Vibrant, healthy, lifelong faith formation in our congregation is the goal. Isn’t it? It seems it would be easy to provide programs, Bible studies, and resources for Christian education for all ages in our congregations. Then one day we ask someone to volunteer their time to do it. This person finds out that not only is the budget shrinking to buy materials, but that people aren’t coming. They plan, publicize, and hope for the best. After a few months, they may find themselves feeling alone, getting slightly burned out, and developing a very negative feeling about faith formation happening at all. Those negative feelings begin to grow like cancer and begin to seep into other parts of their life as well. Where do they turn? Who can they talk to? Discouragement comes easily. How can we give support and help them?
A friend of mine recently addressed a meeting of Christian educators. She had a message for us all, “Don’t give up!” She is a second career pastor. Her first career? She has a PhD and was a Research Scientist doing primarily cancer research. I wondered why she would change careers now to be involved in a world that seems so very different. After listening to the Rev. Dinah Dutta for a short time, it was very evident that the wisdom she gained doing research was a gift to her present career as a pastor. Perhaps we should heed her advice. The key word she used as she spoke passionately about why she chose to become a pastor was perseverance.
These are a few of the steps taken in research when something doesn’t work:
1. List and analyze the failures
2. Talk about the failures and use a new strategy.
3. Use the new strategy, process the response, and confirm what is working.
4. Analyze how the new strategy is better.
The Rev. Dinah Dutta asked us to remember Christian education and faith formation is not about us and that perseverance is the key for any successful endeavor. She said, “Without perseverance, you cannot reach the goal.” If we seriously take the time to assess our failures and talk about them and then analyze and move to a new strategy, we can move forward thinking positively and begin to understand what can be better.
How can we help things be better for our volunteers so they don’t give up?
“Don’t get tired of helping others. You will be rewarded when the time is right, if you don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9 (CEV)
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