Friday, August 24, 2018

Notes from my Knapsack 8-30-18

Notes from my Knapsack 8-30-18

Jeff Gill


A lap around the track



Word origin is a subject not everyone is familiar with, but I think it has an impact even when we don't quite realize it.


Etymology is the technical term, and it's archaeology done by digging through the layers of development in a word, from the current usage back through the stages of transformation to root words in other languages.


Curriculum is a word we use or hear about fairly often, especially if you have children in school. It's a kind of modernized Latin that was picked up a few hundred years ago in Scotland, at universities there to describe their standard round of coursework for students. It comes more deeply from the Latin "currere" which means "to run," and it has echoes in circles and currents and the course of taking a lap around the track for chariots and horses and riders.


So the quiet undercurrent of curriculum is that when you take the classes in a school's set curriculum, you're on track to graduate. Take these classes, in the proper order, and cross the finish line at the end of the circuit, closing the circle, completing the course of study.


Which is where I worry about the more contemporary word extracurricular. As in "extra" which comes from Latin as well, an adverb or preposition meaning "on the outside, without, beyond." So extracurricular means outside of the course of study, a deviation from the track, beyond what's necessary.


To which you might ask "well, that's correct, isn't it?" And in a specific interpretation of curriculum or curricula (see how Latin has a way of sticking its head out?) I suppose that's exactly what extracurricular activities are, academically.


In terms of education, though, I'm not so sure. And I worry, as I know many do, about the fact that Granville Schools have crossed over into the fairly common world of "pay to participate." Words have meaning, in this as well, and administrators are very quick to correct anyone who says "pay to play" with the indication that if you are paying, there's a guarantee of playing. Our new extracurricular model in Our Fayre Village is now "pay to participate."


One problem with this is, of course, that some families will find the fees hard or even impossible to pay. Yes, here. If that's a surprise to you, let me say it clearly. Years of Cub Scout leadership rubbed my nose in the reality that we are not all well-off, financially comfortable folks here in Brigadoon. There are many working class families proud of having a place in this community, but struggling to keep up with simple maintenance costs and property taxes each year. We may not need a backpack drive in Granville, but a few hundred dollars can be a challenge for some households to come up with.


And frankly those are exactly the folks who need "extracurricular" activities for their kids as much if not more than others. The race to keep up on the course, the circuit, the "currere" of life means another adult input, an additional place for support and growth and engagement, is very important. There's enrichment you can purchase for some kids, but for many, they need all they can get and there's little money or parental time to spare. Extracurriculars are often an on ramp, a vital pit stop, a turbo boost for students just trying to keep up in the curriculum.


So if you would, buy those lemon shake-ups when you can. Get a hot dog at a football game, buy some candles or candy or whathaveyou. Because from where I stand, extracurriculars aren't outside of the educational experience today at all. They're at the heart of the infield.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's chaperoned, sponsored, and mentored all he can and welcomes you to join in the infield of the school circuit. Tell him what you think is extra or essential at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Faith Works 8-25-18

Faith Works 8-25-18

Jeff Gill


On-call vs. on-task and other puzzles



It's a problem without a clear solution, because people are used to what they're used to.


Like most such puzzles, it had a standard joke associated with it, a one-liner: must be nice to work one hour a week!


What hours do ministers work? Even those who make the "one hour" crack know the complicating part of the program is the on-call nature of pastoral care. Which is why the move in the last century in this country was to make ministerial positions a salaried job.


Normally, a salaried person knows they may work 40 hours, they may work more, they may put in less some weeks, but the point of a salaried job is that you don't keep track of hours in the same way most of the rest of the economy works. And yes, you are likely to go over 40 as often as not.


But that's what most people who are in churches expect: salary, or hourly positions. And if you are being paid for ten hours, then you work ten hours. If you are hourly, and you work over 40, you get overtime. So the salaried viewpoint has been a rational perspective for ministry positions.


Except more and more ministry work is "part time." Yes, I put that in quotes. Not necessarily because most or all part time ministry positions work 40 hours or more a week, but because it's almost impossible to come to a good understanding of what those hours are, and how to construct or model a part time pastoral position, and be fair to the person working. If you call it "half time" then folks think about twenty hours as the benchmark of fair expectations, and . . .


So I'll use my own last Sunday as an example. Got up later than I usually do, since I'd been at the hospital the night before. Prayed for fifteen minutes instead of my preferred twenty or thirty, ran my sermon silently on the sofa for forty minutes, responded to emails and messages about our regional church needs for another thirty, left for the church building.


I arrived about 8 am; we had two morning worship services, conversations with parishioners and church leaders before, in between, and after, left the property about 1 pm. The student minister and I went to grab lunch, then arrived at a care facility which is one of our two monthly services at such locations about 1:45. Set up, gathered people, held services from 2 to 2:30. We went our two ways; I ran home to pick up supplies and talk about a church issue with my wife on scheduling and planning, then went to the store for perishable supplies, and arrived at our church's outdoor lodge at 4 pm, set up for a 4:30 event, and we were there for about three hours, then another thirty minutes cleaning up and closing down. Got home, spent from 8:30 to 9 pm replying to messages from through the day and for the week ahead about events and plans.


How many hours do you call that? Any Christian would pray, right? Many hands helped with all the part of it, from the three services to the evening event. Some would say "well, sounds like you were on the clock from 6 am to 9 pm to me!" Others would point out you don't count meal times or travel time in work hours. Lots of ways you could sort this out.


And my point being for many, most "part time" ministers, that's a description of the one core element of their position: Sunday. And if your post is defined around a twenty hour week, then whether or not that was fifteen of it, or just six or seven, is a key element of understanding . . . or of confusion.


Which is where I think we have to learn a third language in the church, beyond salaried and hourly: the entrepreneurial model. If you own or run a business, you work the hours you work, and decide for yourself if it's worth it, based on outcomes. And not all outcomes are tangible measurables.


An entrepreneurial model of church work breaks open some assumptions, but the hazard is when the congregation sees itself as the boss. And if the minister "works for the boss" in that way, conflict is likely. But as churches all over our area are having to rethink their assumptions around ministerial work, it's conflict we'll have to work through.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's been in a variety of ministry positions across forty years. Tell him how you see the work of ministry at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.