Lifespan Faith Development
Welcome to the Lifespan Faith Development Program
at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York (UUCYork)!
We use the term "lifespan" to acknowledge that one's religious and spiritual journey lasts their entire life. We are dedicated to helping everyone, from toddlers to senior adults, explore and deepen their religious and spiritual beliefs through a variety of classes, groups, activities, and events.
Our philosophy of faith development is summed up by these three words:
Belong. Believe. Become.
Faith development begins with a sense of belonging. To that end, our program works to connect people and build relationships of love. When you feel connected, we invite you to deepen your faith by asking life's biggest questions and exploring your personal beliefs. To that end, our program works to nurture people's spirituality with UU principles and sources as the foundation. Once you have nurtured those beliefs, knowing full well that you will continue to nurture them over the course of your life, we examine how we can become what those beliefs say we are by shifting how we put our faith into action. To that end, our program works to equip people to become agents of change in the world.
We encourage you to explore the different programs we have by clicking on the various tabs below. If you have any additional questions, please contact our Director of Lifespan Faith Development.
Matt Shineman, Director of Lifespan Faith Development, 717-845-8212 x 104, DLRE@UUCY.ORG
The UU Seven Principles - Children's Language
1st Principle: We believe that each and every person is important.
2nd Principle: We believe that all people should be treated fairly and kindly.
3rd Principle: We believe that we should accept one another and keep on learning together.
4th Principle: We believe that each person must be free to search for what is true and right in life.
5th Principle: We believe that all persons should have a vote about the things that concern them.
6th Principle: We believe in working for a peaceful, fair, and free world.
7th Principle: We believe in caring for our planet Earth, the home we share with all living things
Open from 9:30 AM until 11:30 AM, our nursery provides loving care for babies to 3 year olds who are not potty trained. This is an environment that encourages discovery and provides a loving first experience with our church family. Parents may opt to stay with their child or leave them in the care of our childcare providers. Should your child require any item necessary for care, please provide staﬀ with those items.
For potty trained children aged 3 to 5 years old. This group experience is designed to help young children learn about their congregation and about UUism. We believe that children of this age gain a sense of belonging to their religious community when they have concrete experiences with its people and places.
ELEMENTARY (1ST - 3RD GRADE)
Belonging is still an extremely important part of children in early elementary grades. Games and crafts are important tools to expose children to the foundations of Unitarian Universalism - our history, our principles, and the sources of our faith. We begin nurturing their beliefs by exposing them to some of the bigger religious questions.
PRE-TEEN (4TH-6TH GRADE)
Preteens are beginning to leave childhood behind, but are not yet quite adolescents. Therefore, we continue to explore some of life’s big questions, but we also begin the process of equipping them and encouraging them to begin to act out their faith.
Our Youth Ministry meets on various evenings for diﬀerent experiences centered around one or more of the 4 S’s of Youth Ministry - Social, Seeking, Service, and Spiritual.
MIDDLE SCHOOL (7TH-8TH GRADE)
The primary focus of the middle school years here at UUCY is to nurture an individual’s core beliefs, culminating with the Coming of Age rite of passage in the 8th grade year. In addition to this process, we also want to engage them more with the world, equipping them to put their faith into action. Middle schoolers will grapple with what it means for them to be a Unitarian Universalist, how they are both unique and part of a larger community, and how we as UUs engage with those from other faith traditions.
HIGH SCHOOL (9TH-12TH GRADE)
Youth in High School are truly taking on more agency in their lives and our goal is to equip them for the world they will face. They ask questions like, “Who am I?” “Where do I fit?” and “What diﬀerence can I make?” In that sense, all 3 B's - Belong, Believe, Become - play into our high school ministry. We provide a connection to caring and meaningful relationships with peers and adult mentors, nurture their beliefs by challenging them to go deeper, and equip them to turn those beliefs into action and help change the world.
Adult Faith Development
As previously mentioned, we believe faith development is a joyful journey of continuous exploration; expanding and deepening our perspectives throughout life. Thus, we provide a variety of opportunities for adults of all ages to cultivate and nourish their faith. Like all aspects of our program, these opportunities focus on one or more of the 3 B's - Belong, Believe, Become
Our Whole Lives
Our Whole Lives (OWL) is a series of comprehensive lifespan sexuality education curricula created through a collaborative project of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the United Church of Christ (UCC).
