees in addition to having many conversations with individuals representing,many different aspects.of youth concerns.
Following discussion of the individual position papers and review of responses from Committee questionnaires, the Committee formulated the following statements of the Committee's position for denominational objectives for Youth Programming, Adult/Youth Relationships, and Youth Relationship to Church/Fellowship and Denomination:
Young adults are searching for meaning in life and for personal identity. They seek continuity, power, and a responsible place in the world. Because of extended adolescence and the dissolving nature of contemporary community, the search and the space to find personal answers are increasingly disparate. UUA program goals for youth must be responsive to the needs of youth, or youth will continue to drop out and vanish. UU societies should provide meaningful programs to their youth in a consistent way. A program for youth needs to offer a safe space for transition and passage; it needs to offer experience with real power, an opportunity to develop a personal religious philosophy, and significant, meaningful work. The programs should foster a commitment to the larger UU body, celebrate potential for continuous growth and change throughout life, and affirm the questioning stance of adolescence.
If a program or group works well, a family-type, bonded atmosphere will prevail. Inclusive gatherings yield the essence of community and offer a safe place in the world to explore, learn, enjoy life, and care for others.
The conditions for healthy development should provide young people with the following opportunities:
"to participate as citizens, as members of a household, as workers, as responsible members of society;
to gain experience in decision making;
to interact with peers and acquire a sense of belonging;
to reflect on self in relation to others and to discover self by looking outward as well as inward;
to disuss conflicting values and formulate their own value system;
to experiment with their own identity, with relationships to other people, with ideas; to try out various roles without having to commit themselves irrevocably;
to develop a feeling of accountability in the context of a relationship among equals;
to cultivate a capacity to enjoy life," *
Adults working with youth must be authentic, secure in their adulthood, and able to stand by their principles without trying to "program" young people. Adults should be able to facilitate self-exploration, the facing of difficult decisions, and the examination of the consequences of decisions on the part of youth in an open, growth Rroducing fashion. Adults should set limits with respect to their rights as human beings and should be ready to confront issues related to this at every opportunity. They should realize that abuse of sexuality and intoxicating chemicals by adolescents is frequently a purposeful attempt at control of self and others, or is goal directed in some other way, and that these issues should be explored. Adults who work with young people should be optimistic about the possibilities for growth and should inspire self confidence in youth. Manipulative personal involvements between group advisors and youth are devisive and destructive of the group's efforts at personal empowerment.
Most important in adults working with youth is a constant commitment to freedom and responsibility as inseparable ideals, and a feeling of security in one's adulthood. Some expertise in human relations, familiarity with counseling and growth and development would be valuable. Adolescence is a time of self-examination and of developing a commitment to others. Young people (and adults) need love, acceptance, security, and approval.
Adults working with youth should be members of the UU community. They should be familiar with the goals of the church or fellowship and see the young people as valuable members of the UU community. The denomination has the responsibility to adults working with youth to provide training and support that will enable them to carry out their charge. Responsibilities between adults and youth are reciprocal--they go both ways. The youth advisor should be an indicator that adults care about young people and feel that what they are doing is of importance.
YOUTH RELATIONSHIP TO CHURCH/FELLOWSHIP AND DENOMINATION
A youth group can create an enviroment that encourages the friendships that develop as youth learn from each other in their struggle with transition. To create community in our churches and fellowships we must have positive interaction between all ages. Communication may be more difficult between youth and adults. So it is necessary that we encourage ourselves to lis ten and interact.
The relationship of the youth group to its church or fellowship must be one that will affirm the experience of youth in determining their own direction and learning the responsibility implicit in that freedom. Youth need support from adults as they strive to build self-esteem. The church or fellowship must welcome youth, help them to feel they are appreciated, accept them as an integral part of the UU community. Youth programs in our churches and fellowships deserve and are entitled to the same kind of personal, financial, and staff support that other activities receive. Youth must be able to trust that adults do care about them and will support them in their growth. In turn, youth should honor this relationship with the church fellowship through respect, commitment, and a sense of responsibility.
* Knopka,-Gisela. Director, Center for youth Development and Research, University of Minnesota.
Translated from the original text document to HTML by Lorne Tyndale, YRUU Programmes Specialist September 1993 - August 1994