The seed of my call to ministry was planted and grew in the fertile soil of religious education work. I taught Unitarian Universalist religious education classes nearly every Sunday morning for 15 years. I taught every elementary school grade until moving into junior and senior high age youth work.
In all the chaos and necessary tasks associated with our religious education programs, I think we tend to forget that teaching religious education is ministry. We must constantly remind everyone (especially all those church members without children in our programs) that our work with children and youth is just as important as the Sunday morning service, parish visitors, the church building, and all of the other elements of our religious communities. If fact, I would argue that it is slightly more important because our audience does not have the skills or life knowledge needed to minister to themselves, as we adults generally do.
I taught every Sunday because I couldn’t imagine what I would have done if I couldn’t do it. I resented Sunday services that cut into my class time, and all of these pesky special services and holiday weekends when we didn’t have classes. I adored teaching religious education classes and found working with children and youth to be my primary source of spiritual fulfillment and personal enrichment for many years. Teaching in religious education led me into so many other things, such as youth advising, chaplaincy, and curriculum writing, that broadened my perspective on ministry. These activities opened the way for my involvement in denominational affairs and attendance at General Assembly.
My passion for religious education continued into parish ministry. I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of children and youth knowing their minister and seeing their minister actively involved in their activities at church. I participate in youth and young adult activities, teach adult religious education classes, and lead summer camp and retreat programs. I work with religious educators planning multigenerational experiences on Sunday mornings. After teaching some adult classes, such as Our Chosen Faith and Building Your Own Theology, I would also like to explore new topics and formats for adult formal learning and experiential opportunities, such as occurs in small group ministry.
Ministry is the key. We should never have to beg people to fill a teaching slot because we cannot find enough warm bodies. We should be selecting teachers from among a pool of applicants seeking a spiritual path within our religion. I was privileged during every moment I have spent leading religious education classes and programming and participating in activities involving children, youth, and families in our congregations. I hope to continue to honor this vital work in my future congregations, helping to grow a new generation of Unitarian Universalists for the 21st century.