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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sinkford asks for patience on youth, young adult changes.

UUA President Bill Sinkford issued a brief letter Thursday afternoon urging patience with changes in the way the UUA supports youth and young adult ministry. "Let me assure you that the new course has not yet been defined and decided," he writes. "Both the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Administration and Board remain committed to the creation of vital and effective youth and young adult ministries. Our task is to determine, together, what structures can move us toward that mission."

He adds: "Within a week I will distribute widely the emerging direction and try to address as many of the good questions that have been raised as possible."

The letter has been cross-posted to the YRUU UUlogy blog, where it is drawing impatient reviews.

By the way, I'm bookmarking relevant links as I find them, and you're welcome to browse them. Please do recommend others in the comments below. Here are YRUU links and C*UUYAN links.

("Letter from William G. Sinkford Concerning Youth/Young Adult Ministry Transition," 2.14.08)

Copyright © 2008 by Philocrites | Posted 14 February 2008 at 10:45 PM

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Next: Limits of Unitarian Universalist congregationalism.




February 15, 2008 06:46 AM | Permalink for this comment

""Let me assure you that the new course has not yet been defined and decided,""

Ummm... Isn't it usually best to decide on a new course BEFORE you torpedo the old one?


February 15, 2008 07:51 AM | Permalink for this comment

I'm not convinced that a torpedo had been fired. The C*UUYAN letter quotes directly from its sponsoring staff group at the UUA, confirming the essential facts about the end of direct funding for the young adult network. But the YRUU letter does not. The UUA has not yet confirmed the things that the YRUU steering committee says. The steering committee may (or may not) be accurately predicting what's coming, but they may also have taken the UUA by surprise. We just don't know yet.

Steve Caldwell:

February 15, 2008 09:58 AM | Permalink for this comment

On 15 Feb 2008, CC wrote:
"Ummm... Isn't it usually best to decide on a new course BEFORE you torpedo the old one?"

One would think so -- however, the district staff in the Southwest District wanted to shut down a highly successful SWUUSI youth camp without having a viable replacement course established first.

Tim Fitzgerald:

February 15, 2008 12:09 PM | Permalink for this comment

Chris, I have heard directly from member of the UUA Board of Trustees that what the Steering Committee announced was handed to them directly from the UUA Administration. Just FYI.

Neal McBurnett:

February 18, 2008 01:19 AM | Permalink for this comment

Thank you for so quickly and cogently covering this important story. I am first of all curious whether the UUA board had any role in this. I found these comments on the uulogy blog pretty interesting:

Eric Swanson:

Rev. Dr. Daniel O'Connell:

Jim Sechrest:

February 21, 2008 02:28 PM | Permalink for this comment

The value of supporting (and having) continental UU cons like ConCentric for young adults and Con Con for youth (high school) has been mainly a way of energizing the leadership of C*UUYAN for young adults and YRUU for youth. Specifically this is a way to engage new leadership not just at the continental level but at the district and local levels.

I speak from experience, since I am very familiar with the effect of energized youth returning from district cons to act as leaders in local congregational youth groups, and young adults returning from continental cons to help create and build local groups, etc.

I would call upon the UUA staff, and especially the Young Adult and Campus Ministry Office staff to address this aspect of these cons and make sure that they don't sidestep this critical aspect of the continental youth and young adult cons.

Mary Manchester, the Facilitator of C*UUYAN notes that the burn out of young adult leaders who "step up" to host the continental young adult cons. This has been a huge problem for two decades. This is the main reason why the young adult movement sought out paid staff support for these efforts from the UUA in the first place.

But, the UUA's party line nowadays seems focused soley upon the congregational level instead of incorporating the feedback loop of continental cons for youth and young adults. This seems to stem from the interest of UUA staff to use their time in other ways. That is: Why spend so much time and effort on continental cons that cater to only 300 or less individuals when they could work on efforts for so many more individuals at the congregational level (perhaps)?

What we lose is the energy of peers returning from continental cons, and the traditions and culture they bring with them.

Unfortunately, even self identified UUs who are not raised in this UU youth and young adult culture don't like it much. They simply don't support it. And, it is not a reason to support continental cons to them. Even so, it is something special (though unquantifiable) of great value to our youth and young adults. Plus, it is a culture that brings life and vitality to UUism to our youth and young adults at not just the continental level but also the local level.

Unfortunately, this is a very inefficient system, with lots of youth and young adults who hang out at continental cons and don't bring back this energy to the local level. On the other hand, many of the youth leaders of continental cons go on to become our UU ministers and RE directors.

So, I think the UUA staff's perspective is not inclusive of the full benefits of funding continental youth and young adult efforts. Plus, it seems that the UUA staff does not even know or care about any possible benefits of these cons. They never mention them.

Anyone who knows me knows that I suspect the UUA staff and the UUA board of foul play, because of their willingness to fund and support their own ideas and their lack of willingness to fund and support the ideas of our youth and young adult leaders. Is this what our UU values would encourage? I think not. I think it is more an issue of the power dynamics of the UUA as a corporate entity.

What are our UU values in terms of democracy and spirituality? Who best represents these values for our youth and young adults, the youth and young adult leaders or the UUA Staff and the UUA board?

Well, I think UUA leaders and even C*UUYAN leaders are not supporting our UU values of democracy and spirituality in our youth and young adult networks, including the congregational level, as these funding and staffing issues unfold.

But, I what I keep hearing from UUA leaders and even C*UUYAN leaders is that the plans laid down by the UUA and C*UUYAN leaders are better for UUs than the traditions of community and spirituality developed by our young adult communities while they were being wholy neglected by the UUA staff and UUA board. "I mean geez, we got all these great ideas for what we want you to do."

I consider this to be a grave failing on the part of our UUA leadership and C*UUYAN leadership with unhealthy consequences likely to (continue to) develop.

It would be easy to rectify this divide. Just require continental conference participants to either have congregational approval to attend continental events, like GA delegates need to vote at GA, or have them state that they are willing to help develop local programming tied to our local congregations in cases where it simply does not yet exist at the local level.

Besides helping energize the local congregational efforts in regards to youth and young adults,
this would help keep cons like Con Con and ConCentric on track in terms of being leadership development conferences for youth and young adults.

Because, our most important youth and young adult leaders have always been peer leaders, and a small percentage of these leaders often become ministers and RE directors and local congregational leaders.

Jim Sechrest

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