Is Everything Fine?

Everything’s fine…

That is what I keep telling myself. The truth is that it is not.

I have no new ideas.

Asian woman with post-it notes all over her and her computer

 

I see your ideas on Facebook and hear them in Zoom meetings. I do. They’re great. I read them and feel like I am in 8th grade again and am jealous of Kristin’s Guess Jeans. I want a triangle on my bum, but my mom says I have to pay for half and I am lazy. I am jealous of the ideas, but am so burnt out right now.

 

Am I down on myself? For sure, but after meeting with the Hope4CE Steering Committee I know that I am not alone. We are all feeling it. Maybe you can’t pack one more bag, do one more porch drop off, edit one more video, look at one more poorly attended Zoom meeting. I am here to tell you that it is ok.

 

 

Last March when this all started we were in a frenzy. Don’t roll your eyes but I actually found it exciting. After 16 years of doing Christian Education I felt like I had a new job. Creativity from colleagues around the world abounded. We rallied together to create new ways to connect with our congregations and it was truly something special. I felt motivated to put everything out there knowing that our congregants were struggling. The first couple months of shut-down I took screen shots of ideas others had in Facebook groups. I sat down one day to write down all of the ideas so I could delete the pictures and it took up two pieces of notebook paper, front and back. I did most of them and with much success. I did the Lent bags, Advent wreath bags, back to school bags, porch drop-offs were endless, parking lot events, children’s sermons featuring my diva dog that I painstakingly edit, the virtual Christmas Pageant, made trivia games weekly…the list goes on and on. It felt life giving at first. Here I was creating new things instead of just plugging in things: this VBS curriculum, this Sunday school curriculum, this youth group game. We were able to re-create our jobs. It was thrilling!

 

Now, not so much. I am excited for you and all your good ideas. I support you, but I am done. Not done with my job. I deeply love what I do and will continue to give my church 100%, but I am giving myself a break from ideas. I am not packing Lent bags, I don’t even know what I am doing yet and I am ok with that. I do know that I will check in with my families, stay connected with my youth, let them all know that they are loved and are being prayed for. What I won’t do is add to the burnout I am already experiencing.

 

 

When I started in education, congregants would invited me to coffee or lunch. I thought “how cool!”, they want to be friends. No. You work at a church, you are therefore a professional listener. People want to share with you. They want you to listen and tell them that all will be well. No one tells you that in ministry that you will also be a therapist when you didn’t go to Seminary and kind of fell into your call. We have carried the weight of so many over the years. We singlehandedly re-created our entire jobs within days. We have held them up DURING A PANDEMIC! I will repeat that: A FREAKING PANDEMIC! Not to mention the unrest and chaos that surrounded us at the same time. We did this. We did it together. Cut yourself some slack. Take something off of your work plate and take care of you. I know for a fact that most of you have not been practicing self-care. And if your self care has looked like mine, it has involved a wine glass and there are probably better ways.

Personally I will still involve a wine glass in moderation of course. I will listen to myself and pull back even though I am still chasing those Guess Jeans. I might even have an idea or two that I will post and you will say “no thanks, I don’t need those jeans the pair I have are fine.” You all and your ideas got me through this and will continue to inspire me, but I will also take care of me and you take care of you. Everything is not fine and that is ok.

 

Karen Miller is Director of Children and Youth Ministries at Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill, NC and a Member of the Hope4CE Steering Committee

 

Puppetry and The Pandemic

I have learned many new technology skills during this time of physical isolation and virtual ministry. I’m sure you have, too. I’ve also discovered that I could reach back to skills that I haven’t exercised in a while that find new life in these challenging times.

One of those skills is the art of puppetry. I’ve always been enamored with puppets, since my time growing up with the likes of Captain Kangaroo, Shari Lewis, and later Fred Rogers and the Muppets. There is something magical that happens when you animate these pieces of fabric and stuffing into a living character with particular personality traits.

