By Joanne Dingus
The theme for September is “Belonging.” Each service in September will take a look at what it means to belong in terms of our community, our faith, our earth. The Good News of Unitarian Universalism is attractive to many seekers. Summer tends to be a time when we have even more visitors than usual, perhaps “church shopping,” searching for a place they can call their faith home.
I’ve heard many adults say upon coming to the UUFP, that they are so happy that they finally found a place where they feel they belong. That sense of belonging is such an important piece, finding the right fit can take a long time. But when you do, it can really enrich your life and the lives of others.
But is it the same for our children? After all, younger children generally come to the church because their parents bring them. They may or may not have been given a choice. Often, one parent will come by themselves for the first visit to “check us out.” Then, if they get their questions answered and feel welcome and safe they will bring their kids the next time.
The children begin to find their way at the UUFP by going in to the first part of the service, going up front for children’s focus and then going to their classes. Class time gives them a chance to meet other children and learn about Unitarian Universalism in a variety of creative ways.
Occasionally, we have had youth come to the church by themselves before their parents or without them all together. Youth can feel a sense of belonging through their Sundaymorning classes and by attending Youth Group. And once they have completed the Coming of Age program and turned 16 years old, they can even become members.
But are stories for all ages and age appropriate classes enough to help our children and youth belong and become lifelong church goers? One of our members shared an article on facebook recently about whether children and youth need to attend Sunday morning services to experience the full meaning of belonging to a faith community. As a fifteen year Director of Religious Education who has been devoted to providing Sunday morning programs that challenge children and youth to question and explore, I have to think about this. I myself, loved going to service as a child, listening along with the adults. Should there be more opportunities for our kids to stay in service? We do offer multigenerational services four times a year but those are not generally typical services. They often include a play or a hands-on activity. Would our children and youth gain a deeper sense of belonging to our community if they worshiped with the rest of us on a regular basis? Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting we get rid of Sunday morning classes. I think they serve a need and I’m proud of the work that goes into them. But it may be time to think outside the box and see if there are other worshipful ways we can help our children find their faith home now and for years to come. I welcome your thoughts on this.
See you in the RE!