A Unitarian Universalist Multigenerational Ministry Resource

Archive for the ‘Ministry to and with Youth’ Category

“I’ll never do THAT like my parents did”

“I’ll never do THAT like my parents did,” said maybe every kid on the planet at one time or another. We can be fairly critical, and I certainly was. When I became a mom, I knew immediately that in some ways I would raise my daughter the same way my parents had raised me. There were family values and traditions that I knew I wanted to pass along. But there were dozens of other things that I would do differently. At the age of 24, I clearly already knew everything. And I had taken every class on adolescent female psychology in college, and had read Reviving OpheliaIMG_0434 10 times, so duh, I knew how to raise my daughter the right way.

It required a lot of explaining. I had to explain to friends and family over and over again that I didn’t want to ascribe gender roles to my kids. The nursery was decked out with a John Lennon theme, every pink gift that was dripping with lace was promptly returned or donated, and we stocked up on overalls. My daughter received a play kitchen and a play tool bench at the same time. Where there were dolls, there were also trucks. For every tiara or tutu, there was also a Buzz Lightyear or Spiderman costume nearby.

The harder part was in talking about sex or sexuality. Since I was already going to be the best mom ever, I taught my kids the names for the parts of their bodies right from the start. There was immediate fear amongst family members. “What if we are in a store and she starts to yell VAGINA!” I had to point out, that it seemed improbable that she would randomly yell vagina, elbow, or shoulder blade for no apparent reason, and that as a toddler none of these words seemed loaded to her. If she was going for shock value at that age, she was more likely to yell poop or booger. But still. It was a step.

 

I gave myself a congratulatory pat on the back. I was doing so well. MY kids knew about penises and vaginas, and they were taught that these were not bad words. I answered questions as they came up, told them where babies came from when they asked at ages 4 and 5, and was as open as possible. As the years went by we talked openly about body changes, puberty, hormones, and periods as well as gender identity, gender expression, and sexual identity too. They had me as a resource, they each had books in their rooms, and they both went through Our Whole Lives at church. I was all over this. I was providing them with so much more than I ever received, and we were talking openly about things my parents NEVER would have talked to me about. When my parents handed me a book and a dictionary that was the extent of my sex education. I was so evolved. Obviously, I really was the best mom ever.

Until I was blindsided. I was talking to some friends when I saw something in my Facebook feed.

Me:     “GAH! I was just tagged in a post about masturbation!!! Make it go away!!!!  (the first line of which read: “Which brings me to my point – masturbation is really important. It’s really important for all women and it’s equally important for teenage girls.”)

Friend: “Is she just thinking of you as a parent of teen(ish) girls?

Me:      “I hope so….but even as a supporter of OWL…I am still a New Englander, and I will not be having a conversation about masturbation with my kids. I can’t do it.”

Friends: “You should have that conversation with your kids.”

“How incredibly challenging. And I agree that it’s important to find a way to talk to them, because awkward is better than ignorant, and no one should think that embarrassing and awkward are the same as shameful, which is what our culture, our YANKEE culture, teaches us, wrongly.”

“But still…important to get healthy messages from you because parents are their children’s primary sexuality educators.”

And I was mad. I was mad because they were right. They were right without hesitation. Why didn’t I already know that? Maybe I wasn’t actually the best mom ever.

The article was called The Most Important Thing Teen Girls Should Do But Don’t: Masturbate. I read it and cried. For all that I had done differently than my parents did, I still wasn’t there yet. I wasn’t talking openly about so many important things with my kids. It made me uncomfortable and I didn’t know how. There was no question in my mind that I wanted my kids to have this information (I even contemplated sending them the article), but I didn’t want to have to sit down and be the one to talk about it either. But if not me, then who?

I support comprehensive sexuality education for our children. I will show up at the meetings, drive them to every class, order every book, and do whatever it takes to ensure the program is available. But Our Whole Lives and health classes in school are only pieces of the puzzle. They cannot be the end all be all.

I may be more open with my kids than the generation before me was with theirs. But it’s still not good enough. I can’t find comfort in knowing that my kids will do a better job at it with their kids someday. They deserve better than that now. As my wise friends pointed out, parents are their children’s primary sexuality educators. I dare say most of us don’t know how to do that well. And we need help. I need help.

Our congregations have taken on the life saving ministry of providing sexuality education for our children and youth. We need to provide it for their parents and caregivers and mentors too. We need to support our parents and help them to be the adults our kids need. We need to help them find ways to have those awkward conversations because we know they matter. We know all too well, the stakes are high. I may not actually be the best mom ever, but my kids, all of our kids, need adults in their lives who are going to try.

