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

 

A Glimpse: What Fall Ministry Might Look Like

We’re starting a week on planning in a time of uncertainty by this reblog of another excellent post by Christine V Hides. Please share your own plans for the fall and what you are doing to prepare this summer either as a comment here or on the Facebook group page.

Christine V Hides

In the spirit of collaboration and modeling vulnerability, I am offering you a glimpse of the first iteration of our plan, designed in the shape of a teeter totter, able to pivot smoothly between gathered and online as needed. Here are the steps we took to get to our first iteration from which we will learn, adapt, and grow.

FYI,  I’m part of two upcoming planning webinars that will delve deeper into planning in these unpredictable times:

Step 1:

Remember your why. While just about everything has changed over the last few months, your ministry purpose has not. There are many ways to say it, but our purpose has always been to nurture disciples who know, love and serve God and in so doing transform our hearts, minds…

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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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A Time for Reflection: What are we learning?

Three months ago life as we had known it changed. Schools and church buildings closed. Stores and businesses shut down. Homes became offices for many.  We became even more aware of the “front line” workers in our communities and the risks they take to keep basic services in place.

Words and technology platforms that we used occasionally or hadn’t heard of before became part of our daily language. Many faced the realities of virtual worship: to stream or to record? Instrumental music or vocals? What tools do we need to pull it off?

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Five Tips for Accessibility in Online Learning

Most of us are learning as we go with online education these days. We are trying experiments. Some of them work well and some of them help us to grow in this area by their failure. We certainly don’t want to create any stumbling blocks for those who truly want to learn and grow in faith (Matthew 18:6). So, we are faced with the question: how can we make online learning accessible for all people?

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And the Survey Says . . .

Sharon Ely Pearson shared the results of her ecumenical curriculum survey on her own blog. I wonder how your ministry matches or challenges these results.

Rows of Sharon

4006230793_9b2742c25e_oAn on-line survey was held on a voluntary based during June 2016 to learn what curricular programs were being used in congregations with children, youth, and adults. The survey was disseminated through e-mail and social media (predominately Facebook groups) and various organizational list-serves (Forma, APCE, CEF,AUCE, and the Christian Education Network of the ELCA). The construction and results of the survey was conducted by the research group of the Church Pension Group, the parent company of Church Publishing Incorporated. The analysis of the data is strictly mine, and I take all responsibility for its interpretation.

Godly Playcontinues to be the most used program with children, with Montessori-type programs used by 36% of churches. The other three types of curriculum were lectionary-based (25%), Bible story based (30%), and workshop rotation model (9%). Most churches use a variety of resources, combining and tweaking them…

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The Village

Our story is so common, a 125 year old congregation, inner-city, wants to minister to the community around it, I’m sure you have heard it all before.

The Facts:
Our average attendance: 170ish
Average Sunday school was: 30ish (all in, all ages)
Most families attended once a month
We have a separate family chapel, attended by substantially more persons than Sunday school hour.

Our take away was that families are interested, but not in our traditional model.
We kept coming back to the old adage “it takes a village…”

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WWJT

This last Saturday I was with a group from Salem Presbytery exploring what it means to be The Hopeful Church. We looked at the current state of Christian education in mainline churches, particularly the PC(USA). We talked  about how difficult it is to change the model of Sunday School with which many of us have grown up.

Then we tried an activity to break us out of our preconceived notions of what Christian Education is about. I called it WWJT, which could be translated “What Would Jesus Teach?” or “Where Would Jesus Teach?” Continue reading

Camp and Conference Remix-Part 2

As we discussed yesterday, some significant Christian Education happened at our camps and conference centers this summer. Children and youth from your congregation may have had a “mountain top experience,” a significant faith experience that brought them closer to God. Not only do we need to acknowledge a possible milestone on their faith journey, it is also important for us to share their experience with the rest of the congregation. Connecting with them as the church helps sustain this significant faith experience.

Yesterday we talked about conferences, so today we will discuss how we might connect with your children and youth after their summer camp experience. Here are some suggestions: Continue reading