That was my response when I heard how many volunteers were participating in the Religious Education (RE) teacher dedication ceremony at UUCA during one of my first worship services last year. Over seventy-five individuals volunteered to support the faith development of our children. Wow! I have been serving as Minister of Faith Development for almost a year and am grateful to know that children and youth programs are so important to UUCA. As the year draws to a close and Summer Magic Sundays begin (Yay, Hogwarts!) we continue our efforts to recruit volunteers for next RE year. I invite you to consider joining one of our teaching teams. What? You have questions about what that means? Read on….
Questions, Myths and Facts about Volunteering in Religious Education at UUCA
Compiled by Jen Johnson and Kim Collins
Question: How will I know what to do?
Fact: You are provided a scripted curriculum (for most classes), plus other ideas, tools, and support from the RE staff and your team.
“Thank you for making my first teaching experience such a positive one. You made it so easy. The resources you provided for activities and discussion questions were simple, creative and fun – it was hard to choose just one. At first I was a bit apprehensive about volunteering. I don’t have any teaching experience and I wouldn’t call myself artistic, but I’m so glad I did. Listening to the RE stories and watching the children engage with the lessons has deepened my own understanding of our heritage. It was a gift to be able to explore our UU principles through the eyes of our kids. Thank you for the opportunity.”
— Gina Phairas
Myth: I don’t need to volunteer in RE because that’s a job for the parents.
Fact: We need all sorts of people of all ages and all life experiences to volunteer in RE. In order to become a truly multigenerational congregation, we must get to know each other and develop relationships across all ages. We take care of each other better when we have deep connections with each other.
“For my children, the adults who teach them are the adults they know. I am happy that my children get to form relationships with a variety of adults in this intergenerational community- not only with the parents of their peers, but with the elders in our community as well. In today’s world, you cannot have enough adult mentors in your corner!”
— Melissa Murphy
Myth: Volunteering in RE is just busy work or babysitting and isn’t spiritually fulfilling for me at all.
Fact: Many of our volunteers report that serving in Religious Education is extremely spiritually fulfilling. Our volunteers also learn a lot from both the curriculum and our kids.
“…Because it is what we do in RE, I end up taking a deeper look at myself and my own beliefs and discussing meaningful ideas with adults and youth than I would otherwise. And the kids themselves have literally taught me things that have changed the way I live my life. I’d be a poorer soul for having missed all those experiences!”
– Coming of Age teacher
Myth: If I volunteer for RE, I will never get to go to the service.
Fact: You will still be able to attend services! Most of our volunteer positions have a commitment of serving in RE 1-2 times per month in rotation with your teaching team. Some folks even come for the early service on days they are volunteering at 11:15, or vice versa.
Myth: Sometimes attendance is inconsistent, and I would be wasting my time teaching just 3-4 kids on a given Sunday.
Fact: Time that kids spend with adults in an RE setting is valuable for those kids. Think of the impact you can have with a small class!
“Religious Education is a ministry of loving children and youth. The curricula are clear and easy to follow. You as a teacher may learn a great deal about UU history and beliefs. You will certainly have fun with our children who are without a doubt “above average.” The greatest qualification you need is to be able to love. These bright young people may not remember all of our excellent lessons about what our great historical UU’s have done or when we merged from two religious branches or the teaching from other world religions. They will always remember that here in our UU faith they were loved, they were appreciated for the unique individual that they are and the incredible potential that they bring to this world. We are growing UUs in the love of this community. There is no better feeling for me than to come on Sunday and love these students. Just like a hug, we both benefit.” — Long-time RE teacher
Question: So I have to love being with children if I volunteer in RE, right?
Fact: We have several volunteer positions available that allow you to serve without interacting with children or even having to be present in RE on Sundays. You know those awesome activity packs and coloring materials we have available for all ages Sundays in the Sanctuary? Someone has to replenish those, which can be done on your own time. Same for organizing rooms and closets!
“Our youth need a religious foundation so that they can explore their own beliefs. RE curricula provide that foundation. Learning about our UU tradition, our UU principles, and other religious traditions helps lay this foundation, helps foster respect and understanding for others in our community and our world, and helps create the responsibility we have to making our world a better place. What is more important than that?”
– RE Parent and Teacher
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development