There was a moment of darkness early this week. "Is this worth it?" "Why do we work so hard?" "Who really cares anyway?"
It was bad. I looked for jobs at Starbucks. I thrashed around and washed dishes like they deserved some wicked punishing.
It's passed, I talked to people who know that I don't really mean it, that this is part of the work we do.
But man, I wish I could see into a crystal ball and know which kids are going to show up on any given Sunday. And if only one is going to show up? Well, I wish I could call the dedicated teacher for that class early in the week and tell them to relax, not to buy a box of donuts, not to prepare an amazing lesson, not to give thought and time and prayer to a group of kids who just are not going to be there. Maybe I should work on my psychic powers.
This is the hardest part of being a Religious Educator. Keeping the faith that some people do care, and that a spiritual home is important for children, even if they come only once in a while.
Ours is a culture of power programming for kids. This week on the LREDA list we were talking about how you deal with games and lessons and recitals being actually scheduled on Sunday mornings. How do we plan? How do we know what families want and need? Church can't just be a drive thru where you order one unit of world religions and two sides of spiritual development. It takes the commitment of a whole family, it takes a whole family wide understanding of the role of a spiritual life in the development of a child. Yes, soccer and swim team are important--and my children have missed church for these things, too. Yes. But our families are pulled so hard in so many directions, what are they supposed to do? It's critical to have some down time as a family, too. What if Sunday is the only day that isn't packed full, and what if Sunday is crammed full from dawn to dusk, too?
I'm used to counter culture living. We had a family bed, years of breastfeeding, homeschooling and were radical liberals--we only really fit in with our UU church homeschooling group! So telling a swim coach that we wouldn't be coming to Sunday meets was not too big a deal, until my son didn't qualify for the yearly regional meet in some of his best events because those qualifying races were always held on Sundays. And premier soccer simply never takes "no" on required practices--sometimes we skipped anyway. Eventually my kids backed down from these sports that took their lives away from them. But for most families it's extremely difficult.
My goal this year was to help our families realize that "our religion isn't taught, it's caught" and that to really have children absorb all the good stuff about being Unitarian Universalist, families have to show up on Sundays. The dark part is that even when they really get that, life still pulls hard, and most of them come less than half the time. Maybe it's our substandard programming, but I really don't think so--our programming really is excellent. Maybe it's the nasty building we meet in, could be. I know it's not the teachers, they are dedicated, top quality, dear folks who commit for a whole year to the kids. I really think it's just the pace of life. As we're spinning and spinning through our week, it's hard to gear up and get the energy to get the family to church on Sunday mornings. It's just really hard.
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. (H.D. Thoreau). Maybe this is next year's theme. Maybe.