Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Young people

Have had a bit of a debate about the needs of young people within Unitarian communities. I was arguing to take a more balanced approach - what do young people want from older people and what can they offer to the wider community.  Another person finished her post with

Also, I do think we have to weight it a bit more towards what we can give them rather than what we can expect from them in general since they are young people in our care.

I have been musing on this.  In what sense are young people in our care?  Do many congregations have young people unattached from their families? Whatever it is we might be providing I have never thought of it in terms of care over and above what anyone else gets. I suspect that some of our older people are much more vulnerable than some of our older young people.

To some extent this is about how we view young people and whether we see them as having specific needs just because they are young. I have also been involved in a debate about communities on another site and the TV programme about Amish communities was mentioned about how children in Amish families are expected to take on chores.  One of the British teenagers living with an Amish family commented thus

‘From a very young age, the Amish children do chores,’ Charlotte says. ‘It creates a lovely family bond, and means they work well as a unit and respect each other.’

This was in the back of my mind when I was writing about our young people.  What was also in the back of my mind was when my daughter disengaged from the Unitarian community.  She was preparing to speak on behalf of the youth group about marriage equality at an Annual Meeting (she was 16 or 17) when she was stopped by the President and told she had no right to speak as she was not a delegate or an Associate Member. It was the triumph of bureaucracy over compassion.  All kinds of apologies were made but the scar has remained.

So what was that about, her need to have a voice or our need to hear her (or not!)?  It seems to me that unless we have a rigid view of adults providing for young people's needs because they are in their care then the give and take of contributions will be more fuzzy. I don't believe that we can just ask the question 'What do young people need?' separately from 'What do our communities need?'. I also think that part of what our young people need is to be included within the wider community as in a family.  Sometimes young people go and do young people's things and sometimes they spend time with the adults.

Good families know how to make whole-family time work for everyone.  Good faith communities should know how to do that too.

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