Though it seems, at times, we might never be physically together again, the time will come someday when a vaccine is here and the virus has had its run. A time will come, at last, when we will be able to join together in community and worship once more. I look forward to these times, as we are strong at building this “virtual” community. However, there is nothing quite like the hum and the rustle of a crowd gathering to all share and worship together with love music in our hearts. My hope is, upon our return (and even now), we engage our children and youth to feel like active, whole participants with a voice that matters, rather than marginalized outsiders sitting on the sidelines.
When we first arrived at East Shore for the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service two years ago, we felt welcomed with open arms. Our son, who can be unpredictably challenging at times, was running in the sanctuary ahead of me and I was frazzled and trying to give attention to my daughter. I was assured he could run prior to people sitting down and so with some trepidation I let him do just that. I was told a little noise and running wasn’t going to scare East Shore off. This was the most immense relief to me at the time when there were few places I could go where I could feel remotely relaxed with him around other people who didn’t know him well. For a time, it felt like I was in a space where I was in a community where people would feel comfortable redirecting each other’s children and acting as a unit. I was fortunate as not every family I have spoken to at East Shore has had that same experience.
When different generations come together in service, relationships begin to form as young and old learn from one another and begin to appreciate each other in the context of growing in community. Every person in the congregation, regardless of age, appearance, or skills, has both value and purpose. Our role is to help identify the gifts and talents of each person in our congregation and encourage all generations to be involved in decision-making and leadership.
How Do We Do This?
The key to inviting children to use their gifts and talents in the service of the community is being intentional about identifying them and then asking the children to put those gifts to use for the good of the community. Too often we think of children’s ministry as doing something for our children. We need to expand our thinking to see that it is also working with our children and allowing them to minister to the adults. But we need to take the time to think creatively about what it is our children can contribute and then find ways to make that contribution meaningful for them and for the other generations of the community.
Allowing children to serve the church with their gifts and talents cements them to our community and gives them a solid base of people who know and love them. This can reap enormous spiritual benefits when children reach adolescence and young adulthood. These opportunities promote the feeling of belonging to our community, which is so important for children’s spiritual growth. And adults grow spiritually when they accept gifts from children and allow children to contribute their time and skills to the congregation. It is a reminder of what being a Unitarian Universalist is all about.
As Congregations, We Want to Encourage…
- All generations to see that our young people have something to offer.
- Calling and Equipping Our Younger Leaders Through Ministry Teams.
- Giving Young People Opportunities to Voice How They Would like to See Events/Ministry Occur.
- Inviting Youth to Participate in the Planning of a Shared Future Together
Belonging to something bigger is something hardwired into each of us. One of the fastest ways to help someone begin to feel like they belong is inviting them to contribute. Children and young people are no different. When a church genuinely creates space for children and young people to find a contributory role that uses their gifts and talents, they can truly begin to know they belong.
How Can I Help Right Now?
The Children and Youth Programs invite you to come to check out what they are up to in their RE program at 9:30 am on Sunday, in the same room as worship.
Children and Youth Programs needs your support with volunteers in the RE classrooms on Sunday mornings or Friday Nights. The kids would love to get to know other adults in their community. To get involved, check out our programs or email Amanda Uluhan.
by Signe Lalish, Vice-President