Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Kelsy in the comments, asks for my thoughts about the end of funding for the continental YRUU (Youth programs).

The thing that interests me about the ending of funding for YRUU is how it parallels the reduction of funding for Starr King and Meadville Seminaries, a move taken because we were spending all of our available "seminary money" on two seminaries which were preparing only 1/3 of candidates for our ministry. Even if you believe that these tow schools are preparing students well for ministry, it only seems fair to give the 2/3 of our future ministers who go to other schools some benefit of our collective "seminary money."

It has definitely seemed to me that something has been awry with YRUU and its focus on Cons as the be-all and end-all of Youth programs. In our neck of the woods, that's meant our teens were doing a lot of carbon-intensive travel, and kids like mine, who had weekend activities of their own, start feeling like second class citizens. (actually, I should speak for myself: their moms start feeling like their kids are being treated like second class citizens.) And all ministers do notice that our High School programs are only serving a fraction of the number of kids served by our Mid-High and elementary programs. If we were doing a good job, La Amikoj would be the largest class in the RE program.

So I'm up for seeing if we can find something better.


Kelsey Atherton said...

I can second the notion of second class citizenry in relation to non-congoers, as there was always an uncomfortableness about planning cons in a youth group where maybe a third was actively involved on the district level. The lack of congregational focus is a serious flaw, and the ideological point that the UUA has a strongest ground on.

As someone heavily entwined in La Amikoj, it's hard to say that the low numbers of attendees is a fundamental problem, and I can expand this into larger notions about YRUU. Certainly, the programs as the exist are not serving everyone, but they are serving a very distinct need.

In reimagining YRUU, I think care will need to be taken with regard to the different needs youth programing is intended to serve. The youth who aren't part of La Amikoj, who are alienated from that culture and that community, need a viable program. The youth who are in La Amikoj, who find it as a source of strength and an essential part of their UU identity are having a need met, and we should not be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I think that, if a full range of youth programming was possible, La Amikoj would be one of many programs serving the various needs of our congregations youth, and that those who are not con- or camp-goers would have a meaningful way to get what they need out of the community. Youth programming as a whole would be a larger field, and more youth would be in that umbrella, con-going/planning could then be disassociated from La Amikoj, and our church of 3/4s of a thousand (!!!) would be able to boast a vibrant and diverse spectrum of youth planning

Also indicative, and what I see as the fundamental flaw of YRUU as YRUU was, is that it creates a seperate community of the raised-in-the-church, and that community does not mesh well with the "joining as young adults". There is a need for the UUA to acknowledge and provide for these distinctive communities, and while it is noble to acknowledge those who have not been served, and reform the system in such a way that their needs may be better met, it needs to be said that YRUU was fulfilling a need. Not for everyone, but for many, and the whole affair seems to have a tone of invalidation of that experience. We cannot forget those who are being served in our quest to help those who aren't, and I can only hope any reform addresses this concern.

ogre said...

Sucked in by the tangential (but topical) reference to funding for our seminaries.

I wonder if we're not falling prey--in both cases--to the attempt to craft a one-size-fits-all answer. Such projects are doomed, in my view. Once size doesn't fit all.

Our seminaries aren't training all/most of our ministers for a range of reasons, among them that we don't require it, or even offer it any preference. Then there are only two of them (three... if you sorta count Harvard), and that means that they're geographically distant from most of us. UUs going into ministry tend not to be first career folk just out of their bachelors' programs (for a number of understandable reasons). So packing up and going to a far off place (none of them even moderate in cost of living...) to go to school is a major challenge. It means having to abandon one's life and current income-producing career to try to get an M.Div. It's not viable for many of us. So we find other options that work, closer to home... or something.

Even so, Meadville and Starr King are pretty critical even for UU ministers being trained elsewhere--it's where they can go for UU-specific classes and training that's... necessary. If we cut them free to compete and survive on their own, they may do so, but it may end up meaning that they cease being UU, in the end, and become liberal and non-denominational and slowly lose the UU-specific resources that we UUs need.

As they are, now, they benefit seminarians attending them, and those who can only get some classes from them--online or in intensives.

I think similar analysis might apply to YRUU--not as the only answer, but as one that may be needed even so.

It seems that people have become enthralled with a sort of obsessive "efficiency" when that' not really what we want or need most--what we need most is to maximize EFFECTIVENESS.

Cutting free seminaries and the existing youth program in order to seek perfect solutions that fit all equally is, I think, doomed to fail and will do real damage while those engaged in it wander in the desert pursuing that mirage.

That said, my teens aren't really engaged in YRUU at more than the congregational level--and slightly at the cluster level. Some focus of resources should be for the larger group. But this seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Pogo Park said...

I agree that Cons are inefficient, but I don't think that YRUU has ever made them the be-all-and-end-all of youth programming, and the cost/benefit relationship between their inefficiency and the benefits spread to the local and district levels may well justify their existence. There is also the critical question of whether districts provide a critical mass that makes great things possible that youth just would never be able to achieve in most congregations.

Steve Caldwell said...

Christine -- Cons (or "rallies" as they are called in the SW District) may be "inefficient" but they do allow youth and adult advisors to see youth empowerment modeled for them.

This is in part a result of the critical mass of youth leaders present at the district level.

After experiencing youth empowerment while out of town, it's easier to bring it back to home to the congregation.

The hard part to the "youth empowerment" type of youth ministry is it take more time than adult-led programming.

I've seen many youth in my congregation who are over-scheduled and they are not allowed the luxury of a spiritual retreat in a district con.

Anonymous said...

What the hell is amikoj?

Alec Koumjian said...

While I agree that a holistic approach to programming is important, I do hope that you recognize why conferences are able to embody YRUU principles more than afternoon workshops or other events with smaller time commitments.

The type of community that a group of youth can create over a weekend completely removes the superstructure present in any other event or setting. Conferences are an opportunity where youth may open up in ways that would never occur in a single afternoon or within a intergenerational setting.

Kelsey Atherton said...

Anon - La Amikoj is the name of First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque's youth group, and is connected to YRUU via overlapping membership. It means "friends" in Esperanto, which must have seemed like a good idea at the time.