Introducing sexuality education into your congregation can be a wonderful opportunity to put faith into action. The impetus may come from the youth of your congregation, a parent's group, the pastor, a health professional, or someone else.
There are people throughout the United Church of Christ who have been trained as Our Whole Lives facilitators and have successfully implemented Our Whole Lives/ Sexuality and Our Faith —and many of them are willing to share their journeys with you.
The main ingredient in the success of implementing Our Whole Lives is a commitment to the sexual health and wholeness of the community. Other practical considerations many have found helpful are:
- building allies
- forming an oversight committee
- educating and inspiring the congregation, and
- implementing the program and including it into the congregation's ministry on an ongoing basis.
Choose the age group you want to start with (K-1, Grades 4-6, 7-9, 10-12 grades, Young Adult or Adult) and then check out the Our Whole Lives Training page to see where a training is being held near you. Trainings are held throughout the US and Canada, and often in partnership with Unitarian Universalist Association churches; however, wherever you go, you will receive training from Approved Trainers in the levels you are planning to implement. The training page updates frequently, so check back often. You may also choose to work with your local church, association, conference or national setting to host a training. There is more information about hosting in a downloadable guide on the Our Whole Lives Training page.
How long are the programs?
Good sexuality education takes time, especially in a culture which is raising its consciousness regarding sexual harassment, assault, and toxic gender roles and expectations. Don’t let the length of the programs deter you. Contact us to find out more.
8 sessions, 1 hour each
Parent meeting: 1.5 hours, Parent/Child Orientation: 2.5 hours
10 sessions; 75-minutes each
Program Information meeting: 1.5 hours, Parent/Child Orientation: 2.5 hours
25 sessions, 1.5 hour each
Parent Orientation: 1-2 sessions, 2-4 hours total
14 sessions, 2 hours each
Parent Orientation: 1-3 sessions, 3-4 hours total
12 sessions, 2 hours each
14 sessions, 2 hours each
*These levels of curricula are modular. You may choose to do only one workshop, or work through the entire manual, depending on the needs of your group.
What is Sexuality and Our Faith?
Sexuality and Our Faith is the faith companion to Our Whole Lives. Each level of Our Whole Lives has a corresponding Sexuality and Our Faith manual that provides faith-related information and questions for each workshop. Our Whole Lives itself is secular and can be used in community settings and schools in addition to churches. One half of each Sexuality and Our Faith manual contains material written by the Unitarian Universalist Association that brings in how their principles relate to the Our Whole Lives workshops, and one half by United Church of Christ authors who bring in prayer, scripture, litany and song to support what is being taught in Our Whole Lives.
What are the visual components? Who can use them?
The Sexuality and Our Faith DVD for Grades 7-9 and Grades 10-12 are designed for use only in UUA and UCC congregations who have approved trained Our Whole Lives/Sexuality and Our Faith facilitators for those grade levels, and can only be used in the context of the UUA or UCC church offering the appropriate level of Our Whole Lives. They are an optional resource that require parent permission to be viewed by youth. Comprehensive and effective sexuality education programs can be conducted without these visuals. Both the DVDs seek to underscore the values of the curriculum and were designed to answer participants questions about what sexual anatomy and activity look like in an environment of responsibility, respect, safety, and trust.
The DVDs can only be purchased by UU or UCC congregations and only after the congregation's Our Whole Lives facilitators have successfully completed training in the use of the resource. Individuals cannot purchase them. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about purchasing them.
Are the program lengths and sessions adaptable?
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 resources in any program from K-1 through 10-12 be taught.
Can we collaborate with another church or community organization?
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. The Sexuality and Our Faith manuals provide that optional addition. Be sure to have at least two trained facilitators before offering any Our Whole Lives program with any group.
How much does it cost?
What you need:
- A copy of Our Whole Lives for the level you will be offering for each facilitator on your team
- A copy of Sexuality and Our Faith for the level you will be offering for each facilitator on your team
- Training for your team
- If you are offering Our Whole Lives for Grades 4-6, there is an accompanying text called It’s Perfectly Normal, which some churches choose to provide for participants to borrow or keep.
- If you are offering Our Whole Lives for Grades K-1 or Grades 4-6, there is an accompanying Parent Guide which should be purchased for each family.
The United Church of Christ offers a significant 25% discount to UCC members who attend Our Whole Lives—Sexuality and Our Faith trainings for materials for the training they are attending. To receive a discount code for your order of materials, please contact the Our Whole Lives Coordinator at email@example.com.
Congregations must also budget for Our Whole Lives facilitator 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 facilitators are trained, the actual cost of implementation in a congregation is small and includes costs such as printing, supplies and snacks.
What are the criteria for selecting good facilitators for Our Whole Lives?
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 facilitators. Keep the following criteria in mind when choosing your facilitators:
- Their commitment to value-based, comprehensive sexuality education. A facilitator 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 their own sexuality.
- Their experience, skill and comfort with the specific age group they will work with and its developmental needs.
- Their anti-bias awareness. A facilitator needs to understand, appreciate, and celebrate diversity of race/ethnicity, culture, age, ability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. A facilitator needs to have the skills to create a safe and engaging/learning environment.
- Their ability to be an advocate for sexual health and safety. The facilitator must support your Safe Church Policy and must follow your state's process for reporting any alleged abuse.
- Their ability to build relationships with participants, and with their parents and caregivers. Facilitators need to build community in the classroom and develop relationships of respect and responsibility.
- Their faith. A facilitator 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.
At the facilitator's training, the facilitators are being trained and evaluated. Occasionally our Approved Trainers identify individuals during the trainings that might not be appropriate for teaching Our Whole Lives. Churches should know that their facilitators may not be approved if there are concerns that arise during the training. If this is the case, the facilitators will be notified directly by the trainers and the congregational contact person(s) will be notified.
Should we screen potential leaders?
The United Church of Christ Insurance Board and Church Leaders strongly advise that churches screen all people working with youth and children. We recommend conducting background checks on facilitators of Our Whole Lives.
Our Whole Lives and most Safe Church policies insist on having at least two adults with the children and youth in the program at all times. In addition, if concerns arise during an Our Whole Lives training about a facilitator's appropriateness for facilitating Our Whole Lives, the trainers leading the workshop will speak to the potential facilitator and to the professional leadership of your congregation about their concerns.
What are people saying about Our Whole Lives?
In addition to articles being written in major newspapers throughout the country, pastors, facilitators, 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." (Our Whole Lives facilitator and parent)
"The information presented in the Our Whole Lives programs is straight, honest talk about respect for one's self, friends and community. Our Whole Lives 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." (Our Whole Lives parent, nurse practitioner)
"Don't ever stop offering Our Whole Lives 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 Our Whole Lives sees them." (College student)
"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 Our Whole Lives 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.'" (Pastor)
"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 Facilitator)