I’m not sure how I landed at St. Barnabas as the Director of Children’s Ministries. My spiritual path and my vocational pursuit rarely—if ever—overlap. And the paths for both have been long and confusing, and only sporadically well lit. Conversations about vocation occupy a significant chunk of the time that Matt and I spend together. If we’re not talking about the kids, we’re definitely talking about where each of us belongs and what is the best use of our time and talent. All said and done, you could say (and you’d be right) that my vocation is inefficiently broad, at best—and murky, at worst.
My mom—literally—carries a tiny notebook in her purse, scribbled full of my most recent job titles, places of employment, or current graduate school programs. And when someone asks, “So what is Colette up to these days?” she readily pulls out her tiny notebook, flips to the freshest page and reads her most recent entry. (She needs no such system for my siblings.)
Even though I’ve spent years on a dimly lit vocational path, been accused of being a “wanderer” for more than a quarter of my life, and logged hundreds of hours wondering what I’m meant to do with my life, it seems Director of Children’s Ministries is the very unlikely intersection of my gifts, interests, and previous experiences. Who knew there was a job out there that combined my yoga teaching, master gardening, commitment to volunteerism, both graduate degrees in education and family therapy, and a desire to spend more time with friends and family (not to mention, my love for this place and the people in it)? I’m so grateful for this unexpected opportunity, and pleasantly surprised at all the free time I have now that I’m not fretting over the next step. The children and youth ministries are, in fact, a reflection of my gifts, talents and interests, but—more important—of the gifts, talents and interests of our church and the people in it. The beauty of a program uniquely designed for St. Barnabas is that we are it. It is us.
We often adapt our classroom curriculum to take full advantage of our teachers’ strengths and talents, and to incorporate the children’s affinities and interests. For example, our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders have a shared love for animals, domestic and wild, and combining this with their teacher’s environmental interest has led us to our next service project: worm farming! We will help our neighbors by providing fully-assembled worm farms to interested parishioners for easy indoor composting to reduce waste and highlight the interdependence between us and these neighborly creatures. Likewise, one parishioner’s interest in pollination will find enthusiastic bee boosters in our class.
Our curriculum is also adjusted weekly to tend to children’s worries and concerns. Current events in our community—near and far—are often worked into our Sunday discussions. We see bonds forming when we give this voice to our children; bonds built through honest interactions between and among children and volunteers, even the most unlikely of volunteers.
Our programming aims to facilitate the sharing of personal interests and callings with our children as we guide them to find their own paths to service, but also to connect children to other loving and giving adults in the parish. If relationship building is a primary goal of our children’s program, which I believe it is, then we should be prepared to do it in every which way.
Even worm farming.