If you need help, and don’t know where to begin, or if you want to practice having these conversation with other adults who are still figuring it out too, join me on Star Island this summer. My friend, colleague, and sexuality educator Cindy Beal will be facilitating a workshop called: Revolutionary Awkwardness. More than a book and a dictionary: Not your parent’s sex education.

 

 

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The NNED Youth Assemby: A Snapshot

It all started with an idea.  We dreamed of holding a Youth Assembly at Ferry Beach, complete with a dynamic keynote speaker, quality musicians, and a myriad of workshop choices, all grounded in our Unitarian Universalist faith.  We put aside some money, found an available date at Ferry Beach, and hit the ground running. 

Getting the Word Out.  We started with the obvious.  The flyer and registration forms were sent to every DRE and Minister in our District.  They were displayed at the top of our website, and were included with every newsletter or electronic bulletin that left the District office.  Invitations were printed and packets of them were mailed to every DRE in the hopes that every youth would be personally invited.  The news spread to Facebook, and personal invitations were made at gatherings and meetings across our 3 states. 

Workshop Planning.  Several months in advance, we sent out a request for workshop proposals to all of our youth.  We asked that they propose a workshop that they would co-lead with an adult on any topic of their choosing.  We received two.  This forced us to be creative, and quickly!  It was a lot of work, but we found material in some of the Chrysalis Training materials at the UUA, and identified some volunteers to co-lead the workshops.  We also invited several others to present some content specific workshops.  Our hope is to have more workshop proposals from participants each year.

After months of planning, more logistics than one person could imagine, and a ton of excitement, the NNED Youth Assembly took place at Ferry Beach in Saco, ME, October 28-30, 2011…………….and, it SNOWED!

We certainly didn’t see the snow coming, but it did not dampen our spirits.  We kicked off the weekend with an orientation for both youth and adult sponsors, and some ice-breaker/getting to know you games.  We had nearly 50 youth from 5 states, and adults who were ministers, youth advisors, DREs, parents, District Staff, and UUA staff.  Everyone was committed to creating a fun, safe, faithful and memorable weekend!

What we learned: 

  •  Almost all of the youth who attended learned about the event directly from their DRE.
  • Many congregations offered scholarships and fundraisers to send their youth.
  • A Fall Youth Assembly provides challenges in spreading the word and raising funds at the start of the church year.
  • Participants almost unanimously agreed that the schedule for the weekend provided a good balance of scheduled activities and free time.
  • There are LOTS of great ideas for future workshops already brewing!
  • We need balance between reflection and action.
  • Having separate weekends or completely separate Assemblies for Junior and Senior youth would be ideal.
  • IT IS REALLY COLD IN MAINE AT THE END OF OCTOBER!

Some highlights from the weekend:

  • Witnessing the inclusive and accepting nature of our youth
  • New friendships were formed
  • Roughly 15 youth participated in one of the UUA’s latest projects, “Gathered Here”.  Their feedback will be shared with UUA leadership.
  • Fantastic youth-led worship
  • An energetic costume dance party
  • Closing community workshop led by GoldMine graduates

We learned some other wonderful lessons and received a bounty of positive and constructive feedback.  Here are just a few of the notes we received:

”  I just want to say: YOU GUYS ROCK!!!  It was one of the best experiences of my life.”  age 13

“i just want to thank everyone involved for making this weekend possible, it was awesome and I hop there are more like it.  I haven’t had good experiences at youth CONS and I’m glad this was a little different…”  age 15

“It was awesome!”  age 12

“There was a great sense of community and I felt that it was, as a whole, incredibly well planned and organized.”  age 17

“My whole congregation had a great time and that was one of the best things for me, to be able to share this experience.”  age 15

 

Where do we go from here?  We know what we can do, and we have concrete feedback about ways to improve.  Later this spring, a Conference Planning Team will be assembled to begin planning next year’s NNED Youth Assembly.  If you, or someone you know, would like to be a part of this planning team, please contact Kim Paquette at multigen@comcast.net, or at 603-228-8704.

Youth Offers Words of Wisdom

 

This past weekend, I had the absolute pleasure to interact with nearly 50 junior and senior youth at the NNED Youth Assembly at Ferry Beach in Maine.  This weekend long assembly included workshops grounded in our faith.  Youth had the opportunity to delve deeper into topics such as Worship Planning, Creating Inclusive Community, The Power of Young People to Make a Difference in Environmental Issues, and more.  A group of youth also took part in one of the UUA’s newest initiatives: Gathered Here.  Then energy these youth brought to sharing their stories and their feelings about their faith was nothing short of inspirational.   It was a fantastic weekend, and I look forward to building on our success.

