It’s All Good

By Rose Stutzman

The light was good,
The sky was good,
Even the clouds in the sky were good.
It’s all good, so let’s do what we should ,
Caring for God’s green earth!

These words are from Together, this summer’s Multiage student book. The poem echoes the repeated words throughout Genesis 1: “And God saw that it was good.” At the fullness of creation, God pronounces the world not only good, but VERY GOOD.

Mennobytes Together Gather Round

Children today are in danger of Nature Deficit Disorder. It’s a term from Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, a 2005 title. The term is not found in medical manuals for   mental disorders (nor should it be). However, it describes a lot that is heading in the wrong direction among our children: more screen time than time spent playing outdoors, fewer opportunities to roam in nature, and sports teams for elementary children taking more time than imaginative play in the backyard.

What might be the effects of limited exposure to the world of creation? How might it affect children’s sense of awe and their attitudes toward the natural world? Does it affect their emotions and physical health?

It makes good sense that limited exposure to the outdoors would affect children’s sense of wonder. How can children say, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1) if their eyes are ever turned downward and hardly ever turned toward the heavens. It makes good sense that lack of experience in nature will lead to lack of respect for the beautiful world that God created—a world where all parts interact to make the whole. In addition, children who sit indoors rather than running, riding bike, and playing in the sunshine (or rain) can have compromised physical health. Being outdoors can calm us and give life in times of sadness, so we can only imagine the buildup of tension and despair for children who do not experience God’s world.

I asked my son-in-law what his hopes were for their unborn child. “I don’t want him to just be watching video games. I grew up playing informal soccer games in an open lot. I played in the corral with the sheep. I helped care for and rode horses. We carried around young chicks and made pets of them. I want to take my son hiking and go on walks with the dogs.”

Even in the city children can plant things, use city parks, and interact with pets. Much depends on the priorities of parents. But, perhaps, we should consider that much may also depend on the church. Could an adult hiking group within the congregation plan a hike with the children in mind and invite young families? Could those who bike to work plan a biking event that includes the children? Could children’s time at church become a time to tell about bird watching experiences; experiences of looking at the stars; holding baby chicks? Could the children plant flowers at church and help care for them each week There is no better time to start than by using this summer’s Sunday school materials from Gather ’Round.

Mennobytes Leader magazine

This summer’s Gather ’Round Sunday school materials are coordinated with summer worship materials from Leader. At my own congregation we have plans for the children to be with the adults for at least half of the worship time then they will do activities in rotation. Adult leaders will plan a nature activity that is done once with older elementary and once with younger elementary children on separate Sundays. Sometimes we plan to have the whole church do something together in an outdoor setting. Plans so far include nature walks; an animal game, nature related crafts, time with a birder, a service at nearby park, and kids helping to harvest, potatoes, onions, and garlic that they will then sell to raise money for alleviating world hunger. We plan to memorize Psalm 121 together and hear the stories of a couple who has followed the walking paths of another country. We’ve even dreamed of a morning where we dress up as various insects and learn what insects do to help the earth.

Mennobytes Gather Round God's Good Creation

I hope no congregations cancel summer Sunday school this year. I also hope that it won’t be Sunday school as usual. Instead, I hope congregations find many opportunities to open children’s hearts to the awe and beauty of the world God created. I can’t help but think that a church that cares about introducing children to the wonder of God’s world will also be inviting to young parents who hope to find a way to resist the encroaching appeal of screen time.

2013ImportOf2011Photos 064
An appreciation for God’s world starts at a young age and continues as they grow.

The rest of the poem with which I began this post goes like this:

The water was good,
The earth was good,
Even the sun and the moon were good.
It’s all good, so let’s do what we should,
Caring for God’s green earth!

The fish were good,
The birds were good,
Even the mosquito and the wolf were good,
It’s all good, so let’s do what we should,
Caring for God’s green earth!

I am good, and you are good,
Even the bully in my school could be good.
Made by God to love, work, and play
On God’s green earth!

-From Together, Multiage, Summer 2013; Gather ’Round: Hearing and Sharing God’s Good News published by Brethren Press and MennoMedia.

I’d love to hear about the “God’s world” activities that you do in your congregation this summer. E-mail your great plans or photos of your activities to RoseS@mennomedia.org.

RoseStutzman
Rose Stutzman with granddaughter Elena

Rose Stutzman
Shine project director (and former Gather’Round curriculum editor)

Can one man serve two countries?

When telling people about my job working in development, they often ask, “Is the whole country your territory?” to which I reply “No. I have two countries.”

Let me back up. I had been searching for a position at a national agency of the Mennonite Church for about a year before accepting my current role as MennoMedia’s Director of Development.

