How can we better support college-aged Unitarian Universalists?

I am posting this as a place holder, to give people a place to make comments on the topics of campus outreach and ministry and how we can better support our young adults emotionally and spiritually.

Please post your thoughts and ideas and any experience you have. Please tell us a bit about yourself and where your opinions and ideas are coming from.

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5 Responses

  1. I’m a 23 year old who just went to my first UU fellowship this last Sunday, and I was so grateful to find a source of support, love, and acceptance in a world that is not usually so friendly toward questioning young adults. I already can’t wait to go back next Sunday and get further involved. Many of the things that are required to help us are already expressed in UU’s values, but some more age-specific suggestions are:

    * Validation and respect for our various experiences, in our transitioning child-to-adult stage. We are younger, but we have been through a lot, and we have a lot to share. Though it may be tempting to say something about how easy we have it nowadays compared to decades ago, that is often unhelpful and alienating. Things are very complicated for young people these days, what with social networking, economic/employment/political issues, school, AND spirituality. We need to feel respected for our view points and concerns.

    * Attention paid to our pasts, with regard to our upbringing. Many young people who are drawn to UU may have had tumultuous experiences with their parents or other adults with regard to differences in personal expectations and faith. Giving young people a chance to address and discuss these concepts can be very helpful and rewarding for personal growth. Emphasis on support through our own journey and our growth is vital.

    * On reaching out to young people – In my experience, there are a lot of people that are looking for a source of community in these trying times, especially young people. To some of us, this is a bit like joining a new family, in a world where such a thing isn’t as common anymore (sadly). We’d like to know that people will be there in our struggles, without passing judgement. We also want to know that we are free to speak our minds. Asking the young people in your congregation for their thoughts and ideas on how to better welcome young members is a great way to do this. Sometimes all we have to do is reach out to our own friends. Emphasis on a welcoming, non-judgemental, question-encouraging chuch environment will already be a huge draw. Advertising such an environment to local philosophy/religion college classes would be ideal.

    I hope that helps! Personally all I needed to get involved with UU was a little bit of Google searching. Making information about your gatherings available via your website, a Google page, or a Facebook page is really, really important to gaining new membership, especially of the young variety!

  2. I joined my UU Fellowship when I was in college and later stayed as I married and had kids. The UU was one of the few child friendly places I could go to get out of the house with my kids and yet have some adult time. It was my sanctuary away from a crappy marriage. It was my salvation and home during a liberating divorce, and continues to be a spiritual home for my kids. I’d like to see the UU develop more programs for young adult parents, especially the stay at home parents (which can be a mom or a dad) a program where the kids are entertained and the parents can have some small group time. Something like MOPs. Maybe even some “date nights” where parents can drop off the kids and have some time to be adults together.

    • This is a fantastic idea. It is (as you say in your other comment) a bit off topic, but it is worth consideration. I find myself with the same problem, once in a while, though my congregation has some really good programs for the kids, summers are a pain when RE classes are scaled back or skipped all together. We have child care for almost everything, but keeping kids busy isn’t the same thing as teaching them something.

  3. Crap…I started off with the college bit, and expanded into YA-hood in general. Sorry to get off topic with the parenting stuff. I think when I was in college I would have loved to have something like the CLF live online worship, on campus, where transportation wouldn’t be an issue, but organized as an event, where a group of us could watch it together. I think the OWL program done on campus would have been great. Sexuality is a big theme of YAhood, and college, and while I was well prepared by my family, there are some topics that they did not cover, such has homosexuality, and I was raised with quite a bit of “slut shaming” which took a long time for me to disassociate from.

    • Topics need to be fluid, and the other point might warrant discussion on its own.

      Technology has changed things so much. Now, you can use Skype or Google to chat with the minister back home. Many congregations are posting sermons to YouTube. There is a lot more room for engagement, and it can be initiated from either end, if there is someone on the other end to pick up the signal. What about having weekly hangouts on Google for college students? Give them access to other campuses and to ministers and lay leaders from around the country, and see what they want to do?

      There was a webinar about community radio that the United Church of Christ posted this last week (thanks to Peter Bowden for the link). I know that we’ve got some good UU video being published, too. Again, Peter does some great work and the CLF’s services and weekly hangout, The VUU, could be good things to build a campus ministry on. Maybe we need to consider widening our scope and working on all-ages programing to help start conversations?

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