Promoting values of self-worth, sexual health, responsibility, and justice & inclusivity, OWL helps participants make informed decisions about their sexual health and behavior. It provides accurate, developmentally appropriate information about a range of
topics, including relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual health, and cultural influence on sexuality. Grounded in a holistic view of sexuality, OWL not only presents facts about anatomy and human development, it also helps participants clarify their values, build interpersonal skills, and understand the spiritual, emotional, and social aspects of sexuality.
UUCY has a team of trained OWL Facilitators and oﬀers classes every year. Our Elementary OWL (K-1st/4th-6th) and Youth OWL (7th-9th/10th-12th) courses alternate which age range they oﬀer each year. The curricula addresses issues typically excluded from sexuality & health classes. Due to the nature of the subject matter and group dynamics, OWL classes are closed after the 2nd session. A commitment to attend all sessions is required to participate in any OWL program.
Rites of Passage
Similar to a baptism or christening, our congregation hopes to welcome babies and young children into our community through this moving ceremony. It is a unique opportunity for parents to express devotion to their child in the presence of friends and family. Our hope is to provide you and your family with support and aﬃrmation on this special occasion. Typically taking place during a Sunday morning service, the ceremony is unique crafted by the parents, the minister, and the Director of Lifespan Faith Development. It might include a blessing for new life, an expression of hopes for the child, an opportunity to recognize godparents, etc. If you are interested in performing a child dedication, or want to learn more, please contact our minister.
COMING OF AGE
Rites of passage marking the transition from childhood to youth run throughout history and occur in many cultures. Our Unitarian Universalist tradition marks this transition with a yearlong program called Coming of Age. Coming of Age, or COA, asks youth to reflect upon what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist & how their beliefs and values intersect, all while providing a fun and safe environment in which doubt and questioning are encouraged. Youth focus on themselves, their own spiritual journey, and how they will be involved in the greater community. Each youth will be paired with an adult mentor from the congregation. The program includes an orientation, discussions & retreats, services projects, a heritage trip, and a culminating ceremony of aﬃrmation. It is important to note that this program is conducted at a time other than our typical Middle School Youth Group. The time is mutually agreed upon on a year basis.
In Unitarian Universalism, we honor the transition from youth into young adulthood with a Bridging Ceremony. Held for High School seniors (17-18 years old), this is a moment to be celebrated and a process to be supported. Bridging refers to both the ritual used to honor the transition but also the process of leaving the youth community to find one’s place in the young adult community. Bridging can be a joyful and enlightening experience as well as a sad and challenging one. It is important that we support youth through their transition, keeping them connected to Unitarian Universalism and continuing to minister to them as they become adults.
We believe that the home, not the church, is the center of faith development. Whereas churches have, at best, 50 hours a year with children and youth, parents have roughly 3,000 hours a year with their children. Family Ministry recognizes this impact by stating that parents are a child’s primary religious educator - they will always have the potential for much greater impact than anyone else because their aﬃrmation is the longest, they provide a consistent voice in the lives of their children, and they set an example with their actions.
We believe that the best way to influence the next generation is to equip their biggest influencers - their parents.
With that said, our role is to partner with the parents and equip them to be that primary religious educator as they help their children move from seeking a place to belong, to discovering their beliefs, and to serving their community with their gifts. This is not about giving parents and families more to do, it is about helping them apply a “faith at home” lens to what they are already doing. Faith development happens beyond Sunday mornings
Our Intergenerational Community
While many of our offerings are grouped by age (Children, Youth, Adult), we also believe in the importance of intergenerational engagement. Coming together as an intergenerational community from time to time not only strengthens our bonds but also creates opportunities to learn from each other. This takes place in many different ways, though most often in worship.
Every Sunday, children begin the service with their parents in the sanctuary. They are present for the gathering and opening rituals, as well as a story. We then sing these children out of the sanctuary down to their small groups. About once a month, we engage in an all-ages worship for the entirety of the service so that we can worship together as an entire community.