Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could touch the lives of the children and families in our community that need love and support? Could we interact with our neighbors from a place of conscious intention, understanding that every life is valuable? Could we as a group bring awareness and our consciousness into our community? With all our obligations, can we still find time to connect with another; to make a difference in their lives? This was the motivation behind my initiating an outreach program for our youth and family ministry at Unity of Fort Myers, Fla.
In January of 2015, I introduced this idea of outreach to our team, even though at that time I wasn’t sure how we would do it, and what it would look like. However, I knew that this would be an activity of Spirit. An important guide I followed was to “take the action and let go of the results” while following the path that unfolded. I wanted us to open our minds, hearts and doors to the children in our community with a message of unconditional love. We would provide an environment with adults who were available to become a positive part of their young lives. Almost everyone on our team embraced this idea and our outreach program began.
As I engaged in conversations with everyone in our congregation, slowly a couple of ideas began to emerge. It was brought to my attention that the Foster Family organization in our area could benefit from our support. I contacted the coordinator for Children’s Network of Southwest Florida to explore the ways that we, as a spiritual family, might engage with them. From this, the idea for an event was created. We planned a family morning where everyone could come together for food, fellowship, fun and supplies. I reached out to our congregation and everyone joyfully came together, donating lots of stuff. Something special began to unfold.
Co-creating Something Amazing
What a wonderful morning it turned out to be! As the families started arriving, they were greeted with joy and enthusiasm and the tone was set for the day. Our team had prepared a wonderful event, complete with a big breakfast on the lanai, two bounce houses, a soccer game, arts and crafts and face painting. We had a tremendous turnout, with twenty-five families and their children participating, as well as our own family members. It was wonderful to see our parents reaching out to the new families as the children all played together making new friends.
By creating a family event, not just organizing a drive for supplies, we were able to connect with everyone on a personal level, getting to know each other a little better. This enabled us to bring awareness into our community of who we are, and what we are about, as we all enjoyed food, fun and fellowship as well as supplies. Everyone involved realized this was a special morning.
One of the results of this event is that we have connected with a group of teens in houses that take in foster teens that don’t get placed in homes. A plan has been initiated, and each Friday night we will provide a place for the teens to come. Our first gathering was Friday September 11 and twelve teens arrived filling our kitchen with talk and activity. We made homemade pizza and began the process of getting to know each other.
By getting involved with these kids I am hoping to share with them a wonderful truth, “that you have the power within to transform your life.” I believe this message can be given by spending time together, meeting each other in love and friendship.
We also want to continue the momentum we began at the event. On an upcoming Friday night we will host a potluck dinner with bingo and game night for the foster families and their children. Included will be the teens and our own parents and children, with the invitation extended to our congregation. Everyone involved is so excited that we are able to reach out and be of service in such a wonderful way. There is so much energy and excitement in our group and spreading through our spiritual family as we give our authentic gifts in service.
Building Community and Answering the Call
All of this is possible only because, as the director of Unity of Fort Myers’ youth and family ministry, I am blessed with a wonderful team of teachers, helpers and supporters of our youth program. We are a very active group and everyone is enthusiastic and available. It is because of this group strength that I realized we were ready to reach out into the community. I also know that we are a loving, service-focused spiritual community, and Rev Jim Rosemergy’s constant message is to go within and reach out to others in support.
It is so exciting to be in this place of growth in our program and in myself! I have just become a licensed Unity teacher specializing in youth and family ministry. It is hard to believe it was only four years ago that our minister, Rev Jim Rosemergy, was looking for someone to step into the leadership role and create a youth program. I answered that call and had no idea how it would transform my life.
I had been fortunate right from the beginning, as I endeavored to create a program of spiritual growth for all involved; I had a wonderful and committed group of teachers and volunteers start with me. We were all eager to build an amazing program.
Sustaining a Healthy, Active Program
Intuitively, I knew we had to put our focus on creating an environment that would be able to spiritually enrich not only the children who would come, but our team as well. We worked together and got our rooms ready; the curriculum was selected and we began to teach in teams. I also found ways to include the talents of those who wanted to participate, but didn’t want to teach a class. Today, we have someone who leads us in song every Sunday morning as we begin our classes. We have a prayer chaplain who leads our youth in prayer and does special classes exploring prayer and meditation, including how it shows up in other cultures.
I believe one of the most important aspects to a successful program is to create enthusiasm by infusing new ideas and growth opportunities for everyone. It keeps an energy of excitement flowing through the whole community.
We have breakfast parties for everyone at each holiday. I also have initiated Activity Sunday, which happens each quarter on the 5th Sunday of the month. This gives us an opportunity to do something special and all the children are together for this event. This is when we get some of our largest attendance. Some of our activities have included a drumming circle—led by a master drummer from Senegal, a paint spinning class where an art teacher from our congregation helped the children create mandalas and learn about this ancient prayer practice.
We have built a garden and had an environmentalist from Calusa Nature Center bring animals and reptiles to our class, as we learned more about our Southwest Florida environment. We have movie nights, bowling, fairs and parties. All the activities we do as a team are also open to everyone.
I firmly believe in the importance of the youth groups being actively involved with the congregation. The children grow up feeling a sense of connection, and our congregation loves to see and hear the kids on Sunday mornings. They also share in the excitement of the different activities and a youthful spirit exists in our spiritual community.
I have been on an incredible journey spiritually. Studying Truth Principles and incorporating them in my life has opened all sorts of possibilities for me. I have met interesting people along the way and my life has been enriched as I share my passion with others as we work together for a common goal; to make a difference in the lives of children, one child at a time.