I had been invited to the Youth Council retreat to respond to youth concerns about regionalization. The straightforward question came from a youth leader sitting on the arm of the sofa across the room.
“No,” I respond. “I don’t think it is your imagination.”
Our Association and our congregations struggle with how to best minister to and be in right relationship with our youth communities. The shift to regionalization does not simplify these issues.
The hour-long discussion at the Youth Council retreat was thoughtful, nuanced, and authentic. Our discussion topics included the history of districts, funding and resource allocation, the tension between the vision for congregation based youth ministry and district youth programming, and the differences between District Trustees and At-Large Trustees. Throughout the conversation, youth leaders gently called the twenty plus member group back to focus if the conversation wandered. Members encouraged one another to choose words that implied possibility rather than words with negative connotation.
During the course of our discussion I made recommendations to Youth Council on how to best position themselves in a changing system. My recommendations come from a knowledge of systems and change, as well as a deep familiarity with our UU youth culture and our Association.
- Have a clear articulation of what you want to see happen. Find your important message and repeat it over and over to all levels of the shifting system. Clarity and focus are the best ways to claim power in a shifting system.
- Seek multiple conduits for information. Have multiple allies. In a shifting system, folks often only have part of the picture or access to a piece of process. Check information often as things change quickly.
- Pay close attention to succession planning and pass your important message on to future Youth Councils. The process of regionalization will take longer than the current iteration of youth leadership. Think long-term.
I also encouraged the youth leaders to participate in the upcoming Moderator election. Youth should always be attentive to and invested in Association leadership because our leaders make decision that affect youth and young adults. The UUA Board will transition to smaller At-Large Board in June and the positions of District Trustee and Youth Trustee will be eliminated. Youth will need to establish new relationships to hold Board leadership accountable to the youth community. With this shifting landscape, youth and youth allies should be very engaged in the outcome of the upcoming election.
“What if I’m not a delegate?” asked a youth.
“Then find out who is.” I responded. “You don’t need to be a delegate to influence your congregation leadership.”
Youth Council also discussed reaching out to youth and young adult leadership in other Districts to share resources, ideas and build collaborative relationship during this time of change.
I left the Youth Council retreat energized, knowing that I had spent time with some of our Association’s smartest and most dedicated leaders.