Shared Ministry

building birdhouses

An adult volunteer working with the children on a Green Sanctuary project – an example of Shared Ministry!

The congregation I serve has been working on the concept of Shared Ministry and volunteering/lay leadership as a spiritual practice.  Essentially, the idea is that ministry is not something reserved for the professional and the ordained, but is something that we all can do – whenever we share our gifts with one another and the world we are engaged in ministry.

This is clearly true to me when I look at the wonderful volunteers who come in to make the religious education program possible – they are all ministering to our children and youth.  Through the time, skills, presence, and caring they give they are making a quality spiritual growth experience and a community of caring for our young people.  And how is this a spiritual practice for the volunteers themselves?  Through their volunteer work they get to know the kids, get to play games and sing songs and have fun with them, get challenged at times, and grow and deepen their own understanding of their faith.

But what about the young people themselves? Can they be part of the shared ministry of the congregation?  Yes!

We have organized Hospitality Teams for each age group, and each Sunday a different Hospitality Team takes a turn putting on the welcoming extras that make Sunday a nurturing experience for many: Greeting at the front door, bringing cookies for coffee hour, bringing a healthy snack for the classroom time, or bringing a parent to be a helper in a classroom.  To launch these teams, we put on Pancake Breakfasts and a member of the Shared Ministry Team came and talked to the kids about “why do we do stuff when we’re not getting paid for it?”

The kids thought of things they do not for pay but because they care and those things need to be done … and also because it’s fun to do them.  Volunteers have fun, or this system wouldn’t work.  And then they named their new team together and had a chance to sign up for a job.  I think this is going to be great this year, and I am so honored that my work means sharing ministry with people of all ages.

October’s Theme: Celebrating Unitarian Universalism

7 Principles poster

Our theme for Religious Education classes in October is “Celebrating Unitarian Universalism”.  We are starting the year off with a look at our own faith tradition: its history, heritage, and current identity.  Of course, we began with the 7 Principles.

The Principles are what most UU’s turn to when they try to wrestle with that question of “what do UU’s believe”, but that is really the wrong answer to the wrong question.  UU’s don’t believe in common; a diversity of theological views and ideas and the absence of a creed are a defining characteristic of our religious tradition.  The Principles are not statements of belief, either.  What the 7 Principles represent are communal affirmations of values and are aspirations for us to try and live up to, which was beautifully articulated in a recent UU World article, I don’t believe in the 7 Principles, by Doug Muder.

With our youngest class, the preschoolers, we express the Principles as being Promises that we make as we try to create a loving community.  The 7 Promises are taught through symbol and story and the memory device of the rainbow of colors: Red for the 1st Principle (Respect Everyone), etc.

With our elementary class, we explored the Principles as a vision of what we hoped for in the world and students could choose to explore through active games where they tried to put the Principles into action with how they treated one another, through making a necklace with a word to remind them of their aspirations/principles, or through creating a poster to show the 7 Principles.  I had imagined that they would just write the 7 Principles on their poster with symbols or maybe organize them into a rainbow or a tree or something – how delightful that they actually drew the world as they wish it was and said “Care for our Earth and Respect Everyone”.

Finally, our youth group explored the Principles and whether they personally live by any other principles in their small group discussion questions, and then painted stones with their foundational principles on them.

This is a great place to start off with our Celebration of Unitarian Universalism!  Next up, we will pull in each of the two traditions (Unitarian and Universalist) with stories from their history and explorations of Heresy and Radical Love.

For now, I will leave you with this song version of the 7 Principles.