Lifespan Religious Education

Children’s Religious Education/Spiritual Exploration

With mom and baby after baby dedication

Julie has been a great person to work with. When we get together to talk about multi-gen services, Spiritual Exploration programs and events, and story for all ages, etc., the creativity starts rolling! We have so much fun coming up with exciting way for the kids to learn. Julie integrates SE into the whole congregation, and she is very supportive of SE as well. I’ve enjoyed working with her, and she will be a great addition to any congregation.”

Trisha Ibrahim, Spiritual Exploration Coordinator, Community UUs of Brighton

My philosophy around ministry to children is rooted in the teachings of Sophia Lyon Fahs. She says that children have spiritual lives that need tending. Worship is useful to them. They are capable of experiencing awe and wonder. They feel human connection. They have unstifled imagination. I think most themes and messages that adults can receive can also be received by children, if they are catered to appropriate for their age. I also think adults benefit from being in worship and community with children. Being around children gives adults permission to be more playful and embodied. Also, when I have a complicated message to give, I often find that the perfect children’s story distills that message and makes it more digestible for adults also. Below is a story I wrote for a sermon on the difficult topic of policing.

You can also read I sermon I wrote as a children’s story.

RE/SE for Youth and Young Adults

Youth ministry is something I am passionate about. Coming of age as a Unitarian Universalist meant that my social group was comprised of people who were deeply grounded in shared values while learning what it meant to be a person in the world. We can only benefit from having young people who create a values system as part of their formative process.

Rev. Julie goes out of her way to include me. I have learned a lot more about being UU and what it means from her.

Ellie, age 14
Youth member giving the charge from the youth at my ordination.

Youth ministry was important to me as a youth, so I have made it a priority to support youth as a minister. I learn new things from my youth all the time, and so I asked the youth in my ordaining congregation to give me a charge for my ministry. I supported the youth when they wanted to host a youth conference, helped them to plan it, and hosted a workshop on how youth worship evolved throughout UUism; it culminated in their own beautiful worship that we then offered to the congregation.

Cait, CUUB youth group leader

I also led the campus ministry and young adult groups in my intern congregation in Madison, Wisconsin. Ministry to young adults is different than ministry to youth, but also needs to be specifically welcoming, as many young adults do not find a large cohort of themselves sitting in our pews on Sunday morning. This is a blog post I wrote about this topic for the UUA’s young adult centered Blue Boat Blog.

RE/SE for Adults

Co-facilitating a conversation on racial justice with Kamau Landis (center) at First Universalist Church of Rochester, MN

Small group ministry is one of my most valued activities at CUUB. As a trained educator and facilitator, I’m always impressed with Rev. Julie’s ability to be inclusive and bring energy and humor to our work together. I’ve learned so much about myself and what it means to be UU from our time together.”

Carrie Kempf – past president of Community UUs of Brighton; she participated in nearly all of the small group ministry offerings at CUUB.

There is no age at which humans stop learning and growing. I love that Unitarian Universalism is dedicated to supporting the search for truth and meaning through all stages of life. Getting together in small groups with a common learning goal helps make the congregation cohesive and progressive. I love holding discussions on books, using pre-made curriculum to learn and explore, or writing curriculum when I can’t find the perfect thing. I almost always engage someone from the congregation to lead with me, because I think collaboration is a key to learning. Here are some experiences people have had with my teaching and co-facilitation.

Rev. Julie and I collaborated on offering “A Search for Truth and Meaning”, an adult RE class focused on the exploration of our personal spiritual paths and history.  We were pleasantly surprised to have 23 people sign up for the class, which allowed for deeply personal and varied discussions around the monthly topics. Our time together ended in a weekend-long retreat at a local camp where we shared meals, walking a labyrinth, singing around the campfire, and meaningful workshops.  Many of the participants shared the thought that we should offer this every year – it was so important for them personally.  Rev. Julie excelled in adapting the curriculum to fit our congregation, and made us an amazing spaghetti dinner on our first night together at camp.  

Sue Kelly, co-facilitator of “A Search for Truth and Meaning” class.

For more information about my work in lifespan religious education, please read these references from religious educators at First Unitarian Society of Madison.