Resources for Families

(from the Unitarian Universalist Association)

UU World Family pages. “Families: Weave a Tapestry of Faith” is the pull-out section of UU World magazine with stories, activities, and parent reflections drawn from Tapestry of Faith religious education programs. Read/download online as PDFs.

Articles from UU World such as “Homegrown Religion” or “Reclaim Your Family Time” by William Doherty; “New Family Traditions” by Meg Cox; and “What Family Time?” by David Whitford.

“Let’s Talk About…” booklets:

  • Chaos, Wonder and the Spiritual Adventure of Parenting: An Anthology includes essays from authors Barbara Kingsolver, Rosemary Bray McNatt, Anne LaMott and others. In these reflections on the ways parenting challenges, enriches, and magnifies our spiritual selves, parents will find moments of joyful recognition and compassionate understanding for the unique spiritual adventure of raising children.
  • Full Circle: Fifteen Ways to Grow Lifelong Unitarian Universalists  Many UU congregations have asked about their members, “Why do they leave?” But Kate Covey asks, “Why do they stay?” She explores 15 common threads that lifelong UUs identified as critical in their commitment to their faith. Covey surveyed and interviewed 82 people, ages 25 to 87, who were raised as UUs. A lifelong UU herself, Covey has been a DRE for over 20 years. 112 pp. By Kate Tweedie Erslev (Kate Covey)
  • The Gift of Faith: Tending the Spiritual Lives of Children: Celebrates the importance of religious community, both as a support for parents and as an environment in which the spirituality of children can flourish. Revised edition includes a new preface, a new chapter about the home, and rituals for marking the events in children’s lives as religious occasions. 128 pp. By Jeanne Harrison Nieuwejaar. Find a Discussion Guide (PDF) for The Gift of Faith. 
  • Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook belongs to the Tapestry of Faith Toolkit Series. Toolkit Books provide background knowledge, inspiration, and practical guidance to program and lead UU faith development and to help us explore and live our faith in our congregations, neighborhoods, nation, and world. 96 pp. By Tracey Hurd
  • Tending the Flame: The Art of UU Parenting
    In this first-of-its-kind guide to Unitarian Universalist parenting, mother and experienced religious educator Michelle Richards encourages apractical and proactive approach to raising Unitarian Universalist children. Includes information about developmental stages, suggestions for incorporating spiritual practices into family life, teaching the Principles in age-appropriate ways, answering difficult questions on religious atters and dealing with religious disagreements. 200 pp. By Michelle Richards. See a Discussion Guide(PDF) for Tending the Flame.


The Call and Response blog site is offered by the Faith Development Office of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA) to promote dialogue and reflection on 21st century UU faith development. Blogs address topics such as:

BROWSE the Parent Further website from the Search Institute. Though not a UUA resource, this website is one of the most comprehensive resources for families available online, with research, articles, webinars, and more.


Ramon Selove and his wife, Shellie Selove, are Our Whole Lives sexuality education facilitator trainers. They are members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley (VA).

by Ramon Selove

Meeting people, touching people, and general noise levels during and after a worship service can be real problems for me and others with autism. During services, just when things have quieted down and we are getting into the rhythm of the service, our minister asks us to stop and greet each other, shake hands, etc. It then takes the congregation a while to calm down again and get back into the service. I personally find that break disruptive. I really wish we wouldn’t do it at all.

It is stressful for me to be in the presence of a large number of people and it is much worse when many conversations are going on at the same time. I sometimes come to church late so that I can avoid all the conversations that occur prior to the service. At the end of the service I usually remain in the seats instead of going to the “social area.” Sometimes people come to

talk to me (which I appreciate very much) and sometimes I just sit alone.

There are lots of people that I know well and care about. I want very much to talk to them. But the atmosphere of the social hour is almost impossible for me. I can’t separate the conversation I am in from all of the others that are going on around me. Sometimes I just have to sneak out the back door and I feel bad about it because I know that there are people who want to connect with me. Our church has grown so much over the years that I now have a hard time attending at all.

I haven’t figured out how to solve this problem for me, and maybe I have no business telling others how to solve it. Even so, I have some ideas. W

hen the Autism Network International holds a retreat for people with autism, one thing they do is to use a color-coded name badge. The colors correspond to participants’ preferences in social interaction. Some want to be approached by others. Some only want to be approached by people they already know. Some do not want social interactions at all. The name badges help people honor each other’s wishes.

In our congregation, color-coding would be more complicated. It would need to cover not only openness to talking to people but also different levels of touch: “Hugs welcome.” “Handshakes only.” “Light pressure preferred.” “Deep pressure preferred.” The handkerchief code that developed in gay bars decades ago approaches the level of complexity that would be ne

eded. Icons on name badges could indicate what an individual is comfortable with; I would probably keep several different badges in my badge holder so that I could choose the appropriate one for different days or times, such as during and after the service. Since most congregations already use name badges, the cultural change would be minimal.

There is, of course, a much simpler approach: Encourage everyone to “ask first.” Unfortunately, it wouldn’t work very well for most of us autistics. Trying to explain to person after person that I need plenty of warning before touch and that light touch irritates me but deep pressure is soothing, but I only really want to be hugged by people I know… the conversations about it are too stressful. It is easier to just sneak out the back. Come to think of it, I guess that’s why the handkerchief codes developed in the first place.

I am not aware that any religious groups have tackled this issue. If we could develop something workable, it would have value in any congregation.

Next Steps! – The author’s son, Nathan Selove, also has autism. On YouTube, watch a video Nathan made to show how his service dog, Sylvia, “changed his life, became his best friend and showed him how to do more than just live with autism.” The video describes the Seloves’ legal and public awareness battle to ensure Nathan could have Sylvia with him in school.

The UUA offers information on accessibility in congregational life. Visit the blog site of EqUUal Access, a group working toward the full engagement of people with disabilities in UU communities and the broader society; read about EqUUal Access in UU World online (“Group works to make 

congregations more accessible,” January 6, 2014).

The Autism Society website offers a variety of ways to learn, connect, and more during April 2014, National Autism Awareness Month.

Sally Patton’s book Welcoming Children with Special Needs has useful ideas about full inclusion of all ages in UU congregations. The book is no longer in print but is offered in PDF format on the UUA website at no charge.


Top Ten Reasons for Children to Attend Church School 

Investing in the future of children Rev. Colleen M. McDonald The Unitarian Universalist Church Rockford, IL 

  • Snack! (Hey, food always draws a crowd!)
  • Children make new friends (including their teachers) and get to see “old” ones.
  • Attendees have a better chance of getting into heaven (or, at least, they get inspired to help make this world a little more heavenly).
  • We play games. (Do you know how to play “Have you ever…?”)
  • You can learn some neat stuff in church school. (What can a tiny mustard seed teach us?)
  • There are arts and crafts—a chance to create. (This year we plan to do an all-church school, cooperative weaving for our Romanian partner church.)
  • UU church school students have an answer when someone asks, “UU? What’s that?”
  • Church school is a place for learning how to cope with life’s problems – like, what do you do when you are “new”? or when your hamster dies?
  • Church school gives children an eager audience: What was the best part − or the worst – of your week?
  • Without children, we have no church school … and, perhaps, no future church! (And every child who comes adds something special to the friendship, fun, and learning.)

If you want to make a difference in your child’ s life, make a commitment to regular attendance.


Beyond the Golden Rule, published by Teaching Tolerance, is a parent’s guide to preventing and responding to prejudice, from preschool through high school. It is a useful resource for families of all racial identities. The book is available in a PDF format that can be downloaded and printed.