Lifespan Faith Development is All We Do. Unitarian Universalism is All We Teach. The Congregation is the Curriculum.
This statement offers a holistic approach to religious education where we understand that everything a congregation does is religious education and faith development – for all ages, all the time. It is like the Sophia Fahs quote “Life becomes religious whenever we make it so.” Because of this, I especially like to find creative ways to make worship experiences educational as well as reverent.
I see Lifespan Faith Development as integral to shared ministry. I envision our task as one of building a truly multi-generational community. An engaging Lifespan program is vital to that effort. Let us work together so that our congregation is one where our children grow up to be active Unitarian Universalists. I see our partnership as one that emphasizes the fact that the minister is a minister to all ages. I can help in this by partnering with our lifespan staff and/or volunteers and arranging to periodically work with teaching teams at various age levels so that the minister is active beyond the story for all ages.
I hope our ministry of faith formation will also emphasize UU identity as well as spiritual and intellectual offerings for adults. Recent research shows that having parents who are actively involved in continuing their own faith development and spiritual life has a greater impact on young people than attending spectacular religious education programs.
Many congregations, especially smaller congregations, are now facing the problems stemming from not having enough young people or volunteers to run a traditional “Sunday School” type of Religious Education program. Kim Sweeney addresses the issues surrounding this in her paper for the New England Region of the UUA, “The Death of Sunday School and the Future of Faith Formation.” To oversimplify, the current parenting generation is Gen X, a generation that is half the size of the Baby Boom generation. So in any given location there will be half the available parenting age potential members. Since Gen-Xers tend to have fewer children, and have them later in life, there will be fewer than half the children. Gen-Xers tend to have different life styles than Baby Boomers did as parents, with most families dealing with two working parents and many struggling to make ends make. Sunday mornings are not the “saved for church” time they once were and Sunday mornings are not ideal for many young families. The future of faith formation lies in redesigning religious education to adapt to these realities. Family Ministry approaches strive to make resources available for parents to take Unitarian Universalism home and practice it and teach it at home. More religious education will happen in worship and the practice of all ages worship every Sunday is growing. Some congregations are pursuing worshipping at times other than Sunday morning and offering ministry to all parents in their community not just the members of the church with things such as free child care for a Parent’s Night Out.
I am fascinated by these developments and have been studying them in depth over the last three years. I hope to be a resource to members and leaders facing these issues.