Children & Youth Religious Education Program

Lifespan Faith Development Programs
CHILDREN & YOUTH CLASSES
2014-15

Children and youth in Preschool (3 years) through high join the community for the first part of worship at 11 a.m. and then go to their prospective classes until 12:30.

NURSERY (birth-4 years)
Location: Church’s lower level, Nursery
We provide a safe, clean environment in which to support each child in initiating play activities at the developmental level they manifest. Each week our paid staff provide a loving presence as they engage children in games, stories and crafts with seasonal and holiday themes throughout the year.

3-5 year olds The Spiritually Growing Child

This curriculum is based on the philosophy that young children learn about religion through relationships. What is a person? Who am I? How am I related to others? What are my responsibilities? What kind of world do I live in? These are religious questions that children begin to answer as they become acquainted with themselves, other people, and their environment; all responses are mediated by the significant adults in their lives. Each week the children look and listen to an engaging picture book that reflects the week’s central theme with accompanying activities. Themes from September –June include: Individuality, Earth Day, Cycles of Life, Harvest, Thanksgving, Christmas, Hannukah, Winter Solstice, Family, Golden Rule, etc.

1st-4th Grades Spirituality for Children & Faithful Journeys

Spirituality for Children (From September-December 2014)

By spirituality we mean a looking inward to fulfill our potential to achieve happiness, love and joy, and a looking outward to foster positive connections with other individuals and with the greater community. The program helps children recognize their potential, focus on goals and understand the impact of their choices. The curriculum’s goals are to:

• Deepen children’s sense of purpose in life
• Encourage them to reflect on their actions
• See challenges as opportunities
• Develop self-worth
• Awaken their desire to make a difference in the world around them

Faithful Journeys (from January -May 2015)

All sessions include hands-on activities as well as guided discussion, reflection, and self-expression to engage participants with various learning styles. Sessions that rely heavily on verbal learning and expression also offer alternate activities that may better reach learners who are more active. Many core activities suggest adaptations to address different abilities as well as learning styles. Each session of this program includes rituals: sharing opening words, a chalice-lighting, centering in silence before hearing a story, and singing. The goals of the curriculum are to:

• Highlight ways the small and large choices we make represent our personal faith
and beliefs
• Promote understanding of, and sense of responsibility for, the world’s
interconnectedness, and reinforce cooperation, nonviolence, and balance as
necessary for our collective moral, ethical, and spiritual health
• Engage participants physically as well as mentally and spiritually through Move
It! activities
• Foster the creation of a learning community in which everyone is respected,
welcomed and honored — a community in which diversity is embraced, justice is
practiced, and children learn, grow and have fun together.

5th-8th Grades Junior High Youth Group Building Bridges

Building Bridges is a world religions program to deepen youth’s understanding of the dynamic, fascinating, and varied world in which they live. It seeks to broaden their knowledge of humanity and embolden their spiritual search. Participants will visit other religions as well as engage in class activities. The goals of this program include:

• Increase knowledge of religions practiced around the world and in local
communities
• Understand how religion addresses basic human needs
• Fosters acceptance of the diverse forms that religious expression takes
• Build awareness of the diversity of followers within every faith; understand
that to know someone’s religious identity is not the same as knowing what that
person thinks, believes, or practices
• Support the faith development of participants
• Empower youth to better appreciate human diversity and connect with others and
be able to respectfully discuss important matters with people with whom they
disagree
• Nurture open-mindedness and critical inquiry.

9th-12th Grades Senior High Youth Group (Youth Group Room)

The senior high youth group meets on Sundays from 11:30-12:30. The group offers its members a safe place to share their lives and find support and friendship among open minded and loving peers. The group engages in discussions about issues relevant to youth’s lives and communities. They plan social and service projects throughout the year. And they participate in youth conferences in area Unitarian Universalist churches under the auspices of the Pacific Central District of Unitarian Universalist Congregations and Y.R.U.U. (Young Religious Unitarian Universalists) PCD YRUU . The youth group’s empowering philosophy educates youth to be leaders within the group, church community and denomination.

COMING OF AGE PROGRAM FOR 8TH-10TH GRADERS

The First Unitarian Church of San Jose will be offering a Coming of Age Program, beginning in September 2014 through May 2015, for youth entering 8th-10th grades.

