It’s no secret that I find wonderful ideas for our religious education programming from social media. Being able to query my colleagues all over North America when I have a question or am looking for a specific resource is invaluable.
Another blessing from this connection is perspective. Often when a colleague asks or answers a question they will share both the size of their congregation and the size of their religious education program. As you might imagine, both numbers vary widely.
So how does Heritage compare? Counting heads in an RE program is an art rather than a science. Do you count the child who is registered on paper but hasn’t been seen in church since August? What about new families that are still checking us out as a faith-home? Do you count high school students even though we don’t currently have a high school youth group? What about infants and toddlers in the nursery, do they count?
Our method has evolved over the years to include children and youth who have attended RE classes three or more times in a term according to our classroom attendance forms. We also count infants/toddlers AND high school students of regularly attending adult members.
How do we stack up? Using this method, in February (when we made our annual census report to the UUA) Heritage is currently serving 81 children/youth with a membership base of 171 adults. Think about that ratio for a moment. Does that help explain the level of joy and youthful exuberance in our building? (Isn’t it wonderful?) And, is it any wonder that we struggle to find RE program volunteers every term?
Even this number needs additional caveats. Although we report 81 children/youth, our average Sunday attendance hovers between 30 and 35. In his blog on Clarity, writer Will Mancini has a succinct explanation — time crunch.
Mancini writes that this time crunch is caused by
“Increasing involvement with kid’s activities including more ‘multiple activity’ commitments (sports, music, etc.) for longer durations with greater competitiveness. The growth of club sports and the intensity of competition creates a market for kids to get started earlier and be involved longer. This is literally eating our families alive when it comes to time.”
Sound familiar? The question then becomes — what can we do to provide a consistent, attractive, RE program for children who only come to RE once or twice a month?
That, my friends, is the $10,000 question.
Faithfully, and with exuberance,
Rev. Leslie Woodward