Heart Matters: “Balancing Hats”

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While I was herding a group of children to their classroom, a
little boy rushed up and tugged on my pant leg.

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“I know who you are,” he said, grinning enthusiastically. “You’re
The Molly! Mom says I go to you when I’m bad in Sunday
school!”

As he scampered away down the hall, I shook my head. There was
another hat I hadn’t even noticed.

“So many hats, so little time!” What an appropriate saying for
Christian education ministers. In the midst of administering and
ministering, our hats fly on and off. And sometimes — as
demonstrated by this young boy — we aren’t even aware of the hat
we’re wearing until someone brings it to our attention. I was
wearing my herding hat, but he saw my disciplinarian hat.

I’m often reminded of the wonderful children’s book Caps for
Sale
by Esphyr Slobodkina where the cap peddler walks
deliberately, trying to balance the tower of caps on his head, one
hand constantly checking to make sure they’re balanced. Sometimes I
feel like that peddler in my ministry, always taking on new
responsibilities, allowing more hats to accumulate until the pile
teeters precariously.

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Fifteen years ago, I was a little hesitant when I was asked to be
a teacher for a handful of children. Was I ready to try on this
foreign, new hat? I wasn’t sure. But once I accepted it, it turned
out to be a good fit.

During the next several years, I accumulated other hats and traded
in some. I took off my teacher hat after two years and donned an
early-childhood coordinator hat. Five years later, I was offered
the assistant director of religious education hat, and I took it. I
had to pull the coordinator hat down a bit closer over my ears to
make room for that big hat! And still later, I tugged on the
director’s hat.

As I changed hats, sometimes I found the fit loose, which gave me
the opportunity to try new ideas or create new programs — like
when I added our vacation Bible camp. Sometimes, though, a hat was
tight and difficult to get on. With those, I learned I needed to
wait until I had more time to adjust the fit. Some hats were simply
handed to me — like when I was asked to add a special class for
children joining the church. Other times, I found myself holding a
hat I never knew I had.

There’ve been times when my tower of hats has al-most crashed to
the ground. Once, two of my biggest events were scheduled on the
same weekend: the preteen’s in-house retreat and first communion
for younger children. On top of that, I was working on my budget,
getting everything ready for preregistration, and planning
end-of-year celebrations — adding financial, secretarial, and
party hats to the pile.

I planned and prayed in preparation, and then watched helplessly
as my hats accumulated as quickly as I could change clothes for
each event. But in the middle of dancing and singing with the
preteens and shooing away the kids’ first-communion butterflies, I
started to think. I realized that by focusing only on the hats, I
was losing sight of the big picture. Here I was, witnessing the
awesome spiritual growth of scores of preteens and seeing 17
smiling little faces join God’s family — but I was missing the
meaning of it all because Iwas so afraid my tower of teetering hats
was about to crash to the ground.

Though it’s not always easy, experience has taught me that
balancing many hats in this ministry is a given. We’re always
called to do more, learn more, seek more, and give more. I realize
that it’s God’s hand — not mine — checking to make sure all the
hats don’t fall. cm

Molly Wright is a director of religious education in Columbia,
Missouri.

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