That’s the pronunciation for youth, in case you’re wondering.
One of the best experiences I had growing up was being a part of my church’s youth group. I honestly don’t think I would be who I am today if it weren’t for all the time spent with friends and leaders — going camping, hanging out, traveling, being silly, being serious — all of it. My youth minister and his wife still hold a place in my heart that no one will ever take the place of. I’m still friends with many people I grew up with in youth group.
And despite some of the theological baggage I’ve had to work my way through, I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything — and this is coming from someone who pretty much rejects all of the religion I came out of.
Which brings me to where I am today. I’m back in a youth group! Except this time I’m not a member of it, I’m one of the advisors for it. One of the main ways I’m involved with the local Unitarian group in town is through my volunteering with the youth group. And, I LOVE IT.
It’s different than what youth group was like for me, in a traditional evangelical sense. UU youth are more autonomous, and the adults are there in an advisor capacity, not so much in a “leader”- sense. It’s the youth’s group, which means many of the decisions for activities and topics are directed by what they want to do.
At the end of this month I’ll be one of the facilitators for the OWL (our whole lives) weekend — OWL is the sexuality education program for UUs. This last August I went down to Boston to get trained to be able to deliver the program. The OWL curriculum is great, and I’m already looking forward to spending more time with everyone. (and part of me wishes I could gone through such a program in my formative years)
I’ve only been involved with these teens for a couple months now, and I can already say I’ve had my heart both inspired and broken. I’m inspired by how kind these kids are to each other, and how funny and insightful they can be (often simultaneously). But I’ve also been heartbroken by seeing some of the difficulties and injustices they have to face — and I wish I could do more to make it easier for them, other than being there and listening.
My heart is full.