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Balancing act — Christian education at home

Even though the pandemic has shifted how and when we do things, we’re no less busy than we were pre-COVID. Many of us still have to “go” to work.  Our children “go” to school.  Groceries need to be bought, animals need to be cared for and friends and family members need to be checked on.  And in the midst of all this, we still need to care for ourselves.  This balancing act isn’t unique to adults.  Children do it too — sometimes with less success because they don’t always know the best ways or times to slow down.  This week’s Gospel lectionary reading provides an opportunity to talk with children about how to care for others while also caring for oneself.

Before looking at this week’s Scripture, talk with your children about batteries.  Ask them why we use batteries in some devices.  Then ask them to think about why the batteries need to be replaced or recharged.  Note that there is only so much energy stored in a battery.  When it has been used up, the device it was powering will no longer work.  It needs a new set of batteries to begin working again.  Explain that humans need to recharge also.  If we go, go, go and don’t rest or do things that help give us energy, our bodies and minds won’t work as well.  The good news is that there are things we can do to take care of ourselves so that our batteries never run out.

Prepare to read aloud Mark 1:29-39.  Explain that Jesus and his disciples have just helped a man who entered the synagogue where Jesus was teaching a group of people.  The man distrusted Jesus and believed he would hurt the community.  The man’s anger and prejudice have kept him from being close to people in his community.  Jesus healed his spirit.  He cast out the man’s hatred.  Seeing this, the disciples want Jesus to come heal people whose bodies and spirits are hurting.

Read the passage to your children.  Then ask them to describe all the ways Jesus heals people in this passage.  Your children may be confused about the “demons” that people were afflicted with.  You can explain that these may be mental illnesses that were not understood at that time or prejudices like the man in the synagogue held.  Note that there were many people in this community who needed healing.  Jesus heals all of them.  Ask your children to consider how Jesus must have felt after doing this work.  Encourage them to think not just of the joy he might have felt, but also the toll that this series of healings must have had on him.  (It may be helpful to remind them that Jesus was both fully God and fully human, so he would have had human needs like sleep and hunger.)

Next, point out what Jesus does after he does this work.  Note that he steps away from his disciples and goes to a quiet place to pray.  Ask your children why Jesus might have done this.  Explain that peace and prayer can be a way to “recharge batteries” after this very exhausting, full day of caring for others.  Jesus even notes that this is the work he was called to do in verse 11.  He knows he must care for himself if he wants to be able to continue this work.

After discussing the reading, explain that we all have “work” to do, just like Jesus.  Ours may not look exactly the same as his, but we each help to continue Jesus’ work on earth in our own way.  And, like Jesus, we need to care for ourselves to make sure our “batteries” don’t run out.

Gather materials to help you explore ways for your children to balance their lives.  Each child will need white and colored paper, markers or crayons, scissors and glue. Explain that in the past, people weighed items using a balance scale.  They would place what they wanted to weigh on one side of the scale and then they would place a series of weights on the other side.  They knew how much the item weighed when the scale balanced itself.  You may want to pull up pictures of balance scales on the computer to show your children.

Lay one sheet of white paper in front of each child.  Ask her to draw a balance scale on the paper.  Alternately, you can print out a clip art picture on the sheet.  Explain that the left side of this balance scale represents the things you need/want to do. On the colored paper, have your children write or draw all of the things they do throughout the week. Encourage them to think not just of the activities that they are required to do (like going to school) but also those that bring them joy.  Be sure they space these items out on the colored paper.  When they have completed this, ask your children to cut the pictures/words out of the colored paper leaving blank space around each to represent the amount of time, energy and focus the activity requires.  For example, walking the dog would be on a smaller piece of paper than going to school.  Have them glue these on the left-hand side of the balance scale.

Next, ask your children to think of what they can do to take care of themselves so that they are able to do all of the things on the left side of the scale.  Encourage them to think not just of ways to physically care for themselves.  They should also think of their mental and spiritual health.  You may even want to suggest a few items to include.  Have them write or draw these self-care practices on another sheet of colored paper leaving room between each.  Ask them to cut these out of the paper leaving blank space around each.  This time the space should represent the level of “charge.” Glue these on the right-hand scale.

Consider the balance of the scales with your children.  Do the two sides balance?  What might need to be added or deleted?  Talk about the role of faith in helping to maintain this balance.

 

JOELLE BRUMMIT-YALE is the director of children’s and youth ministries at Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  When not at the church, she can usually be found at home with her son and husband caring for their many animals and developing their family homestead.

 

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