The great end in Religious Education is not to stamp our minds upon the young, but to stir up their own. Not to make them see with our eyes, but to look inquiringly with their own…not to impose religion upon them in the form of arbitrary rules, but to awaken the conscience, the moral discernment. In a word, the great end is to awaken the soul, to excite and cherish spiritual life.”
— William Ellery Channing
As Unitarians, we want to model theological diversity, so our young people will see and understand that many theological beliefs are welcome here. There are UU Christians, atheists, mystics, agnostics, pagans, humanists (and more) among us. Not every teacher or volunteer will hold the same beliefs.
So how do we share our spiritual selves without telling the children what to think?
We are all constantly learning, and many Unitarians continue to evolve their beliefs throughout a lifetime. RE volunteers should avoid absolute statements of belief (“God will answer your prayers”, “UUs don’t believe in God”, etc.) and the misunderstanding of Unitarianism, “you can believe anything you want”. We embrace theological diversity, within the framework of our Principles and Sources.
What are the essential qualities of a good Re volunteer?
- A love of children
- A sense of wonder about life,
- Can empathize and have the ability to listen,
- A positive attitude
- Can model and nurture curiosity and respect about the beliefs of others
- Good communication skills
Tips for Volunteers and Teachers:
- Practice self-care so you can be fully present. The Spiritual Preparation offered for leaders in your lesson plan can be helpful.
- Rituals such as gathering into a circle, walking the labyrinth, lighting the chalice, and sharing joys and sorrows are part of how we “do” faith, and help young people to know that it is time to settle down and be present, themselves. If you aren’t yet comfortable with these rituals, take some time to practice so that they come naturally.
- Get to know your fellow volunteers. We are a caring community, communicate with each other and the co-chairs about how you feel things are going. Share your ideas, and let’s work together on challenges.
- Keep each other informed as needed about the health and well-being of the children and youth we serve. Speak to Ruth, Kelli or Rev. Beckett if you think someone needs more pastoral care than you are able to offer.
Key messages for Sunday Planning:
“Plan tight; lead loose”
Be well prepared for a structured lesson, but be willing and able to let elements go if other things arise.
While the curriculum is important, it’s only part of the experience. Being in relationship with one another, accompanying each other on the journey, and bearing witness to young lives, matter more.