Stewardship, according to Merriam-Webster, means
1: the office, duties, and obligations of a steward
2: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care
So, by taking responsibility for the heritage of Unitarianism and Universalism, by claiming to be UUs, we become stewards and take on the responsibility for managing Unitarian Universalism and making sure it has a future.
There are lots of ways of being good stewards, giving of our time, our money, or our skills to strengthen our movement and affirm and promote our Principles. I want to talk about what I think may be the single most important investment we can make for the future of Unitarian Universalism: Faith Development. Sometimes called Religious Education in our congregations, this is the ministry of helping each of us take what the Minster tells us Sunday morning and applying it to our own lives. It is where we connect deeply with one another in small groups and with our history in classes. Perhaps the most well known aspect is the one we often struggle the most with: developing a UU identity for our children so that Unitarian Universalism will continue to be a positive influence in the next 50 years.
RE is One of Our Biggest Draws, but That’s Not the Point of It.
Many people actually visit a UU congregation for the first time out of concern for their kids. They want them to have a community. They seek help instilling morals and good values. Many are seeking to help their children become literate in religious ideas and language without actually having to submit to dogma. Eventually, though, many kids get much of that without actually feeling like they’ve become members of the community themselves. We fail to make youth welcome in the greater congregation. We don’t help them feel like they have a place in the community.
It is on us, as adult UUs, to invest our time and skill in connecting with the youth, and volunteering in a classroom, even just as a substitute, is one of the most powerful ways. Being there with them, getting to know them in a space set aside for them, makes it so much more meaningful. Diversity among the teachers also increases their capacity for empathy and recognition that all people have worth and dignity.
Whatever you call it locally, religious education is vital to having a congregation that is engaged, connected, and emotionally and spiritually healthy. Making whatever commitment you can, in class or as a support volunteer, can mean the world to a kid. Helping put together a party or serving lunch at a workshop shows them that they are members of the community. It sets an example for the many, many occasions we wish we could get the youth to pitch in with a project. Volunteering for them is good for us all.
And, Yes, RE is Good for All Ages
I don’t want to down-play the importance of adult RE and faith development. I do try to keep these short, though. This week, let’s talk about ways you’ve volunteered with the youth. Maybe your comment will inspire others in ways they hadn’t thought of!
The I Am UU project is a grass-roots, crowdfunded ministry. We count on the people who find value in what we make to support us. Your shares, comments, and financial contributions all matter in helping us reach more people and creating innovative liberal religious outreach. Even just a few dollars is a big show of support and faith!