I knew the “opt-in” versus “opt-out” would get people talking. Welcome to the UU Growth Blog!
Now more on an “opt out” orientation where when you’re born UU and congregational life happens such that it sends you on a happy, healthy, exciting, heading toward being an adult UU track unless you take the time to intentionally press the eject button.
In particular I’ve been thinking about 1) what experiences serve to connect youth to our communities, our larger faith, and lead to a decision to join the church, 2) when and how do these experiences presently happen, and 3) when SHOULD they happen.
I’ve had many parents say they can make their kids go to church through coming of age. After that, its up to them. I agree 100%. I wouldn’t want to force a teenager to go to church. However this means by coming of age – say 8th grade – our youth should have had many of those experiences that lead to caring about our faith, valuing it, leading in it, and so on… As always, ours is a chosen faith. But I think we shouldn’t hold the best for after our children have phased out and then opted back in. Those core formative UU experiences need to happen during the pre-coming of age stage, a stage that tends to be more auto opt in oriented.
AND, and this is huge. Your worship for all ages, religious education for all ages, justice & service work, technology, events, coffee hour food, decor, signage, communications, and hundred other things — they can’t suck. Several years ago I talked to a teenager who moved from my home town where he attended our church and youth group (I was advisor) to another town. Maybe yours. “How’s the youth group?” I asked. “It sucks. I don’t go…” he said with a somber tone. “I miss our youth group.”
Since I generally don’t use the word “suck” as appropriate as it may be in this context, let’s go with something more UU friendly. How about sUUcky?
You can’t expect to retain born UUs if many offer Subpar Unitarian Universalist Church for Kids and Youth. And what’s subpar these days? I think we can use the energy, excitement and passion of our children through adults as an indicator. Do we wake up excited to go to church?