I was not raised Mennonite but embraced the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective in 1997 about the same time I was retiring from a 20 year career in the United States Coast Guard (CG). Immediately after leaving the CG, I took a job on staff at Washington Community Fellowship (WCF) as church administrator. WCF calls itself an evangelical, multi-denominational congregation affiliated with the Mennonite Church. I served that local body for more than five years.

Late in 2002 I moved from D.C. to Harrisonburg, VA to become Virginia Mennonite Conference’s (VMC) Coordinator. VMC is one of 21 regional bodies within Mennonite Church USA. While working in that 2/3 time role I attended Eastern Mennonite Seminary and, in 2011 , earned a Master of Arts in Religion in part by writing a thesis on Mennonites and Media. In March 2011, anticipating graduation and having served on both local and regional branches of the Mennonite Church, I decided to resign from VMC and seek a national church position.

MennoMedia formed in July 2011 from the merger of the Mennonite Publishing Network and Third Way Media and set up its headquarters in Harrisonburg, VA where I live. After an extensive job search, in March, 2012, I embraced an opportunity to become MennoMedia’s Director of Development.

So when people ask what territory I cover, I explain it covers both Canada and the U.S.
Our agency, MennoMedia, is not a national, but a bi-national ministry of both Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. That fact has pleased me very much.

My job is on the road, not in the office. I travel about every third week. My last two trips have been to Canada. I attended the Mennonite Church Eastern Canada Annual Gathering and 25th Anniversary Celebration in Kitchener, Ontario in late April.

MCEC’s 25th Anniversary Cake, Scattered and Sown; In Every Seed a Promise

While there I was delighted to hear César García, President of Mennonite World Conference, speak.

Cesar Garcia, MWC

Cesar Garcia

In mid-May, I traveled to Winnipeg to visit churches and donors in Manitoba. While there I met with Melissa Miller, pastor of Springstein Mennonite Church near Winnipeg and chair of MennoMedia’s board since January, 2012.

mmiller

Melissa Miller, chair of MennoMedia Board

MennoMedia’s eight person board is comprised of three Canadians and five U.S. citizens. This bi-national focus serves our churches and their members well by keeping MennoMedia’s focus above national distinctives and on eternal truths.

So, over the past 16 years I have moved from becoming a Mennonite and serving a local Mennonite church, to a leadership role in a regional body of Mennonite Church USA, to interacting with Mennonite pastors and church leaders all across the U.S. and Canada. I have been richly blessed by these experiences and am enthusiastic about our mission to “engage and shape church and society with resources for living Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective,” and about inviting others to share that mission too.

Steve Carpenter, Director of Development

Steve Carpenter, MennoMedia’s Director of Development

Learning to pivot: Essential for living

By Melissa Miller

A few months ago, MennoMedia’s executive director Russ Eanes recommended that the management team read The Lean Start-up: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Business by Eric Ries.

Eric-Ries

I picked up the book with its mouthful of a subtitle, and was readily drawn in by Ries’ engaging story-telling style, and the lessons he offers to organizations wanting to succeed in challenging times.

I’m not an entrepreneur, nor am I in business. My workplace in a rural prairie congregation is not a hotbed of radicalism, though the farmers in my church are resilient innovators, and I learn a great deal from them. I’ve learned quite a bit from Ries as well.

(More information about his sharp-eyed and hopeful strategies can be found at www.theleanstartup.com )

One of Ries’ key points is the necessity of making pivots. From Ries, “A pivot requires that we keep one foot rooted in what we’ve learned so far, while making a fundamental change in strategy…” Furthermore, the decision about whether to pivot (or to persevere) “stands out above all others as the most difficult, the most time-consuming, and the biggest source of waste for most start-ups…” As MennoMedia, other church agencies, or even a business address the challenges of fulfilling their mandates in lean financial times, pivoting is one option to keep before us.

I carried this concept to the most recent board meeting of MennoMedia, asking people to reflect on an experience of pivoting – in business, or in a church setting, or in a personal or relational way. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing people’s stories, and could readily see a thread weaving among them. The need to pivot seems to be universal. Who of us hasn’t come to a fork in the road or a dead end or a restless space and realized it’s time to pivot, to change direction, to set out on a new path, or to take a risk without a guarantee of success.

I learned the term “pivot” in high school gym classes, playing basketball. Though I’m not an athlete, I have always loved the term and the possibilities it represents. If you’re rusty on what pivot means in basketball, enjoy this review:

I particularly like the way a pivot requires keeping one foot firmly planted, while simultaneously shifting and moving and checking out the options to keep moving the ball forward. If we’re pivoting, speaking metaphorically, we need to know what our pivot foot is planted on. That’s as important as the capacity to turn, scan and assess new directions. Let’s plant MennoMedia’s pivot foot on its mission statement: We seek to engage and shape church and society with resources for living Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective.

What new directions MennoMedia should be exploring?

mmiller

Melissa Miller
Board chair