Friday, March 26, 2010

Facebook for Religious Educators

Just like the Joni Mitchell song, we go "round and round and round in the circle game." Things change and change and change. It's interesting to me to read the posts from Christine Robinson over at iMinister and Lizard Eater over at The Journey about Facebook and spiritual practice. They both make good points, LE is all about the personal contact we all need, and Christine is, as ever, touching on how it makes a person a better minister and how to have good boundaries. She even demonstrates how to hide pesky facebook game notifications.

I love facebook, really, love it. It is my office. It's how my mom keeps up with my kids. It's how I found out that my nephew just got engaged. It's how I see what's going on in my friends' lives and it's a great place to dawdle while I contemplate big decisions from how many pizzas to order for the OWL class to whether or not to run COA next year.

There are specific challenges for Religious Educators that are slightly different from the challenges for ministers. Often people, especially in smaller congregations, view us as the "Super Member" as in, "oh, we just think of you as a member, but a SUPER member!" So, being facebookfriends (Christine's word) with everyone in your congregation can give some folks a window into how much work it is to manage all that Religious Educators manage, if you update your status with details about your job. It helps establish your professionalism. But it makes it completely impossible to ever, ever complain about your job. You may never complain about your job on public parts facebook. Never. have a dual identity. Lots of people have two accounts. One for the official face to the public and your church. And one for friends family and a few close colleagues. This makes things easier. But it's still not good to complain about things that happen in your church publicly. Write a private email to a colleague, pick up the phone. By all means share! You don't have to be a monk. But you do have a professional role to maintain. Call me, I'll listen, call your Good Officer but keep good boundaries in your real life, especially on facebook.

Facebook is also a funny beast in that it can be kind of private and not so much at the same time. You choose settings when you post things, then they are either visible to your friends only, your friends and their friends, the public or.....groups. If you categorize your friends into groups, you can choose to publish things to only those groups. I often post things to just a few groups, my friends and families, but maybe not my church folks. Or colleagues and church, but not family. My nephews don't really want to know what's coming up at LREDA professional day, I don't think so anyway! But Christine is right, that hearing about your little dog or your upcoming play or your house remodel can give the people you serve in your congregation a stronger connection to you, and at the same time, you to them.

Facebook is also a fabulous way to keep people up to date with activities and with opportunities to help. Just the other day I saw a friend's status update about "baking cupcakes"--I had completely forgotten the bake sale to benefit musical theater at our little homeschool school! But I was reminded and baked like a mad woman and all was well. I've gotten soup lunch volunteers, set up crews and help at our homeless teen feed just from putting out a call on facebook.

Our carousel spins so fast these days, it only makes sense to tell people things as many different ways and times as possible. And facebook is an easy fun way to keep it all spinning.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Calling ministers, Pamela Anderson and Anderson Cooper

I watched "Dancing With the Stars" tonight. Yes, it was an accident and no I couldn't help it. We had to fold the laundry, and well......I can't fold the laundry without being so distracted that I don't notice what I'm doing.

It was awful! And so fun. My youngest son is taking a ballroom dancing class, so he even knew what they were doing "Classic! Oh, New Yorker." What?


In this crazy show professional ballroom dancers pair with celebrities of one kind or anther and compete. This season it goes from Buzz Aldrin to Kate Gosselin and more. One of my kids asked how old Pamela Anderson, is. "She looks really old" And she did, I agreed. She danced really well, but she looked, well, I guess worn is how she looked.

Of course this is how these things turn out: she's a few months younger than I am. That would explain the new and even stronger bifocals I bought today. Old. And while I was Wikipedia surfing from Anderson to Anderson I saw again, yes, Anderson Cooper is a few months younger than I am, but older than Pam! Ha.

This aging thing is not for weak willed folks. I love understanding life better and being sure of things. I love knowing how to do hard stuff and who I am. But I don't love knees that ache after a half hour on the cross trainer or needing glasses to read the vitamin package at the store. Geez, reminds me, I should read the label of the bottle I bought at the store without my glasses. I think it said it was fortified with bee pollen, but who knows?

