Coming of Age program for the UU Church of Palo Alto
Written and compiled by Dan Harper, v. 1.1
Copyright (c) 2014 Dan Harper
(This page updated Aug. 27, 2017.)
1. Finding mentors
In the Coming of Age program, every youth participant is assigned a mentor to help them write their “credo,” or statement of religious identity.
Some families will have a adult mentor in mind, and they may set up a mentor relationship with that adult after consulting with the Minister of Religious Education.
However, many families will not have an adult in mind, in which case the Coming of Age teachers and the Minister of Religious Education will help them find a compatible adult.
2. Logistics of mentor meetings
Mentors and youth typically begin to meet in November. Mentors should never meet one-on-one alone with a legal minor, as this violates the UUCPA safety policy for adults working with legal minors. Most mentors and youth find that a good place to meet is in a public place like a coffee shop, or in a quiet but public corner of the church during social hour after the service.
Mentors and youth should plan to meet once a month from November through April, for a total of six meetings, for about an hour each month. Some mentors and youth chose to do some kind of getting-to-know you activity like visiting a museum together (just make sure the mentor does not have to be alone one-on-one in a car with the youth). Other teams dive right in to talking about the young person’s religious identity.
Both youth and adults are busy these days. We have found the single most convenient meeting time is Sunday mornings. The Coming of Age class meets at 11:00 on Sundays, so one excellent time to meet would be after class, at 12:15, perhaps on those Sundays when there is Second Sunday Lunch at UUCPA. Another excellent time to meet would be 10 or 10:30, and teams could schedule two of the half-hour meetings to take the place of one hour-long meeting.
If mentors are able to attend Coming of Age class sessions, a few of those sessions may count as one of the monthly meetings. If the mentor attends the field trip to the Asian Art Museum, the mentor and youth can tour the museum together. Also, see below about the credo-writing sessions.
3. Goal of the mentoring relationship
The primary goal of the mentor is to help the youth write their “credo,” or statement of religious identity. (We hope that a friendly relationship will grow out of this work, but it isn’t required.) Mentors can help the young person by acting as a sounding board, a coach, and a cheerleader.
Mentors may wish to start by looking over the “Sample Coming of Age Credo Statements” packet, online here).
— For a conversation-starter, you could talk with your mentee about the “Seven Big Religious Questions,” which are at the end of the packet, and which the youth have already talked about in class. Then act as a sounding board: listen to what the youth says, and ask leading questions to help them think more deeply about their answers.
— It’s often a good idea to start outlining the credo statement in March. Act as a coach, to help them through the process of getting their thoughts down on paper. This is not English class at school, and it’s OK to let them dictate their thoughts to you while you type or write for them. Just make sure the thoughts are theirs, and the words sound like the way they talk.
— Many youth at this age get bogged down in the process. Or they may feel like their credo is going to be terrible. Or they might just get stuck. That’s when you play the coach or cheerleader role — encourage them, help them stay focused and motivated.
4. Other mentor activities
A. Mentors will be invited to attend some of the Coming of Age classes (although attendance is optional). Mentors are particularly helpful during the class sessions devoted to credo-writing, and you might want to schedule that as one of your mentor/mentee meetings. The schedule of classes and topics for each week are online
B. Mentors are of course invited to attend the Coming of Age service (see online schedule for date), but this is not required.
C. After the Coming of Age service, all mentors are invited to have lunch with the Coming of Age youth and their families, but this is not required.