Sunday, February 22, 2009

Where Do We Go From Here?

Besides being a line in one of my favorite musicals (I can usually manage to stay in key when I sing along while driving), it is a question I often ask myself.  You cannot make a decision based off of the question, "Where do we go from where we were 6 months ago?"  

Regardless of whether you like where you, your ministry, or the world is today, you can only make the decision of where to go from this particular moment, this particular place.  I don't think that is a bad thing.  It gives us a solid point from which to start.  We can look back to see what brought us to this moment, this place.  With thought, discernment, and no little amount of faith, we can then make the choices that will take us to the next moment, the next place.

Knowing Lent is so close to starting I am looking inward to determine what is my answer to, "Where do I go from here?"  My first major Lenten practice is, as for many, prayer time.  I've got a great book at home that is set up for a 40 day period.  I'll be able to walk through that.  

My other major Lenten experience was, well, foisted on me - taking that sacred time for me, for my psychological and spiritual well-being.  As I have just adopted a dog, Gracie, from a rescue, I am forced to ensure that I go home to walk and care for her.  In turn, she offers that undying, unqualified, unconditional love of a dog.  In addition, she is reminding me that patience, trust, and the art of being cannot be undervalued.  Given her two years in a puppy mill and the abusive first family that adopted her, she came to me cowering and fearful.  For the first few days she only came near me when I put her food down for her.  Now she seeks me out and follows me into the bathroom (we're working on privacy issues).  There is still much to do, but as part of my Lenten practices, she is helping me to take time for myself without any guilt attached.

Having Gracie is not only a blessing in my personal life, but she is teaching me much that can help me with my ministry.  That time it takes to build trust.  The fact that her trust was easily taken away in those first days if I spoke too loudly or didn't see her behind me and stepped on her paws (in my slippers, she was fine).  Now that trust is stronger.  The ongoing process is lengthy, just as establishing credibility, trust, and relationships in ministry takes time.  

Gracie has made me completely change my modus operandi in my personal life.  The pastoral planning process, a few texts I'm reading, and the perpetual challenges in youth and young adult ministry are causing me to seriously rethink the basic methodologies in the ministries.  Not that what is currently going on is bad or wrong.  Rather, it can always be improved and there are developing circumstances that will require change sooner or later.  I figure that being prepared is better than scrambling after the fact.

I know more will come.  However, if you have ideas on resources to read or people to talk to, don't hesitate to let me know. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

When Evaluations Meet Magic 8 Balls

It is that time in our parish.  We are looking to the past and presence to evaluate all aspects of our parish in anticipation of a new pastoral plan.  Yesterday we spent a few hours hashing through the youth ministry.  Depending on how much sleep I have in my system, I either love or hate meetings like the one yesterday.

It was wonderful to gather teens, adult volunteers, and parents to look at the ministry.  They were affirming, yet honest in their ideas and criticisms.  The two main areas that we need to really develop more are the bridge between 8th and 9th grade and parent communication/involvement.  There were subsets of these discussions such as how busy the kids are, that parents are exhausted from being Mom & Pop's Taxi Service, transportation issues overall, and use of email/websites.  

I hate these sorts of meetings insofar as they lead to the realization of all the work that there is to do.  Some of the things to look at:
  • Developing a parent newsletter to go out weekly via email (this year).
  • Working on helping parents arrange carpools (likely shoot for next year).
  • Email parents directly to see if they would like their children called by a teen with a personal invitation to a particular event or youth ministry in general (next year).
  • Linking each leadership teen with a few new teens in a mentoring set up (next year).
  • Looking at the possibility of an informal discussion group meeting at a coffee shop along the bus lines immediately after school between class and after school sports (next year).
These are the ones I remember off the top of my head, we've got pages of notes and more specific brainstorming to work on over the spring and summer.  I'm excited. A little wary of all that is going to land on my plate, but terribly excited at the energy of all the parents, teens, and volunteers.

On a side note, I just have to share.  I got a dog on Saturday from a local rescue.  Today she woke me up at 4:30 am.  Loved that.  However, now she is quietly laying on the floor as I work.  I feel guilty for having to put her in her crate in a couple of hours when I go into work for the afternoon and evening, but until I know she's totally housebroken she spends the night in there and the time I'm at work.  Without further ado, meet Gracie.