Children and Youth Religious Education
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Huntsville offers weekly programs serving all ages. We’d love to have you join us!
Our Children and Youth Religious Education program has a long history of providing faith development activities for children and youth. We seek to offer a safe environment that will nurture the spiritual growth of children and youth in a diverse, inclusive multigenerational community through structured groups and experiences, all-ages social interaction, and participation in the whole life of the congregation, its ministries, and its shared values.
Unitarian Universalist religious education is about spiritual formation and enabling young people to critical thinking and compassionate action in the world. The nineteenth-century Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing articulated this goal for religious education:
The great end in religious instruction is not to stamp our minds on the young, but to stir up their own; Not to make them see with our eyes, but to look inquiringly and steadily with their own; Not to give them a definite amount of knowledge, but to inspire a fervent love of truth. . . 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.
In the 21st century, UU RE programs continue to heed these words. Religious educator Gaia Brown writes:
We have a strong faith in the inherent spirituality of children and see it as our task to nurture, not to indoctrinate. Our respect for the children teaches them respect for themselves, for others, and for this fragile interdependent web of which we are all a part.
Our curriculum materials teach about and emanate from UU principles: Respect all people. Offer fair and kind treatment. Yearn to learn. Grow and search for truth. Believe in ideas and act on them. Insist on peace and justice. Value nature’s web of life. Each year, our curriculum centers on a theme that is developed in age-appropriate ways in each group. Recent themes have included articulating our UU faith, building a kind and loving community, asking big questions, learning about religious diversity, understanding UU principles and identity, and growing in our all-ages social justice service.
This year’s theme, “Heart Talk,” gives children and youth, at age-appropriate levels, the concepts and tools to grow in their ability to communicate with each other in empathy—to understand and see our common humanity, and from that deep understanding and caring, find mutually satisfying ways of being together. Using the curriculum, Heart Talk for Kids, by Debbie Berkana and Veronical Lassen, RE lessons include exploration of UU principles and sources and emphasize movement, activities, crafts, songs, games, and time spent in nature. Children and youth also practice the model of Heart Talk, exploring anger, empathy, gratitude, conflict resolution, looking at historical and current peacemakers, and celebrating peace and diversity.
In a general sense, all of the ministries and activities of the church—social justice, care, hospitality, worship, music, property, and membership—are involved in making a multigenerational community welcoming to all ages. In this sense, the RE curriculum extends beyond “the classroom” to encompass the entire congregation.
Children and youth begin each Sunday by checking in at the RE Welcome Station in the church foyer and getting their nametag. RE groups generally meet concurrently with the Sunday worship service and are conducted in the RE area of the south wing after a short period of joint multigenerational worship in the sanctuary. Each RE session begins with a multi-age song and worship time in the common area linked to the congregation’s monthly worship theme, after which children and youth divide to their age-based rooms. Some worship services are fully multigenerational, where children, youth, and adults worship together in the sanctuary for the entire service; other services are youth-led, where youth design and lead worship for the congregation.
Our basic program includes:
- Four RE groups: Peace (ages 4/Pre-K to grade 1); Justice (grades 2-4); Searchers (grades 5-6); and Transformers (grades 7-12).
- Nursery care: Experienced childcare providers offer care for newborns to children 3 years of age during the worship service and special events; special UU pre-school activities are led in the Nursery for ages 2-3.
- Creative Service Sundays: During RE time, children and youth take part in hands-on service projects for the congregation and community in partnership with church ministries such as care, social justice, hospitality, and worship. We assemble food packs for Huntsville homeless outreach, make cookies for all-church social hour, create care cards, develop skits and songs to share in worship services, bake treats for rescued dogs, and more.
- Children and Youth Worship: Each Sunday session begins by all RE groups meeting together in one room to light our children’s chalice, speak our opening words, and sing a monthly congregational hymn corresponding to worship themes. Periodic “Children’s Chapels” are worship service specifically for children and youth that will fill the entire RE period; older youth have opportunities to participate as worship leaders.
- UUCH Youth Group: The high-school youth group (grades 9-12) includes social activities (game nights, lock-ins, pizza parties), social justice projects, deep conversation, and community events.
- All-ages social activities: All church members, friends, and guests of all ages are invited to our annual social activities: the Halloween Party, Easter Egg Hunt, Chili Cook-Off, movie nights, and more.
Our program welcomes children and youth of diverse beliefs, backgrounds, ethnic and cultural identities, gender expressions, physical abilities, special needs, learning styles, and family structures.
The Children and Youth RE program is facilitated by an energetic team of volunteers who serve as RE committee members, teachers, and youth advisors dedicated to creating meaningful, fun experiences for children and youth. The program is also served by the Director of Religious Education and the RE Committee Chair who offer leadership, support, organization, and reflection on the program’s goals and activities. Any member of our RE team would be happy to talk with you about the program on a Sunday morning, and there is always someone to welcome you at the door and help you find the right spot for you and your family.
If you haven’t done so already, please register children and youth for this year’s program. Paper registration is available at the church, or you can register online.
If you are interested in joining a community of shared values, a community that encourages you and your children to explore and more fully live these values, we warmly invite your family to visit and participate in our program.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions or for help registering your child.
Director of Religious Education