As I look back on my seven plus years as your assistant minister responsible for faith formation in our children and youth, even I marvel at how much my central view has changed when it comes to religious education.
I used to believe that if we could find the right curriculum, the right volunteer teachers and mentors, and the right combination of learning and fun then our children’s ministry would thrive. Of course, it would naturally follow that our Heritage children would continue to be involved at church as youth and, once they had grown-and-flown, would remain Unitarian Universalist as adults.
I no longer believe this is true. Statistics back me up — only about 12% of adult members in UU congregations were raised as Unitarian Universalists. Yes, an absolutely dismal statistic. What can we do about it?
Among my colleagues, one of the most important conversations going on now is acknowledging the place of parents/guardians as the primary religious educators in their family. Research has shown that if families do not actively participate in the religious education of their children at home and out in the world then most of what is taught to our children in Sunday morning programming will not stick.
Many parents believe that by having their children participate in religious programing at church on Sunday mornings, they have done their job of passing on their UU faith to their kids. If that were true, our churches would be teeming with adults who were raised Unitarian Universalists. We might even be so bold as to say that if the parents are not actively involved in transmitting their own faith to their children, we might be wasting our time in Sunday morning RE.
Unfortunately, parents cannot pass on what they don’t have — a comprehensive knowledge of what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist and how our faith informs the way we live and act in the world. Most Unitarian Universalists became UUs as adult seekers, either leaving behind their own religious upbringing or growing up in unchurched families. Understandably, they often feel inadequate as religious teachers of their own children. Perhaps more than any other faith community, Unitarian Universalist parents need support in fulfilling their role as the primary religious educators of their children.
Our new source of religious exploration programming, the Soul Matters Sharing Circle, is one way for Heritage to help meet that need for information and support. As our children explore a monthly theme in all their RE classes, parents/guardians can supplement and further their explorations at home by using resources provided in the Soulful Home newsletter. Engaging with their children and youth through stories, conversations and activities all linked with the monthly theme, adults will also connect with their own faith journey, learning how to live out their Unitarian Universalist principles in the greater world.
Soulful Home is distributed every month through our Heritage Announcements email list. You can also find the link on the HUUC website — look at the listings on the right side of the page under “Community.” Even if you don’t have children or youth in your household, I encourage you to read the Soulful Home newsletter. It may help you discern your own religious path through Unitarian Universalism.