Sunday, June 21, 2009

Group Service Project

I loved reading this article about the Pittston, PA Little Flowers Girls' Club service project. Way to go girls! Click here to read the article:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Avoiding Burn-Out

With summer upon us and many groups on ‘vacation,’ you may be looking back at the past year with relief that it is finally over, or anticipating next year with a sense of dread. If this is true for you, you may have a case of burnout. Whether it is family life, homeschooling, or Little Flowers/Blue Knights, burnout can be a real struggle. I know - I’ve been through it in all of this situations mentioned above at one point or another.

Burnout is described as physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. But even without Webster’s definition, we all know it when we see it in others but often don’t realize when it hits us - until it is too late.

But it can happen and sometimes does. I hope it offers you some comfort to know that burnout happens to the best (and worst) of us. I also hope it offers you additional comfort to know that burnout doesn’t have to happen. And lastly, if it should happen, it says nothing about who you are as a person (or Catholic). We are flawed people reaching out for the grace of God in all circumstances and sometimes our arms fall a bit short. We also need to realize Satan is never idle, and the stress and overwork that causes the burnout often has his dirty fingerprints all over it.

Through burnout Satan makes us feel either incompetent or inferior - two adjectives that should never be used when talking about a child of God. However, consider your own experience with burnout. Did you refuse to admit it could be happening to you and attempt to muscle through the difficulty with your sheer will and some extra prayer? Or did you crumble under it and refuse to undertake any similar work or activity again?

The first approach - muscling through - is the inferiority complex of burnout. You are only burning out because you don’t pray enough, pray the right prayer, or commit yourself to the right mix of prayer, sacrifice, and sacrament. In this model burnout doesn’t happen to ‘good’ Catholics so there must be something wrong with you.

The second approach - crumbling - is the incompetency complex. You obviously aren’t holy enough, fit enough, smart enough, or whatever enough to be doing this (whatever ‘this’ is!). You are not the person for the job and God will just have find someone else.

Neither of these are true. Burnout happens for many reasons as mentioned above - how do you define stress and overwork? I often call it - Life!

In the end, regardless of how burnout makes you feel, whatever brought you to burnout needs to be addressed. Burnout is not your ‘fault’ but perhaps you can put into place a few key resolutions to prevent it from happening again (or in the first place!).

Don’t go it alone. Take the advice of Christ himself who sent out his own disciples in pairs. When starting any group (either LF or BK), insist on help. Have a sign-up sheet at the first meetings of organization and insist that everyone find somewhere to help. It can be as simple as providing the snacks or picking up the craft supplies. While many groups run their meetings as drop-off meeting, it should be expected that one or two parents stay to help out. These parents need not be leaders, unless they want to, but having an extra set of hands and eyes is always welcome. There is a place for everyone to help; encourage their participation with reminders of the Christian call to helping. You are, after all, not even asking for their coat, just an hour or so of their time!

Accept the reality that others will help to the best of their ability and with their own strengths with no detrimental effect on the group. Allow other parents to bring their own talents and temperaments. They may be louder than you or more sedate. They may prefer to work straight from the book while you work more loosely. You may wish that every snack be homemade and they bring pretzels and juice boxes. The girls will gain a great deal from a variety of techniques and seeing others in action. It may not be way you like things to be done but it is not the “wrong way.” Accept gratefully and charitably the help that is offered with no criticisms, unless errors in Church teaching occur.

In a group setting, rules must be established addressing how inappropriate behavior or activity will be handled. Burnout often happens because of the stress from meetings that are not the places of fun and faith they ought to be. It can be awkward when you find yourself having to correct children that aren’t your own. Making it clear beforehand with all of the parents of what behaviors are expected can help prevent, reduce (and hopefully eliminate) any problems.
Feel free to step back from the guidelines for the programs and have meetings that are just fun and games. If you are feeling overwhelmed due to a belief you need to do every activity or every craft, the children are going to sense that. Scheduling an occasional meeting or gathering for a good movie, games, or a trip to a local zoo will be appreciated by everyone.

Finally (and firstly), be sure to dedicate your program, the families, and children involved to the protection and watchful eye of God. Whenever you are striving for holiness, Satan (as mentioned before) is surely twitching. Making sure to always pray before planning any meetings, starting any meeting, and ending every meeting will afford you the grace you need to run a program that is fun and inspiring for both the children and the adults involved!

Burnout is not inevitable but should not be unexpected. Putting into place some strong foundational expectations before meetings begin will help them from developing any stress fractures or crumbling all together.

God Bless,
Rachel Watkins