What is young adult ministry?

Young adult ministry means all the ways that young adults are involved in our Unitarian Universalist faith and communities: in congregations, at regional and national events, online, and through long-lasting friendships. Our goal is to create vibrant, multigenerational congregations that are welcoming, radically inclusive, and actively serving the needs of young people. Whether your congregation defines “young adults” as those in a particular age range or lets people decide for themselves if the category fits them, it’s important to consider how young people fit into your congregational life. Congregations that do young adult ministry well find that their numbers grow and they are enriched by new leaders and new perspectives.

How does the CUC support young adult ministry?

Young adult events and programs. CUC staff and volunteers organize regular events that include young adults or are tailored specifically for them. These conferences, retreats, and camps are important opportunities for young adults to connect with each other and find their place in the larger UU community. Upcoming ones are listed on our events calendar (choose the category “Young Adults”).

Congregational consulting. CUC staff member Asha Philar is happy to meet with congregational leaders and staff to help you develop your young adult ministry. Online meetings are easy to arrange; you can schedule one yourself on her calendar!

Resources. The CUC collects and shares resources and best practices to help congregations learn about and develop their young adult ministry. Our resources page contains a wealth of information and links.

Contact the CUC

We’re here for you! We can be a sounding board for your ideas, provide resources, connect you to other congregations that have had similar experiences, or organize an online roundtable or webinar to address a topic of interest.

Contact CUC staff member Asha Philar by

or book an online appointment with her by visiting her calendar.

Young Adult Welcoming Project

The Young Adult Welcoming Project was a 2017 partnership between the CUC and the UU Ministers of Canada, led by Rev. Carly Gaylor and Asha Philar, designed to help congregations develop new approaches to young adult ministry. Seven Canadian congregations participated, doing self-assessments, being mentored by CUC staff, and taking measurable actions. (They were the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax, the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, the Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg, the Unitarian Church of Calgary, the Unitarian Congregation of Vancouver, and Comox Valley Unitarian Fellowship.)

The project report includes our top 10 tips for welcoming and including young adults, guidance for membership and welcoming committees, and useful resources for young adult ministry. Read the full report here and the survey here to see the results of our national young adult survey, including interesting quotes and stories

Take action in your congregation to better welcome and involve young adults! You can benefit from the same mentoring and self-assessment processes that were part of the Welcoming Project. Book an online meeting with Asha Philar to learn more.

Success stories and best practices from across Canada

Here are just a few examples of congregations taking steps to become more inclusive and welcoming of young adults. Please contact Asha Philar if you’d like to be connected with anyone mentioned here.

  • First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg. Winnipeg staff and volunteers regularly check in with young adults in the congregation, and have started a monthly small group for young adults. Discussions are based on the congregation’s monthly theme and use materials from Faith Rocket, and Andrea James, the Director of Lifespan Faith Development, attends and helps to facilitate and promote the meetings. Winnipeg has also had success with social events that appeal to all ages, like a movie outing and a monthly pub night with the minister. They work to ensure that everyone coming in the door is warmly and appropriately greeted and helped to connect with the congregation.
  • First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto. At Toronto First, young adults take visible roles as worship leaders, musicians, and speakers on Sunday morning, which signals to visitors that the congregation welcomes young adult participation. Angela Klassen, the Director of Lifespan Religious Education, works with minister Shawn Newton to coordinate monthly small groups for adults of all ages (called “journey groups”), based on the monthly theme, that combine leadership development and spiritual growth. Many young adults in these groups have gone on to become involved in leadership and congregational life. Angela also coordinates a monthly young adult dinner and small group discussion. Toronto First has found that providing food and consistent staff support for coordination and publicity makes a young adult group or program much more likely to succeed!
  • Unitarian Church of Calgary. A young adult social group grew out of a dinner that minister Debra Faulk hosted. Support and encouragement from older members of the congregation helped the group continue. When church-related events charge admission, a sliding scale or discount is available whenever possible. And the congregation offers young adults opportunities to be worship leaders, lead after-service discussions, and participate in Spirit Jam events.
  • Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough. The congregation hosts a monthly pub night, does outreach to the local university campus, and provides financial support for young adult activities, including attending regional and national events. Young adults have been worship leaders, board members, and lay chaplains.
  • First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa. The Membership Committee makes young adult ministry a priority in its own work, and also brings it to the attention of congregational leadership and all community members through newsletter articles and other means. A Sunday service was focused on implementing radical hospitality.
  • Unitarian Church of Montreal. Young adults are visible on Sunday mornings as worship leaders and speakers, and are involved in congregational leadership. Minister Diane Rollert has organized young adult dinners and social events. Additionally, Montreal has responded quickly to social and political justice issues, such as the 2017 shooting at a Quebec City mosque. This has attracted young adults who want a supportive place to process significant events.

Campus ministry

Campus ministry means any Unitarian Universalist program or activity that takes place on a university or college campus. Congregations may do outreach to students, and some run programs on campus.

If you’re interested in starting or expanding a campus ministry, we recommend that you book an online meeting with CUC staff member Asha Philar to discuss your plan and learn about resources available to you. Campus ministry can be a wonderful thing, but it also requires a lot of time and energy, and it shouldn’t be seen as a way to drive numerical growth in your congregation.

The Unitarian Universalist Association has some great resources and information on campus ministry—look through their website for more!