God is still speaking and so are our youth. The United Church of Christ (UCC) Scouting Working Group is committed to growing the youth of our communities into responsible citizens and inclusive leaders through Scouting programs. In the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), UCC congregations currently charter over 1,000 Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops and Venturing Crews.
Since the BSA policy changes in 2013 and 2015, eliminating the ban on gay and bisexual youth and adults in Scouting, the UCC national offices have re-engaged with the BSA. The UCC Scouting Working Group is excited to grow this partnership, encouraging and supporting new and existing Scouting programs in UCC local churches.
For more information, please contact:
Brian Conn, Chairperson
UCC Scouting Working Group
In order to “ensure that the unique gifts and talents of youth and young adults are present in all aspects of the life of the Church” (UCC Bylaws, section 286)1 the Council for Youth and Young Adults shall gather themselves according to these guidelines. These guidelines should be evaluated at least once every two years and altered by the currently convened group if needed in order for the group to best serve its primary functions.
The primary functions of CYYAM2 are to:
- Gather together networks of and build community among UCC youth and young adults;
- Build leadership capacity among UCC youth and young adults;
- Nominate qualified youth and young adult leaders to the UCC National Boards and other wider church leadership positions;
- Assist in the planning and execution of youth and young adult events
- hold two video calls in conjunction with NOWCYM to discuss RYEs, youth@synod and other events throughout the denomination
- Establish and plan youth and young adult Sundays (with curriculum and advertising) for the United Church of Christ
- Make statements on behalf of youth and young adults during relevant world and national events
- Actively maintain social media accounts for youth/young adults
- Host webinars or other learning and faith formation events utilizing online platforms for youth and young adults
The Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries (CYYAM) shall gather itself in two separate, but overlapping groups:
1.) Youth (applicants should have completed their sophomore year and be no older than 15)
2.) Young adults (graduated high school or its equivalency and be between the ages of 19-26)
The Youth council shall consist of 6-8 youth members and 2-3 young adult mentors while the Young Adult council shall consist of 6-8 members. (For a total of no more than 19 total CYYAM members.) Members will be drawn from UCC youth and young adults from across the denomination via the application process. CYYAM will include two older adult advisors (age 25 and older, preferably of different gender identities/expressions, including persons who identify as non-binary) who will serve as mentors, support and, when necessary, chaperones for youth members of CYYAM. CYYAM will be supported by the UCC’s Faith Education, Innovation and Formation team. All budgetary expenditures shall be approved by the team’s staff liaison in accordance with UCC policies and procedures.
Adult advisors will ensure that mentoring is a crucial part of the interaction between these two groups. For example, Young Adult Members and/or experienced members of CYYAM can be assigned as mentors to younger/newer members of the Council. All members will be responsible for recognizing and recruiting potential new members of the council while they are members. These two age-separated groups shall meet at least once a year in an overlapping session.
As CYYAM seeks to be faithful to the UCCs call for diversity, there may be times that some members will be asked to sit on separate councils/affinity groups and give voice to the youth and/or young adult perspective. While true inclusion and welcoming is this council’s goal, we also know there is much work to do inside and outside of ourselves to make that a reality.
What's Up with You(th)?
UCC Regions and the Conferences within them
Middle Atlantic (Mid-Atlantic)
•South Central Southeast
•California Nevada Northern
•California Nevada Southern
•Pacific Northwest (Seattle)
•Southwest (includes Arizona)
I need you! Like whoa. My life is changing a mile a minute, and I need a spiritual home.
It's a bit nerve-racking to walk into a new church—it took three years for one of my friends to build up the courage to try the local UCC church, even though he knew it was open and welcoming.
The church needs to actively reach out to youth and young adults. This could be as simple as putting your church's name in the list of churches at the local college chaplain's office. Better yet, host an event for the youth or young adults in your area. I've heard about another church that serves a midnight pancake breakfast during finals period, and the whole campus attends this much loved annual event.
You don't need to use that idea, but I am sure homesick college students and young folks new to the area would love a home-cooked meal by loving Christians any time of the year. One church reaches out to young people through their regular social justice programs by advertising the volunteer program to young people in the area.
Whether it is a home-cooked meal, a social justice program, a book group or even a late-night prayer service, I just want a place to make friends with other young Christians.
Youth and young adults are doing all sorts of different things, from starting college to taking their first job. Regard-less of where we are or what we are doing, we are new to our environments and need spiritual partners for the journey.
Church, if there is anything you can do to help me build relationships with other Christians, I would be so grateful! My friend Emilia says, "I need a young adult group in my church! Even if it starts out small, if it isn't there to offer young adults when they come to visit a church, then they feel as if there is nothing there specifically for them."
And Kathryn agrees: "Sometimes, it is just nice to know that the program is there and to have someone to con-nect with over coffee or something…It's nice to have that support and talk about faith or just life in general."