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Beyond the Book Club: Anti-Racist Children and Family Ministry

This is a reblog from Christine V Hides’ site with her permission. This is a very important post for our times and for our ongoing work in loving our neighbors. KLD

Christine V Hides

There seems to be a pattern. Whenever a video of a Black person being killed emerges, shock and outrage fill our social media feeds. White people begin to ask (again), “what can we do?” Booklists begin to circulate (again) on social media. Book clubs begin (again). Fortunately, there is a wealth of excellent resources for learning about the history of systemic racism in the United States. There are also amazing lists of books to read with children and tips to help White parents to have important conversations about race. I am grateful for the hard work and effort of those who write and curate these resources and the churches who engage with these hard conversations. But…

Unfortunately, in both society and in Children and Family Ministry our efforts often don’t move beyond the book club. White colleagues, let’s not wait until the next horrifying news event to take…

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The Eucharist Has Left The Building

Jesus told the Samaritan woman in the Gospel of John, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither worship God on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem…But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:21-24

For the first time in my lifetime, the entire congregation is on the church’s shut-in list. We have been mandated to “shelter-in-place” and practice social distancing whenever we venture out of the house due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, churches have turned to social media platforms like Zoom, Periscope and Facebook Live to carry on the business of the church. Bible studies, small group gatherings, and the worship experience have been moved from the church house to our house. We are forced to go beyond the four walls of the sacred sanctuary into living rooms, and family rooms to partake in study and worship.  For some of us this is the first time that we’ve had spiritual formation experiences outside of the church. Our biggest challenge, however, has been what in the world do we do for communion? For the most part, we have adapted to going to church in the living rooms across the country. It is reminiscent of the early church which got its start in the homes of the early Christians.[1]  So, what does that look like for us on first Sunday? How do we experience Holy Communion when we are not there to physically partake of the liturgy and elements?

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Bytes of Faith-An Idea for Faith Formation

When Covid-19 stay at home orders came in March, our congregation was caught off guard.  Our Christian Education ministry relied on face-to-face gatherings.  From Sunday School to youth Confirmation, Wednesday night LOGOS to weekly small groups, we were used to traditional ways of doing Christian education.   And we were in the midst of our Lenten Small Group study!  Teacher training events never talked about what happens during a pandemic when you are told to physically social distance from other people.

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Mother’s Day

I am a mother of two. One bright, creative, full of life five year old and her sister who lives in heaven. Mother’s Day has always been tricky for me. Don’t get me wrong. I love recognizing my mom, both of my grandmothers and the many other important “mothering” people in my life. My living child has an amazing godmother and many positive female role models but Mother’s Day is a challenge.

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Christian Faith, the Bible, and Public Schools

My mother began her teaching career in the public schools in the early 1970s. Over the years, she has recounted the times when she was expected to read the Bible to students. She remembers lovingly sharing Bible stories and even praying with her elementary-aged students. However, as the years passed, those expectations changed, and by the time she retired a few years ago, she no longer read—and wonders if she would have been allowed to read—Bible stories to students.

There is no question that the role of the Bible and Christian faith in the public schools has changed dramatically over the last half century. Some of these changes have been for the better; others have been less positive. Still, it has left some wondering, “Is there a place for the Bible and Christian faith in American public schools today? And, if so, what is it?”

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All Aboard the Intergenerational Train!

In their seminal work Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584-2069, William Strauss and Neil Howe describe generations metaphorically as distinct trains carrying groups of like-minded people to stations that represent the different stages of life. For instance, today, the “Millennial” train is passing through the rising adulthood station and the “Generation X” train is passing through the midlife station. Strauss and Howe posit that each train looks different to observers as they come through each station because each generation has a distinct character.

Generation theory (and its precursors) has been around for a quarter-century now. Perhaps an older notion than that is the presumption of a “gap” between each generation that makes living together more difficult. This perception has been aided by a trend in American society toward age segregation over the last 100 years, with the youngest Americans receiving an education separate from adults, who are in the workplace, and separate from the oldest Americans, who are retired. That is a major shift from what was previously a largely agrarian society. Continue reading