Something I just learned from children's religious education

I've decided to extend my leave of absence teaching Firstday School at our Quaker meeting past the summer and into the fall. I've been teaching once every month or two for, oh, seven? years now. Since Eleven Year Old was still Four Year Old.

However, I'm still on the group email list for the Children's Religious Education Committee. And tonight I reflected that the committee right now has four key -- nay, critical -- components for successful Quaker program activity:
  1. Enthusiasm: to be enthused is to be infused with the Spirit, after all! They've got that in abundance as we head back into the fall and the school year.
  2. Organization: Just because unprogrammed Friends are volunteers doesn't mean we have to be badly organized. (My #1 complaint about Quakers!) The committee has been coming back together after summer, and putting systems in place and talking about some longer-term goals and needs.
  3. Communication: Keep each other posted! The Children's Religious Ed Committee has a great and very active email list and an online calendar which is slowly gaining in utility. Teachers also have a commitment to writing brief reports about what the lesson was, what worked, and what didn't, and sharing that via the email list. I hope they can keep up this level of diligence.
       Too often, people assume others know something just because they do. Use a variety of channels: email, calls, in-person conversations and meetings, posters, flyers, the meeting's print newsletter. Bad communication is probably my #2 complaint about Quakers. (How many times has this happened at a monthly, quarterly, or yearly meeting? "Well, the fact that the children's program was going to be closed early was announced at the end of the business meeting." "Yeah, but I had to leave meeting early to go get my kids at the children's program, so I didn't hear it!")
  4. Distributed leadership: How many times has a committee suffered because the clerk kept too many of the tasks close at hand, and then couldn't get them all done? Well, this committee has a clerk and two assistant clerks, and several active, engaged members who are taking on different tasks.
The above are four fundamental building blocks to organizing successful Quaker activities and programs. I'm sure there are others (staying rooted and grounded in Love and the Spirit, for example), but these are some of important ones too often missing from our work. I think Friends concerned about other aspects of Quaker life -- such as building race or class diversity within the Society of Friends, or helping people integrate the practice of one's faith with faithful activism, for example -- would do well to keep those four principles in mind as they engage in the work they feel called to do.

I'm impressed with the level of all of the above in our committee right now. As mentioned, there is a clerk (a non-parent educator, and a blogger, but I'll leave it up to him if he wants to be linked to in this context), and two assistant clerks, of whom one is a parent and the other is both an active uncle and a childcare provider. And of course there's a nice group of committee members, most of whom are parents.

The committee has some work to do to build up the Quaker curriculum and train new teachers after a few of us laid teaching down for now. The good thing is they're building from a really solid base. Thank you, Children's Religious Education Committee!

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