Once you've actively reached out, if you ever see a young person you don't recognize in church one Sunday, don't hesitate to say hello! Many of us go church-shopping to find the right church community for us, and most of the time the first step is just making us feel welcome!
So introduce yourself and ask us about our interests and passions. Who knows? You might make a new friend! As LiErin puts it, "For some young people, a church community is one of the few places to cultivate intergenera-tional relationships. Nurture these relationships! As someone living in student housing, far from my family, I relish the rare opportunity to share a meal in a church member's home or to play Frisbee in a real backyard, with kids of all ages."
One of my friends recently moved to a new town and went to a local UCC church. Everyone was really nice, but it was hard to be one of, if not the only, young person in a congregation with already formed families and friend groups.
As my friend Kevin told me, "People need to realize that oftentimes youth and young adults, not feeling part of the already established group, need to be invited in to ministry and community, not expected to integrate themselves by their own accord."
This does not necessarily mean automatically signing a new member up for the committee in most need of peo-ple. Ask me what my interests are and show me all the different options available in the church. Ask me personally!
My friend Roberta says youth and young adults can be the "active asset of bringing new ideas and a new view to situations."
Youth and young adults have many insights into the church — use us! Listen and take action. We can do so many things like read scripture, design a website, bake for coffee hour, sing in the choir, preach and even write articles. However, you have been in the church longer and know some of the ropes we have not even seen yet. So help us put our ideas into action!
There are many issues that we take very seriously as young Christians. For example, the church is in a unique place to talk about sexuality and faith. Our bodies are changing and the secular world is bombarding us with information about sex and dating. We could use a little guidance. Please don't tell us what to do or what not to do as if the situation is black and white.
But you can give us a place to honestly ask questions and think about how our faith may inform our decisions at this time in our lives. The Our Whole Lives curriculum is a great program to provide such space, and it's a wonderful way to bond with other youth in the church.
Well, here you go church! We love you. We need you. We care. And we know deep down in our hearts that you need us, too. Who else is going to carry on the amazing legacy that is the United Church of Christ?
My friend Meredith sums it up nicely: "Youth and young adults need to be empowered to sustain the church movement and act as Christian leaders seeking a just world."
So here is our challenge to you: reach out to us; encourage us; invite us to the table; and treat us as whole, vital members of the church. Oh yeah, and could you send me a care package?
Young people of the UCC
Kendra Purscell serves on the Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries and the Wider Church Min-istries Board of Directors. She ives in Des Moines, Iowa, where she is a Choral Music Education major at Drake University.
Kelly Forbush serves on the Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries. She lives in Northampton, Mass., where she leads the Ecumenical Christian Community at Smith College. Next year she will attend seminary to study to become an ordained UCC minister.
In early 2008, Justice and Witness Ministries and Local Church Ministries decided in conversation with the Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries (CYYAM) to conduct an in-depth churchwide assessment of what support would best serve youth and young adult ministries into the future. A summit was held with key Conference staff, CYYAM and other young people. Out of the summit's work, an interim staff person, Kelly Burd, was hired to support the ongoing work of youth and young adult ministries and Thom Chu was contracted as a consultant to carry out the needs assessment to inform a longer term vision and strategy.
In our year-long assessment to shape a comprehensive plan, we:
- Heard from 173 youth and adults at National Youth Event workshops
- Gathered 96 youth, young adults, and adults at four regional focus groups across the UCC
- Convened with 231 additional youth, young adults, and leaders at 14 other events face-to-face, by phone, and online
- Created an online survey that was completed by over 1,000 youth, young adults, and ministry leaders
- Interviewed youth- and young adult-serving staff in conference and association setting
Were guided by a diverse advisory committee of young people and adults from various settings of the church.
Funding for our regional focus groups was supported by a gift from the Ashley Fund in the Minnesota Conference--we are very grateful for that generous gift!
Some dominant priorities and needs emerged from this assessment work with young people and ministry leaders in the UCC. For example, we learned that:
- Youth commonly expressed value and interest in interfaith relationships and education.
- Youth AND young adults placed a high value on:
- Having opportunities to do mission/service work
- Having opportunities to learn about about justice issues and get involved in justice work
- Youth AND Young Adults overwhelmingly stated that the ideal congregation and ministry groups for them are inclusive. They seek a place where “everyone is welcome and accepted.”
- Young adults expressed a yearning for church ministries that appeal to their diverse lifestyles and needs, including but not limited to:
- Support of and communication with those away at college
- Ministries with daycare for those with young children
- Ministries for singles and for couples
- Short-term volunteer and church opportunities for those who cannot make long-term commitments to committees and other volunteer needs
- opportunities to network with young adult peers in the wider church and other local UCC congregations
Top needs among youth and young adult ministry leaders in the UCC include opportunities to network with UCC colleagues and leadership training to help them in their ministries with young people.
Read progress reports about the process:
Read the consultant's Report and Recommendations for Youth and Young Adult Ministries.