Sinkford talks about YRUU

At the UUA General Assembly President Bill Sinkford gave quite a rousing report on Saturday evening before the Bridging Ceremony.  In it he spoke about the ongoing YRUU/Youth Programs Review going on.  His comments give a good overview of intentions, hopes and process.

We need to find ways to more effectively support the health and vitality of our congregations.

Let me give you just one example. Our current youth ministry, YRUU, does many things well, especially leadership training. But that impacts only the relatively few youth who get involved at the district and continental level. For a variety of reasons far too many of our congregations have avoided YRUU events.

And because so much of the work of the UUA’s Youth Office has been organized around support for the YRUU structure, the result is that far too many of our congregations feel that their youth ministry is unsupported or under-supported by the Association. (ital by me)

In recognition of this reality, the UUA Board of Trustees asked Megan Dowdell, youth trustee on the UUA Board and me to convene a process to re-imagine our ministry to and with youth.

We now have that process in place. It will take two years. We want to begin by involving as many of our congregations as possible in this conversation. And so I have a request for you. This fall, when you receive an on-line survey about your congregation’s ministry to and with youth…fill it out. And when you get the invitation to hold a congregational conversation about youth ministry…say yes. It will take a day of your time and it can help shape new understandings and perhaps new structures that will support more of our youth and more of our congregational youth programs.

I hope I can count on your support.


4 responses to “Sinkford talks about YRUU

  1. I don’t know, Joseph. It still doesn’t sound honest to me. He doesn’t go into the “variety of reasons”, which might be merciful actually, because the odds that he might either take some responsibility on behalf of the UUA or ask congregations to shoulder some of it… are really slim. Either way, he doesn’t do that here. He also doesn’t address accountability to youth in this process he’s encouraging congregations to understake — most of the folks who take this advice will probably do more harm than good to their youth ministries, because the underlying obstacles (which also play a role in severing YRUU’s accountable structures at the joint between district and local levels) are not being acknowledged. Maybe I am being overcritical, but I’m just still quite worried. I wasn’t at GA and maybe the tone has changed, but… my lack of optimism in that department is part of why I wasn’t at GA.

  2. Joseph quoting Bill Sinkford wrote the following:
    ” … Our current youth ministry, YRUU, does many things well, especially leadership training. But that impacts only the relatively few youth who get involved at the district and continental level. For a variety of reasons far too many of our congregations have avoided YRUU events … “


    I heard this comment and I was concerned that our congregational leaders might focus on just 1 or 2 reasons about why youth in their congregations are not using the currently available YRUU resources.

    I can think of at least three resources why youth from a particular congregation are not involved in district or continental YRUU:

    (1) Some youth may be “over-scheduled” with school and other non-UU activities such as sports, music lessons, dance lessons, etc. The time committment required by the YRUU model (youth empowerment, youth leadership in partnership with adults, travel on weekend for cons, etc) may require more time than these youth can spare.

    Perhaps this population could benefit from a high school age version of UU campus ministry … a restful place for one hour each week where harried souls can catch up with their very busy bodies.

    (2) Some youth may honestly not want to be involved with YRUU and we need to respect these viewpoints and also provide youth ministry resources for these youth.

    (3) Some adult congregation leaders may have trust issues with YRUU as it currently exists and they don’t support youth involvement from their local congregations.

    In this case, we don’t know if their youth would be interested in YRUU … in many cases, no one has asked them for their opinions and the opinions being voiced have come from adults and not youth.

    All this discussion about YRUU at the district and continental levels appears to ignore a bigger question … what obstacles do we find that prevent congregations from implementing YRUU locally in their congregations?

    We need to ask ourselves what obstacles prevent our youth from providing their own leadership in local youth programs and serving in leadership positions alongside adults in their congregations.

  3. I share Tim’s concerns, especially that UU Congregations are poorly equipped to lead any process of restructuring YRUU, since UU Churches on Sunday are totally out of touch with their own youth.

    Even our young children are kept in the basement. What we discuss in Church on Sunday is not what the children and youth are being emersed in. For instance, we don’t teach Secular Humanism to our children at church, only at at home. Our adult leaders do not raise our children in the same UUism that the adults are involved in on Sunday mornings.

    So, this culture of UU Church on Sunday Congregations is going to address the needs of youth, without equal partnership of the youth themselves? This is a highly doubtful remedy for success. But very dangerous times for our youth.

    As an on-again off-again Jr High Advisor and a YRUU advisor for the last 20 years, I can tell you that only half of the children who grow up in our UU churches and are present in Jr. High classes will ever put a foot in the door of the YRUU room. Mainly what new freshman want is to not have to be dragged to church anymore. They want their freedom from Church on Sunday, and most parents grant this at this age.

    So, the UUA will always be able to say that YRUU does not meet the needs of many youth. Hell, the UUA Church on Sunday Congregations do not meet the needs of most of our Jr. High school kids. They want out.

    I don’t think that this dynamic is mainly a function of YRUU. I think it is mainly a function of
    having better things to do with their time than going to Church on Sunday, like sleeping.

    Of the folks who do go to YRUU at the local level, half of them have never been to a UU church before. They come with parents or with high school friends.

    So, the basic dynamics of UU youth ministry are much more complicated than most UUs who go to church on Sunday can even fathom (sitting in their pews on Sunday and singing when appropriate).

    These people are gonna give a dang? Not likely. It will be RE directors and the parents of a few youth who get involved in this.

    The same catagories of folks who have been notoriously unable to fathom the needs of their own youth for decades.

    Take them to a youth conference worship first, and they will have some semblence of where to start. But, RE directors, ministers and parents who find youth con worships meaningful, have nevertheless been very unsupportive of district level youth events even as they praise youth con worships as being “very special”.

    These RE directors and parents of the youth and even UU ministers still just have no clue about why district level events dominate the interests of their own youth, or how the leadership of local youth is developed by the supportive atmosphere of the youth at youth cons to a much greater extent than it can be done at the local church.

    The local have been very inneffective at articulating their needs and interests to local level RE directors.

    I believe that district level youth need to start having workshops on how the district youth leaders can communicate to local church boards, ministers, and RE directors, and RE committees about their own district youth con culture and why it is important to local church youth ministry.

    Basically, the district level youth cons just blow the local youth programs away in the eyes of conference youth.
    But, the RE committees, etc. in the local churches have no clue whatsoever about the dynamics between district cons and local youth groups.

    That it is the district cons that bring life to the interests of the local youth group leaders.

    All they can see is their own local youth as being disconnected from those district youth cons. And that is just not the overall reality. Some youth have no connection to district level stuff.
    But, the local youth groups as a whole are connected to the district level stuff, except in local churches where the adults intervene in this process because of their own ignorance and prejudice against youth.

    But, mainly, local RE committee decisions are not based on what the youth want, they are based on what the RE committee wants, with no youth voices on the RE committees.

    RE directors will actually take youth out of our local groups to babysit the babies in the nursery. So, their interests in staffing the nursery usually outweighs any interest on their part to support even the local youth.

    And these people are going to be revisioning the structure of YRUU at the local level?

    We need district YRUU youth voices to step forward at all levels: continental, district, and local. Because local youth voices will need support to articulate their interests at all these levels.

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