Programming for Our Whole Lives
How do we get started? My congregation has never done sexuality education before.
How can Our Whole Lives work with our regular church school program?
How long are the programs?
Are the program lengths and sessions adaptable?
Can we collaborate with another church or community organization?
How much does it cost?
How is Our Whole Lives going in congregations? How many people have been trained and how many churches are using it?
Can the K-1 resources be taught at home by parents to their children?
Why isn't there a resource for 2nd and 3rd grades?
What are the criteria for selecting good leaders for Our Whole Lives?
Should we screen potential leaders?
What does teacher training involve?
How long are the trainings?
Why are there different trainings for different levels?
Who sponsors the teacher training workshops and when are they held?
Who leads the teacher training workshops?
My congregation is considering using Our Whole Lives. What materials can I buy before our teachers have been trained?
Can I preview the materials before purchasing them?
Where do I buy them?
Media, Interfaith Collaboration and Outreach
How do we deal with media inquiries regarding the program?
Can non-religious organizations use Our Whole Lives?
What are people saying about Our Whole Lives?
Introducing sexuality education into your congregation can be a wonderful opportunity to put faith into action. Effectively developing a congregational commitment involves a four-part process of (1) building allies, (2) forming an oversight committee, (3) education and inspiring the congregation, and (4) implementing the program and including it into the congregation's ministry on an ongoing basis.
Resources to help you get started include The Advocacy Manual for Sexuality Education, Health, and Justice, and the UCC Our Whole Lives Coordinator. The main ingredient in the success of implementing Our Whole Lives is a commitment to the sexual health and wholeness of the community. The impetus may come from the youth of your congregation, a parent's group, the pastor, a health professional, etc. There are people throughout the United Church of Christ who have been trained as facilitators, and have successfully implemented Our Whole Lives—they are willing to share their journeys with you.
Pick out the age group you want to start with (K-1/4-6/7-9/10-12 grades or Young Adult and Adult) and work with your association, conference and national settings to set up a training. Trainings are in the process of being developed all the time—current training schedules are available at www.ucc.org/justice/sexuality-education/training-schedule.html Back to top
Our Whole Lives is not meant to replace a faith community's Christian Education program. It is recommended that Our Whole Lives classes be held during the week, or on a Sunday evening. Some congregations do offer Our Whole Lives on Sunday morning and expand the time frame for the junior and senior high programs with the endorsement of participants, parents, teachers, and congregation. When it is offered Sunday mornings during regular church school time, alternative programming needs to be offered for newcomers, guests and children and youth who will not be participating in Our Whole Lives. Our Whole Lives programs are flexible and can be adapted to your program needs. The programs for the elementary (K-1 and 4-6 grades) are eight-session courses. The high school level is a series of 14 classes that can be integrated into youth group or classroom settings throughout the year, or grouped into weekend retreats. Our Whole Lives for Grades 7-9, 27 sessions, is a full year of programming. Some congregations are offering Our Whole Lives as a one-year 'part' of their confirmation process. Back to top
K-1 and 4-6 grades:
8 sessions, 1 hour each
Parent meeting: 1.5 hours, Parent/Child Orientation: 2.5 hours
27 sessions, 1.5 hour each
Parent Orientation: 1-2 sessions, 4-4 ½ hours total
14 sessions, 2 hours each
Parent Orientation: 1-3 sessions, 3—4 ½ hours total
12 sessions, 2 hours each
14 sessions, 2 hours each
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Our Whole Lives programs are flexible and can be adapted to your program needs. The older grades courses can be used in a retreat setting. In order to maintain the integrity of the program, it is highly recommended that all sessions of the resource be taught. Back to top
If there is another United Church of Christ congregation in your area, or a church that believes that sexuality education is an important part of their commitment to youth, it is appropriate to collaborate. The more diversity in a group, the richer the program. Because Our Whole Lives was written to be used in a secular setting, it does not contain religious references. It would be inappropriate to use the accompanying book, Sexuality and Our Faith with a community group. Back to top
Resource cost—Our Whole Lives—Sexuality and Our Faith
People attending Our Whole Lives—Sexuality and Our Faith trainings need to call the United Church of Christ warehouse and order their own resources. This needs to be done at least 10 days before a training to insure delivery. The number to call is: 1-800-537-3394. When calling, tell the customer service person that you are attending a training and should receive a 25% discount. Orders can be charged to your church's United Church of Christ Resource account.
