Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The years march by

Sophia Lyon Fahs writes in the introduction to her book "From Long Ago and Many Lands" "...the marching line of yesterdays reaches back and back into centuries and millenniums."

So, we add another yesterday to the line.

And we add another year to the yesterdays.

What did we learn from the year? What can we take forward to the tomorrows?

1. Families are so pulled by the demands of busy family life, church almost never makes top priority.

This isn't a bad thing, but it is a good thing to learn as a Religious Educator. For years I felt that if I could just help families understand how important it is to the life long development of their child to just simply show-up at church most weeks, that they would show-up. But for our families, church feels like an elective in the demanding line up of required family activities. I know what those soccer commitments are like, those swim team demands, those busy weeks that scream for a quiet morning. I've been there. I hold no judgment for the choices made. During the next calendar year I will try to craft a whole program that lends itself to the hit-and-miss nature of family attendance.

2. Shared Leadership is the sacred white light that shines from the heavens and makes all well and good in the world.

The Religious Education Council that I serve emerged from our REC retreat supercharged to lead as a group. And have they! They also made a miracle happen in working hard to create a Associate DRE position and even fund it. I will keep passing out the duties, even the ones I love, to other folks called to take them on.

3. Youth involvement is special, and requires advanced hatha yoga.

Or, you must be flexible. Our youth group started off with a bang and more teens than ever before, then crashed to the smallest it's ever been, and now has decided to attend a local big church for youth group meetings, while maintaining the service work and one dinner-worship a month with their tiny group. And while my heart is in pieces on the floor to think we have farmed out our youth group, it is what they need and want and what is the best for them. I will follow their lead, and serve them in the way that is needed.

4. Boundaries are good, but they can't be a barbed wire fence.

A Religious Educator who loves their work will love their congregation. And the people of the congregation. I learned this during our memorial services this fall. It didn't matter that my job is focused on the children and youth, I needed to be there to work and help during our trauma because I love these folks. Of course I do. Boundaries are good, necessary, required, but love pays no attention and goes on wrapping your heart around these people you serve. I will work to hold boundaries, but let go of holding myself back.

5. You must don your oxygen mask before assisting others.

It is very easy to see this important work of being a Religious Educator as so vital that all else must wait. But if you can't think about one more bin of sculpey or case of glue sticks without screaming you will not be able to continue this good work. I have learned to work my hours, and pretty much only my hours. I must let some good ideas fall on the floor untended. I can go pick them up from under the dusty couch later. There is a feast and famine to this work. Some weeks we work double or even (gulp) triple our hours if we are very part time. And then some weeks we don't work as much at all. It evens up, most of the time anyhow. I will continue to seek balance in this work so that I can keep doing what I love.

What else?

I love to play my guitar and sing with the children and the congregation.

People care very deeply and are happy to be asked to help.

The right person often shows up at just the right moment.

I am the luckiest person in the world to know these children and youth, and to have their trust.

As the years march on, I hope most of them have lessons as good as these.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Hi Kari,

Wonderful post. I would much rather look back at what I've learned over the past year, than come up with resolutions at this arbitrary time.

I look forward to hearing how you craft a program suitable for hit-and-miss attendance. In my few months as a DRE, I've come to see that as a huge challenge that must be reckoned with. Our classroom with the lessons that *most* rely on previous weeks' learnings is also the one with the lowest consistent attendance. Lesson learned for next year!

I applaud you for learning to don your oxygen mask first. That's something I learned the hard way in my last career, and am working hard to maintain on this new path (and it sure feels good returning to work after a restful holiday!!).

Here's one I've learned: Systems dynamics are the same when you're working with large groups of people (who are mostly volunteers), no matter what "type" of organization you're working in. I has helped me to understand that there will be difficult personalities in any group, so it's up to me to find creative ways of dealing with issues (not to mention maintaining boundaries). It also helps me to avoid taking things personally. And of course, in any group there will be those amazing, super-dedicated individuals who you can count on, and those hidden gems you need to find.

As a religious educator who came from "outside", it may be easier for me to maintain some boundaries (for now?), but you're right about the love.