Coming of Age is an opportunity for youth to: challenge themselves both physically and spiritually; develop meaningful relationships with other youth and adults; gain a greater understanding of Unitarian Universalism and what it means to them and; to have lots of fun enjoying the many gifts life presents to us.

Each youth participating in the program will have a mentor (an adult member from the congregation) who will serve as an important companion throughout the year.

The Coming of Age Task Force will help each participant choose a mentor that is right for him or her.

In addition to each participant’s local congregational involvement there will be a series of three retreats during the year in which we will join with other Unitarian Universalist Coming of Age youth from around the bay area The retreats will give youth the opportunity to do some fun and challenging activities like a Ropes Course, Nature Vigil and a street retreat with the Faithful Fools Street Ministry in the Tenderloin section of San Francisco.

It is a program that requires a commitment from youth and their families and a level of maturity to be able to face the challenges of developing relationships with a diverse group of youth and an adult mentor. Youth must be willing to face the reality of homelessness and poverty that they will see in the Tenderloin and be willing to share their evolving sense of what it is they believe with the congregation in their credo statement on Coming of Age Sunday May 31, 2015.

If you would like to register for the 2014–15 Coming of Age Program or find out more information please contact Rev. Geoff Rimositis GRimositis@sanjoseuu.org

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The spiritual journey of a child through our faith community

Spiritual growth and learning is a life long journey that begins in childhood. A child is already a spiritual being; to be honored and listened to. We can learn much from our children as they can learn much from us. As Emuna Braverman writes: “We can learn a lot from our children if we are receptive. Their perspective is clear and pure, unclouded by “experience” and cynicism. They haven’t learned to be self-conscious and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. We’re touched by their vulnerability and we can learn from their simplicity.” We are spiritual companions with our children. We learn and grow together. This is the nature of our spiritual cooperative.

The children have classes and programs each Sunday and it begins when they are in the nursery and come to feel that this is a place that people care about them and want to get to know them. They make friends and have fun. And their journey continues in preschool where they are introduced to ritual and come to understand that this is their church and religious community. They celebrate holidays and share their emerging thoughts and feelings as we celebrate how each and every one of us is special. They come and sit on the labyrinth in the center of our round sanctuary and each week listen to a story for all ages. And when they get a little older they light the chalice that begins each service. It is a child that leads us into worship each week.

In the elementary years they learn the stories of remarkable people that made a difference in this world and are then given opportunities to do likewise through acts of service and social justice. They learn about the faiths of the world and how we are different and what we share in common. We get out of the classroom and meet people of other faiths and experience their worship life and spiritual practices. We make interfaith friendships and in the process find in the diverse religions we study what might be true for us.

When a child enters into middle school s/he goes on the yearly backpack trip in the summer and learns what it means to be in community where we depend on each other. We experience the deep satisfaction of accomplishing something we thought we couldn’t do. And away from the distractions of the plugged in modern world we get to know each other and experience the beauty and magnificence of nature. There are the youth retreats throughout the year with youth from other churches. There is the human sexuality program where youth learn how to make good choices for their health and happiness. And then as an 8th grader youth spend a special rite of passage year going on retreats and having an adult mentor from the church who helps him/her with the process of their coming of age. And then we have a big celebration at the end. There are also the monthly fun nights going bowling or playing games in the park with friends.

When you get into senior high you are now up in the youth room looking out above our social hall, where youth share their lives, joys and struggles with their peers and youth group advisors. Here is a safe place where youth can be themselves and know that they will be loved for who they are even if the world outside the church seems to be a hard and cruel place.

After church they go out to lunch with friends most Sundays. They spend weekends throughout the year with other Unitarian Universalist youth in conferences where they experience a youth empowerment culture that is organized and led by youth with adults serving in advisory roles. Here they make friends that last a lifetime and it becomes that one place that practices a radical hospitality no matter what color is your hair or what group you’re in or out of at school. There are the summer trips to the Channel Islands and to our partner church in Romania every four years.

Of course there is much more to the spiritual journey of a child through our faith community that happens through the course of a child’s growing years. But as religious educator Maria Harris says: “The church doesn’t have a religious education program. It is the religious education program.” This is what we offer children and their families: a religious community that partners with them through all that life offers.

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