For K-1 Training (Full Price, Training Price)
1 copy K-1 Our Whole Lives $40.00, $30.00
1 copy K-1 Sexuality and Our Faith $18.00, $13.50
1 copy Parent Guide $15.00, $11.25
1 copy Advocacy Manual $12.00, $9.00
Full set $85.00, $63.75
For 4-6 Training (Full Price, Training Price)
1 copy 4-6 Our Whole Lives $40.00, $30.00
1 copy 4-6 Sexuality and Our Faith $18.00, $13.50
1 copy Parent Guide $15.00, $11.25
1 copy Advocacy Manual $12.00, $9.00
1 copy "It's Perfectly Normal" $11.00, $8.25
Full set $96.00, $72.00
For 7-9 Training (Full Price, Training Price)
1 copy 7-9 Our Whole Lives $75.00, $56.25
1 copy 7-9 Sexuality and Our Faith $18.00, $13.50
1 copy Advocacy Manual $12.00, $9.00
Full set $105.00, $78.75
For 10-12 Training (Full Price, Training Price)
1 copy 10-12 Our Whole Lives $60.00, $45.00
1 copy 10-12 Sexuality and Our Faith $18.00, $13.50
1 copy Advocacy Manual $12.00, $9.00
Full set $90.00, $67.50
1 copy Our Whole Lives $40.00, $30.00
Sexuality and Our Faith $18.00, $13.50
Advocacy Manual $12.00, $9.00
Full set $70.00, $52.50
Our Whole Lives $60.00, $45.00
Sexuality and Our Faith $8.00, $6.00
Advocacy Manual $12.00, $9.00
Full set $80.00, $60.00
Congregations must also budget for leader training. The total cost for a congregation will be determined by how far they must travel and how many days it will take. Once the teachers are trained, the actual cost of implementation in a congregation is small—each K-1 and 4-6 grade family needs a Parent Guide and each family in the 4-6 grade needs a copy of It's Perfectly Normal. Additional costs will come from printing, supplies and snacks. Back to top
Since 2000, approximately 1600 teachers trained in the use of Our Whole Lives. Because churches don't automatically report their use of Our Whole Lives, the number of churches using the resources is impossible to know. However, more and more are finding out the benefits from this ministry and are sending teacher to trainings. Several of our congregations have fully implemented Our Whole Lives (all levels) into the ministry of their church.
Each congregation's experience has been unique; however, some common themes have emerged. Overall, parents, teachers, and participants alike have found Our Whole Lives to be an extremely valuable experience. Older youth have commented on how it has helped prepare them to make healthier decisions and how important it is to be with other teens and teachers who understand them. Teachers have commented on how invaluable the training experiences were and how they see the real need for offering this resource. Parents have commented on how Our Whole Lives has opened up healthy communication with their children and how grateful they are that their faith community has implemented Our Whole Lives. And, adults celebrate the fact that this information is available for them and their families. Back to top
Yes, The Parent Guide to Our Whole Lives describes how parents can teach the K-1 resource at home. The other levels of Our Whole Lives are more difficult to use with just one child, as many of the sessions involve games and group work. Back to top
Substantial grant money was used to develop Our Whole Lives. It became apparent that the funding would not allow for the development of five grade levels. Therefore, it was the decision of the planning group that a resource for 2nd and 3rd grades would not be published. However, it is possible to take age-appropriate material from the K-1 and some from the 4-6, and use it for the 2nd and 3rd grades. Back to top
Each level of Our Whole Lives includes a parent orientation lesson plan. Trained Our Whole Lives teachers are encouraged to work with the minister(s) and Christian Education leadership to facilitate this orientation. The orientation session(s) includes a thorough discussion in regard to the materials that will be presented. Along with a few exercises, parents are required to sign a permission slip. Parents are acknowledged as the primary sexuality educators of their children. Back to top
While it may be advisable for a church to request consent from both parents for participation in church activities such as the Our Whole Lives program whenever possible, such dual consent is not mandatory. Back to top
The success of the Our Whole Lives program depends on the qualified and caring persons who are selected and trained to be Our Whole Lives teachers. Keep the following criteria in mind when choosing your teachers:
1. A commitment to value-based, comprehensive sexuality education. A teacher needs to have values (responsibility, sexual health,responsibility, justice and inclusivity) in harmony with the Our Whole Lives program and goals, and to feel comfortable with his or her own sexuality.
