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Multiple Pathways: What Does That Mean?

Posted by Jeremie Bateman // October 11th 2011 // Guides and Tools, youth // 6 comments

Perhaps you are familiar with this term or maybe you have heard it but are not quite sure what it means.  Or maybe you have not heard it at all.  Whatever the case, you probably do know what it means, just not what it is called.

“Multiple pathways” refers, quite literally, to the need for there to be multiple paths for our youth to follow that includes, but is not limited to, the youth group model.

To be a little more specific, recognizing multiple pathways calls us to a congregation-wide, district-wide, association-wide vision of youth ministry where youth are involved in all aspects of our community life, and individual youth have options for how they are involved in our religious communities that meet their individual spiritual needs and recognize their individual gifts.

The Youth Ministry Working Group Report of 2009 lifted up some pathways that should be created, or made explicit, in congregations:

  • planning, participating in and leading worship
  • engaging in spiritual reflection and discernment through small group ministries or other programs
  • singing in the choir and providing instrumental music in worship
  • providing religious education to children
  • co-facilitating youth-adult faith development programs
  • providing and receiving pastoral care
  • serving on committees and boards (in addition to youth-specific and religious education committees)
  • helping to plan and lead social service and social justice projects

Many of these things are already happening within youth groups.  But the idea of multiple pathways calls us to think about how youth are doing these things with the congregation as a whole.  So, to use one example from the list above as a launching point, how are youth in your congregation planning, participating in and leading worship beyond the annual Youth Sunday worship or designated multigenerational services?  Maybe some serve as regular readers.  Maybe a youth sits on your congregation’s worship committee or music committee.

In later months, we will have posts about specific ways to be involved and how to kick-start new pathways in your congregation, but we encourage you to talk now!  If there is something you are passionate about, approach your minister, advisor or religious educator about how to get involved.  If you are not sure if the youth in your congregation know about the opportunities that are open to them, let them know and invite them – not just to participate in an activity, but to plan and lead.  Blaze new paths together.

Comment and let us know what pathways have been made in your congregation and other pathways to youth leadership and participation in congregational life you want us to cover in future posts.

About the Author

Jeremie Bateman is the Leadership Development Associate in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at the UUA. He can be reached at jbateman@uua.org.
6 Responses to “Multiple Pathways: What Does That Mean?”
  1. Aimee says:

    Our youth regularly serve as worship leaders, run the audio and lights, sing in our choir, and are now learning how to film the services. However, I don’t believe any serve on the committees. I’m not certain they are permitted to.

    • Jeremie (Giacoia) Bateman says:

      Hi Aimee,

      I’m glad to hear of the many ways your youth are involved! How did that come about? Did particular youth ask to be involved in certain ways or was there some outreach to them?

      Whether youth are able to serve on committees in your congregation would be an interesting question to get the answer to. If the answer is yes, they can, but aren’t, perhaps your youth assume that they aren’t able to. Some youth I met with this year assumed that because there weren’t any youth on committees or in the choir, they weren’t permitted to join! It may also be true that at this moment, none of your youth are particularly interested in committee work – but having the option available and known creates opportunity for when one is. If the answer is no, they can’t, the reason is pretty important. If all your committee members must be pledging members of the congregation and your bylaws don’t permit for youth under 18 to be members, then it’s an entirely different conversation than if the reason is that the term limits or responsibilities are deemed too burdensome.

      Blue Boat will be tackling the issues of youth on committees and youth membership in the coming months.

      -Jeremie B.
      Leadership Development Associate

  2. Mike Greening says:

    Thanks for writing this. As the youth programs coordinator in Calgary, Alberta, I’m grateful for the reminder that youth group and conferences are far from the only ways that youth can be involved in UU life!

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