Grade 6-8: Neighboring Faith Communities

“Neighboring Faith Communities” is a program for 6-8th grade students that is based on making visits to other faith communities near your congregation.

Each visit involves a three-session (three week) process:

(1) In the session before the visit, the class learns the basics about the faith community: what they should wear, what to expect when they arrive, basic etiquette, etc. A key resource for this step is the book How To Be a Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook, by Arthur J. Magida (Skylight Paths Publications, revised regularly).
(2) In the next session, the following week, the class visits the faith community.
(3) In the third session, the class talks about the visit: —What happened during the visit, and what did you especially notice? —What was the same and different about other faith communities we’ve visited (including our own faith community)?

The Neighboring Faith Communities class also includes an initial session or two where the class decides which faith communities they would like to visit; periodic sessions devoted to group-building and fun; visiting speakers (e.g., from traditions where a visit is inappropriate or impossible); and occasional sessions on other topics relating to faith communities (e.g., feminism in religion).

Goals of “Neighboring Faith Communities”

1. To increase religious literacy, by introducing young people to the actual rituals and practices of different worshiping communities.
2. To teach religious tolerance, by visiting faith communities with values that differ from our own, and maintaining a respectful demeanor during those visits.
3. To make good world citizens, by raising the awareness of the religious diversity of the U.S. (and the world) in young people.
4. To have fun and sometimes challenging new experiences; to build a peer group that is supportive; and to expose middle schoolers to thoughtful and caring adult role models in their own faith community.