COVID-19 / peer learning groups

Setting new standards

By Laura Stephens-Reed

As recently as mid-March, I cocooned myself in my office and coached clients and cranked out blog posts and workshop outlines with such focus that I felt, well, productive. Then the bus would drop my son off after school, and I’d switch gears, trying my best to be present to his needs for mom’s attention. But COVID-19 blurred all the lines, and there are days when I struggle to feel like I’m serving anyone well.

I know I am far from alone in this conundrum. We’re all doing more with fewer supports. The despair over all I’d like but don’t have the capacity to do washes over me in waves. It requires frankness that what our circumstances are prompting us to do is impossible—if we measure our worth in doing and our success by what was possible in the pre-pandemic world.

So let’s re-frame.

Instead of holding to a yardstick of productivity and listing all that’s falling to the wayside right now—these measurements will only make us relentlessly second-guess ourselves—let’s assess all the ways that those in our care are getting their needs met, whether or not it’s by our preferred means or to our typical standards.

Are your worship videos not as polished as you like? The Spirit can work through what you’re able to offer. Are your virtual schoolers left to make themselves PB & J for lunch while you’re on Zoom? Great! They are getting fed. Are you winging it for Bible study? This gives your church folks more room to offer what they notice in the text. Is your baby way off schedule? No worries, she’s still getting enough sleep, even if the start end times are shifted, and you’re freely offering snuggles. Are you having to set hard boundaries around your availability for meetings? Well, that’s something worth carrying over to a post-COVID world.

There is more than one way to observe our functioning. One is incapacitating. The other notices what’s happening, adjusts as needed, makes room for messiness, and invites God to show up in unexpected and practical ways. May we—may I—lean on the Spirit that offers courage and accepts the realities of our capacity.

Laura Stephens-Reed is Peer Learning Group Regional Director for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. She also serves as a clergy coach and congregational consultant.

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