Why UU youth programs suck

Our model for youth ministry in Unitarian Universalism sucks. The reasons why it sucks begin in our recent history, and in our current responses to the social changes going on all around us.

History first: Our model of youth ministry is an amalgam of three old models; none of the older models is particularly relevant to today’s world.

(1) First, there is the core model of youth ministry dating back to around 1900, when the Unitarian and Universalist denominations (along with many other denominations in mainline Protestantism) decided that persons in the age range of about 14 to about 20 had different religious and spiritual needs than adults — they did, that is, if their families were wealthy enough to keep them in school through their mid-teens; and since mainline Protestants were the ruling elite in the United States at that time, many mainline Protestant families were wealthy enough to keep their kids in school up to or even past the age of 16. By contrast, families in the Black churches and “ethnic” Catholic churches were less likely to keep their children in school up into their mid-teens, and those churches were less likely to have youth ministries that looked like mainline Protestant youth ministries.

This first model of Unitarian and Universalist youth ministry is rooted in entitlement and privilege that is based in unconscious membership in a religious elite that ruled the United States to serve its own purposes and values.

(2) The second layer of youth ministry emerged in the 1950s, when mainline Protestantism was at its peak in the United States. Continue reading “Why UU youth programs suck”