Coming of Age (COA) is a Unitarian Universalist’s “rite of passage” program, which supports our youth’s journey in becoming a young adult on a free and responsible search for truth.
The Unitarian Universalist COA programming has its roots in two different historical foundations when the course was conceived for junior high age youth. The first is through the ceremonial rites of passage from child to adult in many Native and African American cultures. Many UU churches use the COA year as a formal transition from regular Sunday children’s RE classes into the youth group. The second foundation parallels the structure of intensive teachings in Judaism (Bar and Bat Mitzvah’s) and Catholicism (Confirmation). These teachings serve as preparation for the adult responsibility of following the commandments and laws or to complete the process of initiation into the Christian community.
However, as Unitarian Universalists we are guided by our fourth principle: that each of us is allowed a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Neuroscience now reveals that cerebral maturation is necessary for the critical spiritual discernment we are asking our youth to engage in. Thus, several UU congregations are now moving their COA programming further into the high school years.
There are several ways to structure a COA program. Many models/curricula assume large group participation, with a heavy focus on group activities in order forge bonds. Currently at UUCL, we do not have the enrollment numbers to formulate our programming in this manner. However, we have a wonderful opportunity to nurture the spiritual growth of our youth through a small group/individualized model.
This model uses 1 scheduled, mandatory workshop per month that is lead by two facilitators. Three additional activities are chosen each month, for example: attend a Sunday worship service, work on a service project, teach a class together, or get together for a routine chore or activity but then discuss after how to connect this activity to our UU principles and spirituality. These activities are done with a mentor (within strict Safe Congregation Guidelines) and are worked out around everyone’s individual busy schedules.
Through our engaging and fun workshops and activities with supportive adult mentors, youth will work through the process of clarifying and articulating their spiritual beliefs – culminating with the creation of their personal credo.
Having a COA program that utilizes mentors, meshes with UUCL’s multigenerational culture. Research has shown that youth benefit from having caring adults in their lives from within their community. These mentor-youth relationships are not parent-child or friend-friend. Mentor’s are to be a sounding board, guide and source of support and certainly won’t have all the answers!
While many of the qualities of spiritual maturity are reflected in what we know as adult wisdom, we can not impart adult wisdom on our youth…it will be gained through their own personal experiences. We can however, offer to be a guide through some of these experiences and also share a bit our own journey.
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lawrence’s 9th and 10th grade Coming of Age program is structured around the following goals:
- Provide opportunities for the youth to reflect on and discuss his or her personal spiritual beliefs and how these meld with Unitarian Universalism
- Set aside precious time for the youth to examine activities in their daily life and how they affirm their values and beliefs
- Move faith and values from noun to verb with Social Action within his or her community
- Explore what it means to belong to a congregation so that youth may become informed, participatory members of UUCL
- Help youth recognize that as they grow and change, so to may their spiritual beliefs and that their spiritual journey is theirs to create and recognize
- Be celebrated on completion of the COA Program
Please download and print the following registration and learning style survey:
Contact Bonnie Blosser Director of Lifelong Learning with inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org