Our junior youth who took part in the Worship Planing workshop were also tasked with designing our Sunday morning worship service.  The topic they chose to focus on was “Fear”.  It was a beautiful service, both interactive and reflective, peppered with song and imagery,while still including space for silence.  I was particularly struck by the closing words, which were written by one of our 14-year-old youth the night before.  He gave me permission to share his reflection with you here.

 

Follow your faith, not your fear.

Fear will drive you away from your goal.

Follow your faith, not your fear.

Fear will kill your dreams.

Follow your faith, not your fear.

Fear will take over your life.

Follow your faith, not your fear.

Fear holds you from success.

Follow your faith, not your fear.

Fear keeps you up at night.

Follow your faith, not your fear.

Fear is the quickest path to failure.

Follow your faith, not your fear.

Fear is but a burden holding you down.

If you let go, your faith will guide you high. 

If you let go, you will be free from the paranoia that constrains you.

So, I stand here and beg you, for your own sake,

let go of your fear.

Follow your faith, not your fear.

 

NNED Youth Assembly coming to Ferry Beach in October!!!

Join youth from all over the Northern New England District for a weekend of fun, learning and community building.  This event will include a dynamic keynote speaker, unique worship, workshops co-lead by our youth, and lots of opportunities for bonding and expressing our UU values, (including a Costume Dance Party!)  This is your chance to get to know the youth in your area and from around the region, to develop your UU identity, and have a lot of fun!

There will be separate housing and workshop tracks for Junior Youth (12-14) and Senior Youth (14-18), with shared meal times.

Date: 10/28/11-10/30/11

We begin at 6:00 pm on Friday, and go until  11:30 am on Sunday.

Place:  Ferry Beach,  Saco, ME

Cost: $125

http://nned.uua.org/pdf/youth/NNED%20Youth%20Assembly%20-%20registration.pdf

 

Spread the word to your youth!!!

**THIS IS THE LAST WEEK TO APPLY!!

The Goldmine Youth Leadership School is coming to New England this
summer. We anticipate making this an annual event. This year, with a
subsidy from the UUA and the Northern New England District, we are able to
offer this amazing opportunity to high school youth (ages 14-18) for only
$200.

This 6 day program will be held at Ferry Beach in Saco, Maine.

Registration is limited to 24 youth, and the application deadline is fast
approaching.

Please share this with your youth!!!! It's a tremendous opportunity!

http://nned.uua.org/pdf/GoldMine2011.pdf

Generation WE

Generation WE: The Movement Begins… from Generation We on Vimeo.

Earlier this week, I met with an old friend I had not seen in some years. She is a Baby-Boomer with children ages 17-22. I am a Gen Xer with 9 and 10-year-old children. I mention this because I think it played a role in our ensuing debate.

My friend shared her sorrow and fear for what she was sure would happen to our country and our planet in the coming decades. Our economy would not rebound, citizens would become less informed and engaged, and there was virtually no hope for recovery.

I listened to her prophecy, and was immediately saddened. I wondered if others were also feeling such despair. I tend to be slightly more optimistic, but not naive. I do clearly understand the challenges we face, but I look to the future with so much hope. Perhaps it is because my children are younger, more informed than any generation before them due to our relationship with technology, and prone to activism. I wondered if my hope was because of my faith in my own children, or in an entire generation.

Eric Greenberg talks about the power up this Millennial generation, a generation which he calls, Generation We.

A Powerful Generation with a Different Worldview

The worldview of the Millennial generation is shaped by two overriding dynamics that set this generation apart from those that have come before them. The first is a commitment to the common good over individual gain, an ethos that reaches across traditional divisions such as race, ideology, and partisanship. The Millennials are not a “Generation Me” but rather a “Generation We.” They are strongly progressive, socially tolerant, environmentally conscious, peace-loving, and poised to lead the biggest leftward shift in recent American history. They volunteer in record numbers and declare themselves ready to sacrifice their self-interest for the greater good. They do not fit neatly into any classic ideological category and are clearly eager to establish a new paradigm.

The second dynamic that fundamentally shapes the Millennials’ worldview is a comprehensive rejection of the country’s current leadership and dominant institutions. Whether it is Congress and the federal government, major corporations, or organized religion, these young Americans believe the large institutions that dominate so much of our modern society have comprehensively failed, placing narrow self-interests ahead of the welfare of the country as a whole. http://www.gen-we.com/

So I ask, what are we, as Unitarian Universalists, doing to help nurture the potential of this generation, and how do we support them best?

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