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Overwhelmed, anxious, but hopeful

Hopeful child learning online

“There is nothing easy about this time,” says the Rev. Kathy Pittenger. Still, she remains hopeful as she offers families and leaders ideas and resources to take into the new school year. 

KATHY PITTENGER

Children’s Initiatives Coordinator, Michigan Conference

If there is one thing that is certain right now, it’s that there are a lot of emotions, and often, they are running high. And to further complicate matters, there are layers of emotions or seemingly competing emotions all happening at the same time.

For families, this may be the best time of their life. Schedules have slowed down. There is more time to be together. For others, this is overwhelming, exhausting, and full of anxiety. The questions are never-ending. The uncertainty can be debilitating. As school release plans for the fall and parents/caregivers have decisions to make about school, childcare, extra services, it is a stressful time.

As a parent with a middle schooler and an elementary school-age child, most days, it feels like there is nothing easy about this time. We need to acknowledge the grief, anxiety, concern, fatigue, and exhaustion we may be experiencing. Not only individually, but as a society. Give yourself permission to take a breath. Take a walk. Soak in the bathtub. Fix a healthy snack and drink a glass of water. Relax your shoulders.

As I have been considering the fall, both personally and professionally, I have a few things bubbling up to share.

To the Grown-ups

We have heard it said that these are “unprecedented times.” Take that to heart. Give yourself grace. Give those around you extra grace. Build in time to slow down. Reach out to someone with a phone call or text to say hi or when you are having a rough day. You probably can’t do it all. Choose to invest your time and energy into the things that are going to support and encourage you. Worship with your family the best way you can. Take at least a moment each day to pray or read the Bible or have a question that connects faith and life. If you don’t have time to do one more thing – make it a part of when you brush teeth before bed or at mealtime. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can.

To the Church Leaders

Breathe. Seminary and all our experience could not prepare us for this time. You are doing your best. Give yourself grace. Give those around you grace. You cannot do it all, and you are not going to make everyone happy. Find your foundation in God. Connect with other ministry leaders to share ideas, collaborate, celebrate, and grieve together. Focus on relationship over content. Ask your families what they need and then listen to them. Many families are not looking for one more thing to do right now. Send a postcard, ask older adults in your congregation to send cards of encouragement to parents and kids. Share your favorite Bible stories. Celebrate milestones. Different families will have various capacities for screen time.

Fall 2020 may not be a “normal” start to the school year, which makes it all the more important to recognize it for our children, youth, parents, and teachers/school staff. Celebrate this milestone (click here for ideas.) If you have families who want more content, but that is outside your capacity, share the playlists in the Children’s Ministry toolbox that families can use so you can focus on relationship.

These are moments when we will have to explore shifts in faith formation. Your conference staff hosted a two-part webinar series about Re-Imagining Faith Formation that you may find helpful. If you are feeling overwhelmed and are looking for practical ways to get started, check out Launch! faith formation. Being connected with others may help you know that you are not alone in your questions and frustrations and provide support and encouragement.

 If you have questions or want to know more about children’s ministries, contact Kathy Pittenger at kpittenger@michiganumc.org.