At Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship we intentionally use the term “exploration” rather than education, because of the philosophy behind and throughout the ministry with our children. We are a faith tradition that holds children up and cherishes their individuality and their right to their own search for what is truth for them. Education implies leading and teaching, whereas exploration implies a shared journey together where our elementary guides (not teachers) accompany and support our children's spiritual journey. Our junior high and senior high advisors do the same for your youth. We are very intentional in our choice of words to remind ourselves that this is a shared journey and that it's about the questions and living in them and not answering them for anyone else, no matter what age they are.
Over the last two years, and going forward, Religious Exploration (RE) for Children and Youth and the RE Team, formerly known as the RE Committee, has focused on a ministry to families in everything we do. This means:
- Creating intentionally sacred classroom space that is an engaging place to explore the theological and scientific questions together within an environment built on the three Cs - consistency, connection, and community for our children and youth.
- Bringing the sacred and spiritual explorations into all elementary guide and youth advisor gatherings, whether they are trainings, monthly meetings, or retreats, and helping our guides and advisors recognize that teaching is a spiritual practice and that the sacred happens in their classrooms every week.
- Creating children's activities at BUUF congregational workshops and events so that parents and guardians can participate fully knowing that their children are learning while playing with compassionate caregivers.
- Being intentional in inviting families to all BUUF events and happenings.
- Facilitating Coming of Age workshops and retreats, fundraising, planning, and making our bi-annual pilgrimage to Boston, and facilitating classes in Our Whole Lives, an acclaimed human sexuality series for Kindergarteners through senior high children and youth.
Families are kept up to date on RE activities via several means of communication, including regular updates in the Newsletter and Sunday bulletin, information on BUUF’s public webpage, and through a dedicated RE Facebook page. Families are encouraged to discuss themes and topics from Sunday lessons at home throughout the week.
Families of all compositions are the heart of our congregation and we strive to invite, include, and embrace them in our beloved community.
BUUF’s Religious Exploration (children and youth) Sunday programs offer a time for learning and exploring for preschool through senior high youth. Our elementary-aged children (preschool-6th grade) have dedicated classroom space and adult guides at both services. Junior and senior high school youth have dedicated class time during the second service of our regular year. During the summer, we have an all-ages program for elementary-aged children and our junior and senior high youth are invited to participate and/or assist in the classrooms when they attend. They can also stay with their families in the sanctuary for the adult service. We provide engaging nursery care for infants and toddlers through the age of two or three.
Our curriculum is based primarily on the UUA’s Tapestry of Faith, an integrated collection of lifespan curricula. We offer a Junior High Our Whole Lives (OWL) Coming of Age program on alternating years. Starting this year, we will be offering the two elementary-aged OWL and the Senior High OWL programs. Throughout the year, the Religious Exploration Team sponsors several family-oriented gatherings in addition to guide and advisor retreats and in-services, and an end-of-the-year teacher appreciation luncheon and celebration.
During the alternate years to our junior high OWL program, we offer a nine-month Coming of Age program based on Coming of Age Handbook for Congregations by Sarah Gibb Milspaugh. This excellent guide is a part of the UUA Tapestry of Faith curricula. The junior high youth, along with adult mentors from the congregation, explore community building, credos, Unitarian Universalist Beliefs and Theology, Spirituality, Justice, Unitarian Universalist History, and Leadership. This program consists of eight monthly workshops and two weekend retreats. The program is facilitated by our Director of Religious Exploration with support and frequent participation from our minister.
In conjunction with the Coming of Age program, our junior high youth and their families embark on a comprehensive FUNdraising expedition throughout the eight Coming of Age months which builds community and gets them involved in the greater congregation. The culmination of this activity, along with some study of Boston and its history and environs, is a week-long heritage trip to Boston led by the Director of Religious Exploration and accompanied by a few adult chaperones. The youth involved in the preparation and participation of this heritage trip are lovingly dubbed The Boston Bounders and we have been offering this bi-annual trip since 2002.
Our senior high youth program is youth-driven and supported by a team of three volunteer youth advisors. This year, the senior high youth have chosen to build more ritual and worship into their time together. For the first time, the senior high youth will develop the Senior High Bridging Ceremony and service in the spring with support from their advisors and the Director of Religious Exploration and the Interim Minister.
Throughout the year, several of our senior high youth have been attending youth conferences and trainings in our district. We are in the planning stages of co-sponsoring a youth conference in collaboration with congregations in the intermountain western area of the Pacific Western Region.