2. Experienced, skilled, and comfortable with the specific age group and its developmental needs. A leader needs to stimulate discussion by asking open-ended questions, encouraging communication among participants, and facilitating activities that foster experiential learning. A leader needs to use sexual terminology and age-appropriate language comfortably, relate well with the age group of participants, and convey warmth and a sense of humor.
3. Anti-bias awareness. A leader needs to understand, appreciate, and celebrate diversity of race/ethnicity, culture, age, ability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. A leader needs to have the skills to work with people of diverse backgrounds as well as the ability to create a safe and engaging/learning environment.
4. An advocate for sexual health and safety. A leader needs the knowledge and skills not only to educate about sexual health but to fulfill the trust inherent in the role of sexuality educator. This role includes the responsibility to recognize and report abuse. The leader must support your church's safety-abuse policy and must follow your state's process for reporting and investigating an alleged abuse.
5. Ability to build relationships. A leader needs to develop a relationship with participants, and with their parents. Leaders need to build community in the classroom and develop relationships of respect, reciprocity, and responsibility.
6. Dedicated learner and leader. A leader needs to be willing to become thoroughly familiar with the content of the program, to work with a co-leader, and to listen to and learn from young people and parents.
7. Person of faith. A teacher needs to be a person who is respected by the congregation and comfortable discussing the integration of sexuality and spirituality with members of the faith community. They should be aware of their own spiritual and religious grounding.
It is important to know that at the teacher's training, the teachers are being trained and evaluated. UCC trainers of teachers have a responsibility to the Our Whole Lives program to help ensure that teachers are qualified to lead the different levels of the program. Occasionally our trainers identify individuals during the trainings that might not be appropriate for teaching Our Whole Lives. Churches should know that their teachers may not be approved if there are concerns that arise during the training. If this is the case, the teachers will be notified directly by the trainers and the congregational contact person(s) will be notified. Back to top
The United Church of Christ Insurance Board, along with people working in Parish Life and Leadership, strongly advise that churches screen all people working with youth and children. We recommend conducting background checks on teachers of Our Whole Lives. Most local police departments would be able to assist your congregation in conducting such a check. National Background Investigations can conduct nationwide (US) background checks. They frequently work with non-profit organizations and can be reached at 1-800-798-0079.
Our Whole Lives policies insist on having two people (preferably different genders) with the children and youth at all times. In addition, when potential teachers attend training workshops and concerns arise about a leader's appropriateness for facilitating Our Whole Lives, the trainers leading the workshop will speak to the potential teacher and to the professional leadership of your congregation about their concerns. Back to top
Training helps prepare teachers by developing the comfort, knowledge, and teaching skills necessary for leading a level of Our Whole Lives effectively and appropriately. Training is required for the following reasons:
1. It offers the opportunity to see Our Whole Lives activities modeled by trainers as they were intended to be conducted.
2. It gives teachers a supportive environment to practice teaching and receive constructive feedback.
3. It allows teachers to network and share ideas about what will and won't work with their groups.
4. It provides an opportunity for teachers to get in touch with their own feelings, opinions, and experiences regarding sexuality. Back to top
Grades K-1 and 4-6, Grades 7-9 and 10-12, and Young Adult/Adult trainings are available and last approximately 20-22 hours.
These trainings are designed to offer in-depth training in the developmental level and subject matter of each age-specific curriculum. Training for the Grades K-1 program focuses on using age-appropriate language, establishing a safe and engaging classroom, working with parents, and leading songs and activities. Training for the Grades 7-9 program focuses more on understanding and addressing the specific developmental issues of early adolescents. When trainings combine the K-1 and 4-6 or 7-9 and 10-12, time is given to each age level. Back to top
A local church, association or conference may sponsor a teacher training event. For information on how to sponsor a training, contact the UCC Our Whole Lives Coordinator. Trainings are in the process of being developed all the time—current training schedules are available online: Training schedule Back to top
Teacher trainings are led by two-person teams of Our Whole Lives trainers who have been trained and approved by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Back to top
All the Our Whole Lives books may be purchased before a training. Back to top
Each conference of the United Church of Christ was sent a full set of the resource in the Summer of 2000. They are available for preview. Under special circumstances, a preview copy may be sent. Back to top
The number to call is: 1-800-537-3394. Back to top
Sexuality and Our Faith is the faith companion book to Our Whole Lives. One half of the book contains material written by the Unitarian Universalist Association, and one half by the United Church of Christ. Each session of Our Whole Lives has an accompanying Sexuality and Our Faith resource. Back to top
The Sexuality and Our Faith DVD for Grades 7-9 and Grades 10-12 are designed for use in UU and UCC congregations. They are optional. Comprehensive and effective sexuality education programs can be conducted without these visuals. Both the DVDs seek to underscore the values of the curriculum, and to answer participants questions about what sexual anatomy and activity look like in an environment of responsibility, respect, safety, and trust.
