Choosing an Advisor
While a girl’s parent or caregiver can serve as her advisor, this is often not the ideal situation for either parent or child. Working on this program offers a great opportunity for a girl or group of girls to connect with other Unitarian Universalist adults in the congregation or community. A girl may choose to work on the program individually or with a friend or two, and may need assistance from parents/caregivers and/or religious professionals or congregational leaders to find an advisor. Girls may also form a small group working on this program, and share a single advisor, who may need to draw on others for certain parts of the program.
The primary advisor need not be a woman, although having adult females as resources will be particularly helpful in parts of the program which deal with gendered experiences. It is also not necessary for the advisor to have been a Girl Scout, either as a child or as an adult. Again, such experience is quite helpful and advisors who have had no Girl Scouting experience might want to request occasional support from those who do have such experience.
If your program participants are meeting in the congregation’s building, or with the knowledge and support of the congregation and its leaders, you must follow the congregation’s safe congregation policies, which generally include a requirement that there be a second adult present when a girl is meeting with her advisor. The congregation may also require background checks for advisors and parents who will be working with a group of girls.
Note: If a girl is working on this program as an individual and/or outside of a congregational context, it is prudent that she and her advisor meet in public places, or in places where other adults are nearby.
- Help girls interpret and adapt requirements to match their unique interests, resources, abilities, and learning preferences
- Be the authority on what “counts.” Often children and youth make a task harder than it needs to be and need reassurance from the advisor that a reasonable amount of effort for each task is just fine
- Be an audience or sounding board for some activities
- Help introduce girls to resources in the congregation, on the Internet, and in the community. Depending on the age and comfort level of the girls you are advising, you may need to coach them on how to ask others to share information or perspectives
- Help the girl track her progress
- In partnership with the congregation’s religious professionals or other appropriate individuals and with input from the recipient, plan and prepare for the award presentation. Make a fuss! Honor a girl’s accomplishment in earning the Religion in Life for Girl Scouts award.
Tips for Leading the Program with a Group
The most enjoyable part of leading a group experience is the community the girls and advisors build. Make the most of the opportunity to form cross-generational relationships! Including a meal with a check-in time can create a tight group quickly, and the relationships formed increase the fun of meeting. Starting a meeting by lighting a chalice and/or ending it with a Girl Scout friendship circle and a closing song can increase the spiritual impact of the meetings. The group may choose to plan extra events during the course of the program; possibilities include: sleepovers, service projects, serving coffee hour on Girl Scout Sunday, and hosting a social event with Girl Scout Alumnae in the congregation.
If your group includes girls doing the younger girl program and girls doing the older girl program, designate one or more advisor for each level. This allows the advisors to develop a working knowledge of the particular program and creates a better experience for the individual girls and for the group. If your group includes girls doing both programs, begin and end each meeting all together to build a sense of sisterhood across the ages and break into separate groups to work on program requirements.
Unitarian Universalist girls in Grades 4-12—and the parents who transport them—are a very busy demographic, so picking a meeting time might be the hardest task you have. Once you have agreed on a meeting time and schedule, try to stick to it, because finding a make-up time for a canceled meeting can be nearly impossible. It is better not to cancel a meeting because someone can’t attend; advisors can update absentees and give them “make-up” assignments to catch up. When circumstances require it, a parent can “sub” for an advisor who must miss a meeting. Sunday morning meetings before or after services (perhaps with a shared breakfast or lunch) can cut down on the commuting time for families. On the other hand, an early Sunday evening meeting with pizza and potluck beverages can wedge comfortably between Sunday afternoon activities and Sunday night homework.
Planning the Program Timetable
Pace and Scheduling
The pace and scheduling of the program should be tailored to the needs of the girl(s) and advisor(s). Decide how often you want to meet with a girl or a group of girls and for how long each time, how many total months you anticipate for work on the program, and how much the girl(s) will do between meetings as “homework.” More frequent or longer meetings and working between meetings will allow for quicker completion of the program. For example, the program can reasonably be completed between October and April/May if you meet twice/month and complete 4-5 requirements every two weeks through a combination of meeting activities and homework activities. If you prefer a slower pace, stretch it out over more months, or start the program one year and finish the next. Experienced Religion in Life for Girl Scouts advisors say that meeting twice a month is enough to keep the continuity going but not so often as to become a burden. Meeting only once a month can discourage continuity and lead to a situation where Religion in Life “homework” piles up and becomes overwhelming. If you can only meet once a month, it’s a good idea to find a way to touch base between meetings, even if it’s an informal homework assignment check-in.
