Across the Pastor’s Desk: What are you trying to grow?

Published 8:00 pm Friday, April 26, 2024

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Across the Pastor’s Desk by Mary Kaye Ashley

A reader or two might know that I am bi-vocational; I’m not only a Lutheran pastor, but also a parent and family educator in the Burnsville/Eagan/Savage school district, in the Early Childhood/Family Education program. For those of you who don’t know about EC/FE, for 50 years, in every school district in Minnesota, parents of children from birth up to kindergarten enrollment and their children are welcomed to attend classes together once a week or sometimes more where they play and learn, and parents learn about learning, child development, etc., based on what the parents’ unique needs are.

Mary Kaye Ashley

Commonly, a class might run for two hours, with one hour spent playing and learning together, with the leadership of a degreed and Minnesota state-licensed early childhood educator developing activities for the range of ages of children present, and then the parents split from the children. The parents may go to the gym or outside, have a snack and more play with an additional early childhood program associate staff for the number and age range of children. The parents go with a degreed and Minnesota state-licensed parent educator, who is trained in adult education and other subjects parents need to know. My apologies to the readers who know all that already.

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I think it’s helpful to know what we’re trying to accomplish. What are we trying to grow here? In my classes and in my congregations, I try to encourage sharing, learning, compassion, trust, integrity, patience, kindness, cooperation and openness. If we know what we are trying to achieve, we might be better at getting there. And as we work with children, how we get there might be different than with adults — or it might not!

Let me share an example: I try my very best not to use force of any kind to get cooperation, and especially with children. I remember one little guy, about 3 years old, who was unwilling to leave the room with the class to go to the gym; he wanted to keep playing with the dinosaurs. As it looked like he was pretty determined, my early childhood colleague asked, “You got this?” and I assured her we’d be fine. There were two of us in the room with him, one setting up snack for when the class returned. I told him he could keep playing for a few minutes, but the room was going to sleep soon. (Yes, I know, a tiny bit of misleading, but for a good cause.) My colleague in the room heard me and moved quietly to the light switch. I started counting backwards from 15 for the go to sleep time, and at zero the room went dark. I assured him he could keep playing, but might not have as much fun in the dark. He stood up, and started singing the song the other children sang as they left for the gym. We walked down together to have fun there.

What are you trying to grow? And how are you doing that? Are our means getting the ends we want? Blessings on your work!

Mary Kaye Ashley is the interim pastor at Oakland Lutheran Church in Albert Lea and Grace Lutheran Church in Austin.