New and updated materials to help churches and parents teach about sexuality are now available from The United Church of Christ.
Produced jointly by the UCC and the Unitarian Universalist Association, these are the latest offerings from Our Whole Lives. The two denominations have occasionally expanded and updated the unique program and its companion, Sexuality and Our Faith, since its introduction in the 1990s.
New offers include:
- “Parents and Guardians as Sex Educators.” This is a new series of workshops for use with small groups. The PDF is a free download from UCC Resources.
- “Under your wing” videos. This eight-part series for parents and caregivers of children ages 5-7 can be viewed on this page at ucc.org. The videos suggest age-appropriate ways to talk to kids about bodies, boundaries, families and more.
- The second edition of Our Whole Lives K-1. Now available for pre-orderit will offer updated content and new format options.
“UCC has a long-standing commitment, dating back decades and spanning multiple General Synod resolutions, to create healthy sex education resources that embrace and teach the beautiful and sacred diversity of our bodies and relationships,” said the Reverend Amy Johnson, Minister for Sexuality Education and Justice. “Providing resources to parents, and especially parents of young children, helps us live by our belief that parents are the primary sexual educators of their children, and that sexuality is part of who we are as children. beloved of God.”
Each of the new OWL plays features updated content and approaches, Johnson said. For example, she said, the second edition of K-1 includes:
- “More movement for young bodies”
- Aspects of racial, gender and ability justice in its activities and stories
- Increased diversity in the families represented
- An “up-to-date, research-based approach” to abuse prevention
The K-1 program is also flexible in new ways, she said. “We can send people updated pages or sections of pages without having to reprint the whole manual,” she said. “And we will have an OWL version only, a UCC version with Sexuality and Our Faith included, and a UUA version with Sexuality and Our Faith included. Anyone who orders one of the denominational versions will be able to request a free PDF of the other denominational version.
The “Under Your Wing” videos “can be used as a resource for parents and caregivers to accompany an OWL for K-1 program, or as a stand-alone resource,” Johnson said. She said the videos “largely follow the topics covered in a K-1 OWL program, giving parents ideas for the types of conversations to have with young children, as well as showing and listing storybooks that ‘they can read with their children’.
The new ‘Parents and Guardians as Sexuality Educators’ – produced with the special support of the Minnesota Conference‘s Ashley Endowment Fund – is also flexible, she said. Featuring prayers, scriptures and thought pieces, it can be customized, both based on a group’s particular interest and the number of workshops offered.
“A Gift From God”
“We hope parents and caregivers will use the resources to have more conversations about bodies, gender, boundaries, families, decision-making, relationships and more,” Johnson said.
“More conversations mean more opportunities to counter the negative and harmful messages so prevalent in our society about sexuality – to provide messages about sexuality as a gift from God, and that bodies are beautiful and loved in all their diversity.We also hope that congregations will agree to offer more OWL programs for young children and families.
As has been the practice since the program was introduced, Johnson said she was encouraging local churches to take OWL training for people who would lead any aspect of it.
“While we strongly recommend the OWL training, it was not necessary for people to take the training to purchase the resources,” she said. “UCC continues to offer a 20% discount on OWL materials to all UCC members undergoing OWL training. I am currently working on training for people who wish to offer the Parents and Caregivers program as as sex educators who are informed by OWL.
“Dismantles shame and stigma”
Johnson said there is a particular opportunity for OWL resources as congregations adjust to new realities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. “As we emerge from closures and learn to be church in person again, these resources provide practical programming options for families to re-engage with each other, advocate for justice and inclusion in their communities, and be church together,” she said.
“Our Whole Lives for Any Age offer real ways for people to live their lives and work for a society that embraces all genders and orientations as beloved, works to create a culture of consent and reproductive justice, and dismantles the shame and stigma around bodies and relationships.”
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