Try to finish the program before the flurry of end-of-year celebrations so that the girl’s significant accomplishment does not get overlooked. Some groups choose to start early or keep a quick pace, so they can finish the program in time to award it on Girl Scout Sunday in March, but usually groups go a little further into the spring. In any case, it’s important to schedule in a little “wiggle room” to decrease the pressure of finishing by a particular date and allow you to respond to unforeseen challenge like weather or illness.
Fitting Requirements into Your Overall Program Schedule
It is not necessary to plan each meeting out ahead of time, predetermining which requirements happen on which dates, although if your advisee or group will work best that way, go for it! Generally, all that is needed is to make a rough sketch of about how many requirements will be done each month: how many at meetings, how many between meetings, and how many started independently (e.g. research tasks) then finished in a meeting (e.g. sharing research, discussion, activities), or vice versa.
Once you have done a rough sketch and added in some wiggle room, you can proceed, taking more or less time as the requirements or the season dictate (Tip: Don’t be too ambitious about homework during the winter holiday season!). Remember, you can go out of order to take advantage of an opportunity (e.g. a child dedication coming up in the congregation might cause you to skip ahead to the requirement that involves attending such an event). Some requirements will need more time and others may be done in fifteen minutes at a meeting. If you have a “group” working on the program, help the girls find ways to collaborate, break down tasks, and share what they learn with each other.
The advisor should encourage girl planning. This can include inviting them making choices individually or as a group wherever the program offers options. Girls do quite well in thinking of ways to apply local resources to a requirement or ways to modify a requirement to fit their needs or interests. While girl involvement is encouraged, it’s important to realize that the girls will have enough to do to complete the program without taking over full leadership of the group. It’s easy to overload them, especially since it’s likely that Religion in Life for Girl Scouts will be an activity done in addition to other ongoing commitments.
Try to keep program costs to a minimum. Generally the only expenses of the program are the recognition emblem and whatever methods the girl uses for recording her experience, which can be something as simple as a journal or notebook, but could also be an Ipad, tablet, smart phone or computer. If you want to include meals or refreshments in a group schedule, consider choosing bag lunches brought by the girls, or an inexpensive potluck (e.g. one person bring bagels and another brings orange juice for a breakfast meeting).
Girls, particularly older girls, may choose to track their progress themselves. However, it is a good idea for you to track their progress too, especially if you are working with more than one girl at a time. There is a group tracking form (Younger Girls or Older Girls) that works especially well for this purpose. If a girl is absent from a meeting and misses a requirement, the form will make it easier for you to help her catch up. You can also use the form for planning: note target dates for doing a requirement or completing it as homework, then check off the requirement for each girl as it is completed.
Clear tracking makes the accomplishment more meaningful. Girls know they have really finished a significant program. Using the tracking sheet to indicate assignments, deadlines, and completion dates also saves time and prevents confusion. When working with younger girls (and often older ones as well), it can be a good idea to check to see the girls have recorded their “homework assignments” or to follow up a meeting with a quick written message to the parents and girls listing the homework for the next time. Lastly, the tracking charts can prove very useful for encouraging the girls, pointing out their accomplishments, and helping them see the end in sight. (Tip: Some groups have instituted rituals like group high-fives at the completion of each program section).
Finishing the Program
The Religion in Life for Girl Scouts Emblem
Preparing for the award presentation begins with ordering the emblem from the UUA Bookstore—or at least making sure someone else orders it.
The advisor should work with the congregation’s religious professionals to determine an appropriate occasion for the girl to receive the Religion in Life for Girl Scouts emblem and recognition. This is often done as a short segment of a Sunday morning worship service. The award ceremony is an excellent opportunity for the congregation to invite others to learn about the program and celebrate the girl’s involvement in Scouting. Girls should be encouraged to invite guests, such as relatives, Girl Scout leaders, and friends. Lastly, the advisor should assist with (and may need to initiate) publicity done inside or outside the congregation about the award ceremony.
Girls who complete either program can fill out a Religion in Life for Girl Scouts Participant Survey. The UUA’s Faith Development Office greatly appreciates any feedback on programs.
Next Page: Religious Professional Role