Today I’m presenting the Seven Tools for Building a UU Home to the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Liberal Religious Educators Association. Quite a mouthful, I know. But that’s okay…I’ve got more than enough to say to them (or anyone who’ll listen) about Family and Multigenerational Ministry. Here’s a quick summary of the presentation. First, Family Ministry and Multigenerational Ministry are two sides of the same coin. One side (Family Ministry) is all about how families practice their faith, in their home and in their congregation. It’s the congregation’s job to provide resources for individual families so they can practice their faith in a way that gives their life together a meaningful existence. The specific resources a congregation offers to families to help them practice their faith as families, both in the congregation and in the home, constitutes Family Ministry. So things like family worship, family fun nights, and having families light the chalice at worship are example of Family Ministry within the congregation. The Seven Tools for Building a UU Home are, for the most part, examples of Family Ministry within the home.
Multigenerational Ministry is more about the context in which Family Ministry takes place. It’s all about how welcoming a congregation is to the different ages and generations of which it is comprised. It’s about offering opportunities for different ages and generations to experience the fullness of their faith within their religious community. Sometimes I like to think of Multigenerational Ministry as the desire to embody the abstract concept of the Living Tradition in a sacramental way. The traditional definition of a sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace,” so gathering in a truly multigenerational community is the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace of our Living Tradition. The elders are our link to the past and the children are our link to our future. They are of equal importance because their presence in a multigenerational gathering ties us to all who have come before us as well as all who will come after us.
We need to be attentive to both Family Ministry and Multigenerational Ministry in our congregations. These Seven Tools for Building at UU Home are primarily about Family Ministry. They are: Bedtime Rituals, Caring Conversations, Celebrating Holidays, Congregational Participation, Family Meals, Family Service, and Symbols of Faith. I would like to see congregations offer families guidance in how to use these tools in as many ways as possible, formally and informally: through sermons, religious education classes, small group ministry sessions, newsletter articles, and retreats. And to all of these traditional ways of doing faith development, I would add the internet as well. I would love to see every UU congregation in the country have a “Family Page” on their website. Ideally, this page would be part of a complete “Faith Development Network” that the congregation has created to offer faith development and spiritual opportunities to members, friends, and fellow travelers of all ages and generations (more on that later). A link to the page would have a prominent place on the congregation’s home page, and the content would continually be refreshed. A “Table Grace of the Week” would encourage families to engage in the practice of saying grace before their family meals, and a “Family Favorite Recipe of the Week” (ideally from actual families in the church) would help remove some of the obstacles families face when trying to share meals more often. Weekly “Conversations Starters” could be offered as well. You get the idea.
So that’s the presentation in a nutshell. Okay, a rather large nutshell. If you have any examples of a congregational “Family Page,” I love to see them. Just post a link in the comments section.