And on the other part of my bouncing brain: the "hot stove" list out of ministers matched with congregations. Bill Sinkford at Portland First? Amazing! And the kind and funny Eric Kaminetzky at Edmonds, that's a great match. I wish them all long and happy service together.

Maybe churches should have a fundraiser called: "Dancing With the Minister"! Now that would be a good reason to leave all that laundry at home for a night on the, um, I mean a night at the Fellowship Hall! Hoo boy, good thing I'm off for a week and will not share that little treasure with the minister I serve with! Although, knowing her? She'd love it, and everyone would pay big bucks to go for a spin around the dance floor!

Happy Week off to me! Maybe that bouncing brain will slow down just a little

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tips for A Happy All-Ages Service

Tips for A Happy All-Ages Service:

Sit in the main seating area, close to the front, so your child(ren)
can see and don't have to turn in their chair.

Dress up a little, let children know that this is a very special
event! Tell them that you expect them to stay seated and enjoy the

Bring money for children to contribute to the offering, maybe their
own money.

Have quiet toys or activities in reserve, but set the expectation that
the service will hold their attention. Good choices would be finger
knitting, a small doodle pad, or beeswax to mold.

Leave electronics at home. They simply don't belong in a worship

Some children enjoy worship more when they are with peers, find your
child's classmates and sit together.

The RE Council members are on site to help. We'll have some quiet toys

If your child is really having a hard time sitting quietly, don't
hesitate to step out for a drink of water or a breath of fresh air.

Learning to go to a Sunday morning church service is one of the most
important things our children and youth can learn.
Blessings to you all!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Top Ten True Things about Sick Kids

We've just survived a round of the plague here at the homestead. Well, it's still hanging on a bit. Today at yoga class I couldn't manage a "corpse" pose without a yucky cough. And all the men in my house sound a little like Darth Vader. We're almost done being least I think we're almost done. Please baby Jesus let us be almost done. Thank you. Amen. Meanwhile....

Top Ten True Things about Sick Kids

10. When home sick from your homeschool school you can watch Mythbusters all day long and call it "science".

9. Little dogs think sick children are absolutely the best dog beds, ever.

8. Reading text books is far too taxing. Entire Calvin and Hobbes collections? Perfect!

7. Sick teenagers actually THANK you for taking care of them.

6. Jello? OH yeah!

5. A sick kid is totally captive for whatever agenda you have, like say....future educational plans. Or clean bedrooms.

4. Doing math homework on cold medicine? Yeah, not a good idea. Sorry Mrs. Smith, he'll re-do the assignment.

3. Sick children, even when really sick, are still way better at technology than parents.

2. Chicken soup makes you feel better. Vegetarian chicken soup works, too. Don't ask.

1. And the most true thing about sick kids? They can help you with your blog posts. Thanks, Ryan! I love you!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Letting go

I'm starting to get used to it. It's still kind of new and it still doesn't quite fit right. But it's not as heavy and it's maybe even starting to fit a little bit with the rest of what I know. I am almost starting to like it:

Having an adult child.

Adult child.

Even that doesn't make any sense.

But that's what it is.

This morning my son was at a loss as to what he should do with his morning. Usually he's eating breakfast and making his lunch--but today the youth group at his church is having a youth conference about food, and they all agreed to fast until tonight. So this morning he was chatty. And excited. I had so little idea about what was happening with his afternoon. He's planned it as part of the hosting congregation, he'll drive himself there and since they're covenanted to sleep at this con, he'll drive himself home. He's 18. He's finishing high school at the community college, he's the head math tutor at the college so he's got a half time job and is staff at the college. Yes, he still lives here, but this year it's become very different. He's an adult. And our child.

He's gone for the weekend. He's happy. And I'm happy for him. And while I still miss him when he's gone for a long time, it's not the same. I guess we're starting to let go. Of course we have to, it's the way things go. It's for the best. And it is starting to feel normal.

New normal.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring Newsletter Article (it's a rant!)

RE Corner Spring 2010


Why do we come to church on Sunday mornings? Why do we bring our children to “Sunday School”? Why not just rest and relax on Sunday mornings? I mean, really, our children are busy all week long, they have campfire and scouts and soccer and music lessons and a million other things to occupy their days. And we adults who run them around all week long are tired! We’re exhausted! Church? It’s not really necessary. Our kids are probably getting all of this already, anyway. Let’s just go out for breakfast-go out of town-go visit friends. Let’s just NOT GO!