The DVDs can be purchased by UU or UCC congregations and only after the congregation's Our Whole Lives teachers have successfully completed training in the use of the resource. Individuals cannot purchase them. Back to top
Because sexuality is a sensitive and controversial topic, media inquiries regarding Our Whole Lives must be handled with care. Our Whole Lives has received excellent coverage in some publications; however, in a couple, it has led to harm. There are those 'out there' who would love to sabotage Our Whole Lives as much as possible.
If your congregation is contacted by a reporter who wishes to write about Our Whole Lives, it's best to refer them to the UCC Our Whole Lives Coordinator, 216-736-3718, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In speaking to people (other than reporters) about Our Whole Lives, the following talking points might be helpful:
Our Whole Lives is ... a faith-deepening opportunity
Our Whole Lives offers children and youth a profound opportunity to deepen their faith and put their values into practice. The curriculum promotes sexual and emotional health in our communities and fosters meaningful dialogue between peers, partners, families, and friends. The United Church of Christ's commitment to comprehensive sexuality education is ministry. With the support of ministers, religious educators, and lay leaders, this ministry will grow and flourish in our congregations for years to come.
Our Whole Lives is comprehensive sexuality education, which is about much more than just anatomy and health. It's about values, respect, emotions and justice too. It's about the sacred aspects of sexuality, which is part of the miracle of creation. This is why we teach Our Whole Lives in church—because sexuality is sacred, and sexuality education is ministry.
A response to a need...
Our Whole Lives was developed in response to the need expressed by congregations in the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ for high-quality, lifespan sexuality education resources. We have a proud tradition of sexuality education in our association. Our Whole Lives will bring the ministry of sexuality education to the United Church of Christ throughout the lifespan for years to come.
Responsible, healthy decisions...
Our Whole Lives helps participants develop and articulate their religious and sexual values. Our Whole Lives helps participants make responsible, healthy decisions based on those values.
An antidote to misinformation...
We live in a culture that is deeply conflicted about sexuality. Our Whole Lives is an antidote to a culture that is saturated with mixed messages and misinformation about sexuality. Our Whole Lives provides an opportunity to step back, reflect, and evaluate these messages, so that participants can more effectively act on and communicate their religious and sexual values.
Our Whole Lives helps parents fulfill their role as the primary educators of their children on sexuality issues. Our Whole Lives creates a partnership between the family and the church through parent orientation and parent education programs.
Our Whole Lives is responsible sexuality education. It is based on approaches that work—approaches that increase knowledge, communication, safety and health. Back to top
Yes, Our Whole Lives was developed for use by non-religious, as well as religious organizations. Many community health organizations and schools are using it. When Our Whole Lives is used in a faith community, the resource, Sexuality and Our Faith, is added to the program. Back to top
In addition to articles being written in major newspapers throughout the country, pastors, teachers, students and parents have expressed gratitude for Our Whole Lives. Here are just a few quotes:
"Sexuality is too important a subject for youth to be without a trustworthy source of accurate, reliable information. To be involved with these young people in one of the most important stages of their lives is an honor which is not taken lightly."
OWL teacher, parent and dentist
"The information presented in the OWL programs is straight, honest talk about respect for one's self, friends and community. OWL provides answers to basic questions and offers many opportunities to digest and reflect on what it means to be a healthy teen. How wonderful that, as a caring church community, we can offer so much to our children in a safe learning environment."
OWL parent, nurse practitioner
"Don't ever stop offering OWL at church. I took it when I was in high school and I think it saved my life. Every kid should see themselves the way OWL sees them."
"One parent gave me a hug, and thanked me for introducing Our Whole Lives into the church. Another was near tears as she told me how excited she was that we would be offering the OWL program, how impressed she was by it, how important it was to be doing this, and so pleased that her children would be in the program. Another just said, 'Look, you can tell how moved I am, I am trembling.'"
"Thank you, thank you, thank you. The training I received this weekend was the best training I've ever received. I arrived very nervous—what am I doing here? Now I'm leaving knowing that the youth from my church will be receiving excellent information—and I can do this!"
Our Whole Lives Teacher Back to top