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Bring the Whole Congregation on Board

Posted by Kayla Parker // March 22nd 2012 // Guides and Tools, On Campus, young adults // no comments

How can hosting a workshop on Young Adult and Campus Ministry benefit not only the YA leaders in your cluster of congregations, but your whole congregation? An increased dedication to this work by everyone!

Below is a letter that was published in Jefferson Unitarian Church’s (JUC) newsletter by Kristi Reeves, a board member who attended the conference. Kristi was one of many committee representatives from the congregation who attended the conference to learn how their work can help advance their congregation’s young adult and campus ministry.



I get it, I really GET it.  JUC needs to commit to Young Adult and Campus Ministry.  Not in five years, not next year, but now.  This revelation came to me while attending the recent Young Adult Ministry Conference hosted by JUC.  I was having a casual conversation with a college student attending the conference.   She described how both she and her girlfriend had grown up in very conservative religious homes, and the reason she was attending college inColorado was because her parents had kicked her out.

She said that she had attended many churches after leaving home, but the UU church was the only one that opened its arms to her and her partner.  She explained that she still wasn’t sure of her religious beliefs, but that the UU church was a place for her to feel safe and welcome while she was so far from home, indeed without a home.

The reason we need Young Adult and Campus Ministry is not to get new members.  It’s not to feel good about having a multigenerational church.  It is because there is a large, searching, vulnerable population of human beings in our midst who are in vital need of our ministry.

Kayla Parker, Campus Ministry Associate for the UUA (and the keynote speaker for the conference), emphatically stated that this branch of ministry should be considered part of our social justice outreach.  It is not about bringing warm bodies into our church services, but rather, going out into the community and ministering to college students and young adults in the places where they are—college campuses, interfaith gatherings, bowling alleys, etc.

The UU myth that the college and young adult years are a time for leaving church and exploring on one’s own is doing all of us a grave injustice, especially our youth.  While these years are indeed a time of tremendous growth and exploration, they are also a tremendously vulnerable time, when drugs, alcohol, sex, and gender identification pose enormous questions and pressures.  Most of us did not have the safety net of a UU campus ministry when we went off to college (though most mainstream churches do have a strong campus presence).  Many of us have sent our kids off to college or work wishing for a UU group on campus or in the community that would hold them, nurture them, and care for them when they are far away and exploring life’s biggest questions.

We must make this wish a reality for young adults facing these issues in our own community.  It is part of our mission.   It is one of our stragetic goals.   And we can do it; we MUST do it–for our own youth, and for the many young adults whose lives could be changed and saved by Unitarian Universalism.

–Kristi Reeves, Board of Trustees


About the Author

Kayla Parker is editor of Becoming: A Spiritual Guide for Navigating Adulthood. She is currently a seminarian at Yale Divinity School, and Ministerial Intern at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden, CT.
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