I understand the pressure of twenty-first century family life, I really do. I had three kids in five years! My partner and I are just now catching up on our sleep. If those crazy curfews for our teenagers would just let up we could count on a good 8 hours of sleep!

But I believe that we should all let something go to make room for church, yes for ourselves but especially if our lives involve children. Why?

Because going to church is necessary. There is no other place that your child will hear from a community as specifically and as powerfully: “We believe in people; every person every where all the time.” Or “Peace comes from justice, and this is how we create a just world….” Or “You matter, all the time, no matter what.”

At church your child will learn about values and ethics. We talk about who kids want to be when they grow up but we’re not talking about careers or education. We’re talking about who kids really want to become, and what it means. We talk about spirit and faith and hope. You do have to give up other things to have this church family. But it’s worth it, really it is.

I wish I could show you a magic picture of your family in 20 years. Belonging to a church in a way that is meaningful and real; doing good work for the church, staying late to clean up and coming early to set up and letting your child know what matters to you and showing them by doing it will make a difference in who they grow up to be. I promise. It will. Church helps us all get closer to who we are meant to be.


Kari Kopnick

Director of Religious Exploration

Westside Unitarian Universalist Congretation

Sunday, March 7, 2010

End of an Era

For years and years and years and years part of our family routine has included sitting on canvas slung camp chairs or rickety bleachers or in later years big stadiums....just to sit and watch weekend soccer.

But as far as we know now, we've watched our final soccer game--at least with one of our offspring playing.

Our middle son was just about done playing soccer a couple of years ago. The others had only really ever dabbled in soccer. But our middle son loved soccer for years and years. Then it went bad. He even retired for a year. Youth soccer is just horrible. Do you have a child kicking a ball around? Take it away from the poor kid. Between the coaches and the governing boards who decide who get's a spot on an "A" team to the dirty play that happens on the field--it's horrible. I don't want anyone else to have to face what our kid has faced. Really. At age 10 you shouldn't have to come up against all the politics and mess of adult ego.

But our son is a great athlete. And he's a wonderful team player. And again and again he's taken himself from one team to another try-out and played his best. And he's ignored his coaches getting ejected from the game and the screaming of parents who think they should coach from the stands. We have always been proud to be his parents, even if we often sit far, far away from the other kids' parents.

Today was the state cup game and our son's team lost. And their coach was escorted from the field.....again. Lovely. Great way to teach young men how to grow-up to be fine young men. Bah.

But yesterday--ah, yesterday was fabulous! The semi-final game was against one of the teams our son used to play for. It was a little odd. We could see parents we knew from the road trips and games and team parties, but we'd look at the players and be stumped. It looked a little like those age progressions you see for missing kids. You could kind of tell which kid was which, but only kind of. They had been 11 year-old kids the last we'd seen them and suddenly they were young men! There were so many nice kids and parents on that team. We could see our son chatting with the boys on the field--very friendly little exchanges. And parents called to us from the stands as we walked past. "Hi! How's it going? Kid's are playing great! Good to see you! Good luck with the game!" It was a nice team.

But there was one family on this team who we'd played with years earlier but on a different team. The dad had been the coach. It was a fine team, but the next year....well, things didn't go well. And that man was very, very hard on my son. It was a really awful time. It was one of those times that you tell your kid "sorry honey, life's just not really fair" and "someday this will all seem less important". And I'm ashamed to say it, but when we got a Wii, we had a Mii of this coach, and I'd make my kids challenge him in boxing. Yeah, I was maybe just a little bitter. It was bad.

But yesterday: redemption. My son's team won. And he scored. And that same coach who had been the fodder for life lesson after life lesson for our kid stopped him to shake his hand. And our son shook his hand and said "thank you" to the gushing.

I am so proud of my son. So proud.

And you parents who are wondering....yes, stand up and help your kid do the right thing. Stand firm. Don't take any crap. It's worth the life lesson. It is. Really, it is.