Youth Religious Education

Our program and extracurricular themes are both timely and timeless.  We are committed to the study of Unitarian Universalism, Jewish and Christian heritages, world religions, and the prophetic visions and actions of our foremothers and forefathers.  With these themes, we weave contemporary issues and opportunities to work for social justice.

Our Mission

The mission of the Youth Religious Education (YRE) Committee (stewards of the YRE program) is to build a conscientious and safe environment where the children and youth can freely explore spiritual questions that help to deepen and enrich the understanding of one’s self and the world around them. Our purpose is to foster the empowerment of children and youth by inspiring them to seek knowledge, think critically, offer service to others, and share together in worship.  We are dedicated to exploring our UU identity through experiential learning and the honoring of religious pluralism.

It was with these guiding principles that our curricula is developed.

Overview of Sunday Morning Classes

Spirit Play 1 (Serving children ages 5-7)

Lead Teacher: Debbie Kuehm

Teaching Assistants:
Dawn Arrington, Meghan Breitzmann, Heather Craigie

Spirit Play uses the Montessori approach for the structure of Sunday morning. In Montessori, the key elements are the prepared classroom and the teachers.  These elements free the children to work at their own pace on their own issues after an initial lesson or story within a safe and sacred structure shepherded by two adults.

The Montessori philosophy supports our UU values.  Both encourage independent thinking through wondering questions, give children real choices within the structure of the morning, create a community of children in a classroom of mixed ages, and develop an underlying sense of the spiritual and the mystery of life.  Spirit Play supports congregational polity through the selection of lessons and encourages partnership among Religious Educators and teachers. Volunteers are found to value the program as part of their own spiritual process.

Spirit Play 2 (Serving children age 7-9)

Lead Teacher: Dell Salza

Teaching Assistants:
Patty Dare, Kathleen Pierce, Colleen Sharp,  Amy Weinfurtner

Spirit Play uses the Montessori approach for the structure of Sunday morning. In Montessori, the key elements are the prepared classroom and the teachers.  These elements free the children to work at their own pace on their own issues after an initial lesson or story within a safe and sacred structure shepherded by two adults.

The Montessori philosophy supports our UU values.  Both encourage independent thinking through wondering questions, give children real choices within the structure of the morning, create a community of children in a classroom of mixed ages, and develop an underlying sense of the spiritual and the mystery of life.  Spirit Play supports congregational polity through the selection of lessons and encourages partnership among Religious Educators and teachers. Volunteers are found to value the program as part of their own spiritual process.

Toolbox of Faith (serving children age 9-11)

Lead Teacher: Ken Kuehm

Teaching Assistants:
Kevin Ortner, Pauline Terebuh, Kathleen Zassick

Toolbox of Faith invites 4th and 5th grade participants to reflect on the qualities of our Unitarian Universalist faith, such as integrity, courage, and love, as tools they can use in living their lives and building their own faith. Each of the 16 sessions uses a tool such as reflection (symbolized by a mirror), flexibility (duct tape), and justice (a flashlight). Children and leaders gain insight into what makes our faith important in their lives, and how they can grow in our faith.

Pop Culture Theology (serving children age 11-13)

Lead Teacher: Erika Brown

6th and 7th graders are somewhere between childhood and adolescence, and the religious education needs for this in-between age are unique. At UUCA, 6th and 7th graders have a primary (16-lesson) curriculum developed by the UUA and a supplementary curriculum that is based in Pop Culture Theology.

Faith stage theorist James Fowler described the time around and just after turning 12 as a period when the child’s faith development turns from something TAUGHT to something BOUGHT. It is essential to see youth as stakeholders who must buy-in to their own process of faith formation at this age. One of the best ways to invite middle schoolers into their own faith development is by engaging them to do so in a medium they are already comfortable and confident with. For many, pop culture is their social currency, particularly as they begin to separate from their parents and see themselves as social actors in the world beyond home and family. TV shows, music, and movies become a curriculum that tells them who they are and especially who they should aspire to become, whether we like it or not.

Our approach uses carefully crafted and curated lesson plans to provide a lens through which middle schoolers can more readily take part in conversations around ethics, values, and faith. We believe youth will gain a deeper understanding of Unitarian Universalism as a living faith that is relevant to questions about how we should live in the here and now.

This year we will use The Simpsons and the FX series 30 Days, produced by Morgan Spurlock, to explore these issues.

In this year, youth will be supported as they begin to ask big questions.  What is religion? How does it help us make meaning of life? Is there a God? What happens when we die? This class invites exploration and engagement on the topic of faith and helps kids begin the lifelong journey of asking questions only they can answer. The theological underpinning is our UU belief that “revelation is not sealed”–we can seek and find answers to big questions.  A supplemental curriculum of “The Gospel According To the Simpsons” keeps the class fun and engaging, recognizing that pop culture is important to kids this age, especially if it can reflect their growing faith identity. Each of the Simpsons sessions includes a viewing of an episode, followed by discussion of a relevant topic, such as prayer, faith, morality, God, pluralism, the institutional church, and the Bible.-j.berry

Small Group Ministry (serving youth age ***)

Lead Teacher: Mary Ellen McNulty

Teaching Assistants:
Justin Alcorn, Frank Wardega

As Unitarian Universalists we covenant to affirm and promote:

  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregation
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

Covenant Groups offer an opportunity to deepen fellowship with a small group  while exploring spirit and life’s big questions.

The Senior High Sunday School class will explore the same monthly themes as our larger congregation –  Promise, Transformation, Grace/Radical Hospitality, Wonder, Tradition, Listening, Integrity, Revelation, and Resilience.  The meetings follow a format that builds a sense of community among participants and establishes an environment for deep personal reflection and listening.

Our class will be facilitated by trained Covenant Group Facilitators, so that the time together is shared and the focus is on personal spiritual growth and deepening fellowship.

Coming of Age (8th Graders; outside the Sunday morning hour)

An experiential program outside the Religious Education hour rooted in relationship with mentor/youth connections. The Group connects every other month to form a group identity Faith Statement. This program is flexible and can take many forms depending on the needs of the group. We hope to take a Mission trip or trip to District Assembly! Emphasis is on technology such as Google Hangouts.

Bridging (For High School Seniors; outside the Sunday morning hour)

An experiential program outside the Religious Education hour rooted in relationship with a mentor/youth connection. The group connects regularly to form a group identity.  Students develop Faith Statements which can take many forms.  Help is offered to connect each Bridger to a UU church in their next adventure wherever they may be going after graduating from high school.

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