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Kid UNCO – or, enabling parents and children to be full members of church

May 25, 2012

Deconstructing barriers at UNCO 2012

I have just recently returned from UNCO 2012, an ecumenical, open space “unconference” intended to inspire, connect, and support people thinking about and working for the future of the church.  Now, I like all those things but the thing that really settled the question of whether or not to go was Kid UNCO , the children’s program offered at the event.  Because Kid UNCO told me two things about UNCO and its organizers before I ever encountered any of them.

First, they care about making church inclusive.  I’ve commented before on the way that welcoming children in church is a ministry to parents and this applies to conferences and meetings, too.  For some people, leaving their children for three days is not possible.  They may be single parents or they may co-parent with someone whose job does not allow for picking up the slack of an absent partner.  They may not be able to afford the extra childcare (UNCO offered scholarships, too!) or they may need to always be near their child, for one reason or another.  In all of these ways, having children can be a barrier to participation in far too much of our wider church life – conferences, retreats, councils, special events.  If we are serious about accessibility, serious about diversifying the voices around the table, we need to take the question of childcare seriously.

Second, the UNCO team understands that children are members of the body of Christ now, in their own right, who both deserve their own program and can contribute to the event as a whole.  Kid UNCO was not simply a warehousing of my child.  It was not even simply providing good babysitting for my child.  It was a playful, thoughtful program to help children think about the church, just as their grown-ups were doing.  It created a community of kids and it wove the kid and the adult communities together through the generous volunteers who donated part of their conference time to the children.  Throughout the space and at all times, children were welcome.

I’m still sorting through the rest of my UNCO experience but one thing is clear, Kid UNCO has set a high bar that our various assemblies and conventions and synods would do well to aim for.

*****

P.S. Particular thanks go to Megan Dosher (@megateer) for coordinating Kid UNCO and spending her conference making our conference possible.

P.P.S. Just in case – UNCO West is still to come – July 30-Aug 1 in San Francisco.  Register here!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Mitzi Dosher permalink
    May 25, 2012 1:46 pm

    I love how our own church includes children in so many. Our children (and this often includes elementary students) are worship leaders in our church. They are ushers, greeters and are part of the music during worship. I’m glad for your experience at UNCO, and I am especially proud because Megan is my daughter.

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