By Tracey L. Hurd, Ph.D. , Lifespan Faith Development, Unitarian Universalist Association
One of the best ways to affirm our ministry with children and youth is to illuminate the complex and wonderful ways that teaching in a religious education program is a faith-development experience for those teaching. Working with children and youth, teacher-leader-facilitators grow in faith and in community. While some find teaching to be a spiritually moving and nourishing practice, others need tools to frame this view.
How can we help shape the process of working in our Unitarian Universalist (UU) religious education programs with a lens of lifespan faith development? There are many ways. The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) survey of religious educators, conducted in the fall of 2004, revealed that congregations are using many innovative methods to support and sustain teachers, by nurturing the ministry of working with children and youth. Many religious educators feel torn between needing to provide pragmatic assistance (curriculum, supplies, information about programs) and wanting to provide prophetic program leadership that highlights teaching as a rewarding faith-development experience. In the survey, some religious educators said that they simply didn't do enough. But the many small and sure steps being taken in congregations present a firm foundation for our future. In our ministry with children and youth, we grow in faith as individuals and as a community.
We can provide tools that illuminate teaching as a nourishing practice of faith development. Here are some things we can do:
Frame the experience of teaching or leading as a faith-development experience.
Support volunteers by providing tools through which they can illuminate their teaching as a faith-development experience.
Provide experiences that affirm that teachers in religious education programs engage in "doing faith" with participants—including training on classroom worship tools such as chalice lightings, the sharing of joys and concerns, meditation, and for some congregations, prayer. Teachers who feel prepared to lead children/youth with these tools of our faith will be more likely to "own" them, make personal meaning of them, and explore them with children/youth.
Sustain teachers by enfolding them as integral members in the ministry of lifespan faith development.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
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Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.
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