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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 603-228-8704.