Where are the Families and Children?

Dear GUUF community,

Back in November I was eager to read a blog post by UU Rev. Evin Carvill-Ziemer titled “Where are the Families and Children?” a question for which I had been eagerly seeking an answer. I hope you will take the time to read this article, especially before reading my reflections on it below.

Here are my key takeaways, in mostly my own words, in response to “Where are the Families and Children?”

No shame, no blame:  The lower presence of children and families in our congregation is not due to in-adequacies of our Religious Education staff, volunteers or programming. It is a nationwide trend in UUism and almost all other denominations. In addition, parents should not be shamed for not being back at church, or not coming consistently. Their lives have been upended, and they have had to navigate so many difficult shifts in routine. They will come back when they are ready on their own timeline. And this is okay.

Engage with our new and existing families: They are coming. They are here. Get to know them. Get to know the names of their children, too. Make it known that their presence is appreciated and adds so much to our congregational life. If you are seated near a noisy wiggle worm in the sanctuary on Sunday, a smile of recognition to the parent(s) is much better than a judgmental stare. Many of y’all have been there . . .

Live, be and act in the NOW: In these times of high anxiety and low capacity among almost all of us, comparisons to the “GUUF of the past” is not helpful or relevant at this moment in history. It sets standards and expectations that are impossible to achieve in our post- (almost-post?) pandemic world. Allow for patience and grace as we slowly gear up our activities. It’s not about elaborate preparation; it’s not about perfection; it’s all about your presence.

Tons of programming is not the solution: Having more activities on the calendar doesn’t guarantee an increase in participation when people are still slowly coming out of their post-isolation shells. 

Give people what they need; not what you’ve always done before: DRE David Funderburk started the Family Fellowship Night (3rd Wednesdays at 5pm) so families can come, participate and not have to worry about cooking or bringing food for a potluck. This evening is open to everyone, and from the HUGE attendance earlier this month, the opportunity to simply dine and spend time together resonated. It’s a great example of the centering of “play and connection” that is written about in the blog.

. . . which leads right to “it’s all about connection” All the little connections between people in the Fellowship matter, and they are FAITH FORMATION. Connections can be made without elaborate programming. Remember the finger candle lighting that happened in the December music service? Or when we tried to “complete the circuit” (and failed) at the Wednesday night dinner? That’s what we’re talking about!

As I mentioned in my column last month, at the end of the day it’s all about we’re here for – community, growth and making the world a better place. Let’s not focus on how things used to be, but on the simple actions, the simple successes we can experience together right now.

In faith,

Rev. Chris