Suitable for the Old

We…have to stop comparing ourselves with the young. The characteristics of the young are perfect for the young but unsuitable for the old.  -Barbara Stanford, Gift of a Lifetime

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, you would think our cultural stereotypes regarding youth and aging would flip. There are so many of us Boomers–it seems we should easily extol aging as something worthwhile, something beautiful, something to be treasured. But that’s not quite happened (at least, not yet), perhaps because the majority of Boomers are so busy trying to hang on to youth by engaging in youthful pursuits.

I am ready to admit that I am no longer young. What’s more, I’m glad. Being young was wonderful…well, mostly…okay, sometimes. It was hard a good bit of the time, though I didn’t always know it. I sometimes look back on my life and wonder, How did I ever manage all that? I don’t think I could do that today. And I’m absolutely right, I couldn’t. Nor do I want to.

That’s the point. I don’t want to. I don’t long for the days when my children were little; I now enjoy them as adults. I don’t miss the days when I believed multi-tasking was essential to a life well-lived. There’s something to be said for giving one thing my undivided attention. I see now that I’ve spent way too many years rushing from one moment to the next, often without really experiencing much of it.

As I let the dog out thisdsc_0561-2 morning, I spied in the faint pre-dawn light our resident cardinal sitting in his winter-woody bush. He was facing the east, awaiting the sunrise. Just waiting. As I settled on the sofa with my cup of hot coffee, I gazed out the window and pondered that cardinal. Had he been sitting there all night, just watching and waiting for the sun to rise and a new day to begin? I contemplated how God keeps watch all hours of the night, how I can sleep peacefully because I know beyond any doubt that God never sleeps, and the deep joy that comes with that sure and certain knowledge rose in my heart. I consciously welcomed it, just as we welcomed the sunrise, Mr. Cardinal and I.

I am grateful for the time I have now to sit quietly and reflect.

In my younger years, I had little time for watching the sun rise or to just sit and ponder in the early pre-dawn light. I was too busy serving breakfast, packing lunchboxes, getting kids out the door to school, a husband off to work and–as the kids got older and the economy got tighter–myself, too. And it is only with the passage of time and the experience gained in a lifetime that I have certain assurances about God, including that he is always watching over me and all his creation.

As I navigate this aging process, I am trying to be attentive to the cultural stereotypes I consciously hold, and even more attentive to those I might be holding subconsciously. (For example, why do I prefer to think of myself as “aging” rather than “old?” Perhaps because aging indicates movement and old sounds final/done? ) I want to embrace this inevitable process with grace, even to welcome it with joy and delight. A slower pace, more time to give, finding and savoring joy in the present moment–these beautiful treasures are definitely suitable for the old!

 

Caring for Multi-hatters

Multi-hman-juggling-jobs_400-213x300atters are a blessing in the small church…and often a necessity! I am so very grateful for the volunteer ministers in my parish who serve in two–sometimes three–different roles. But I also know that this can cause volunteer burn-out if not carefully monitored. It can also cause team leaders to “fight” over a volunteer minister, necessitating cutting the volunteer in half so that each leader can have him/her.

Oh, wait. That’s not how that Bible story ended, is it? Ok, ok…back on track…

When I began ministry in our parish, volunteer scheduling was at times chaotic. There were basically five ministries that had schedules, and there was little or no coordination between them. Being a small church, many of our volunteers wear multiple hats, serving in a couple of different areas. It was not unusual to find overlap in the schedules, calling for a last-minute scramble to find someone to fill in.  Needless to say, this caused a certain amount of anxiety for everyone involved. Another problem was that some people would serve for weeks without having a Sunday off.

The logical solution was to create a master calendar which would reflect all of our serving roles, making it immediately obvious when a volunteer was in danger of being cut in half expected to serve in two places at the same time, or was serving week in and week out.

In the beginning, I asked team leaders to schedule their teams, and then turn the schedules in to me. I found that it’s really much simpler, however, if I do all the scheduling. I confer with team leaders about preferences and any other special considerations. It’s easier for me to compile everyone’s preferences and work around them as I make up the schedule than it is for the team leaders to try and keep track of those details for all the teams.

I create the schedule three times a year–January through April, May through Labor Day, September through the first Sunday in January. In this way, I avoid beginning a new calendar with a major holiday or the beginning/end of summer. This can create havoc when the new schedule gets lost in the busyness of holiday activities, end-of-summer vacations, and the May madness of proms and graduations! My goal each season is that no one serves more than two Sundays/month, regardless of how many ministry areas they serve. I ask all volunteers to find their own replacement if they have a conflict, and to please let me know of the change so I am not expecting the wrong person to show up.

What are you doing to safeguard the ministry life of your multi-hatters? I know this sounds like a lot of work, and it is. Groan if you must–I certainly do each time I create our master calendar! I think it is somewhat of a cross between a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle and dominoes as I try to make all the pieces fit, then find that moving one piece effects the delicate balance of the others! But, in the end, it’s worth the time and effort. I am removing a major obstacle to ministry, which is one of the primary responsibilities of an equipping leader. Ministry is more evenly distributed. There is less volunteer burn-out. Our volunteers don’t serve week in and week out without taking a break. And, most importantly, no one gets cut in half!