Resilience is moving ahead into unfamiliar waters. To be resilient is to actively face your fears and actively coping with the present situation. Thriving in Ministry @ VTS is hearing a lot of resilience among our colleagues today and we are hearing ‘resilience fatigue.’ To view both, let’s start with resilience.
“While everyone is born with a certain level of resilience, you can train to become a more resilient person.” says Dennis S. Charney, M.D., Dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and 30 year researcher into resilience. Dr. Charney describes that resilient people do two things: they face the facts, often brutal facts, of the present situation and they also believe they will prevail.
In order to develop the resources to be a more resilient person, having a role model and support system is significant. Instead of role models, Thriving calls these experienced people mentors. These are the people we can learn from because they have experienced events and challenges and situations like the ones you are experiencing now. They have reflected on the experience, have some distance, have reframed the questions to put them into context, and have created meaning in their lives from the experience. Mentors can share that learning with others in appropriate ways that open up the questions for the learner.
A support system is also key. Resilient people ask for help. They draw both on close, intimate relationships as well as other relationships of trust that have been built on shared experience. These relationships of trust delve into thoughts, feelings, reactions, reflections, questions, our beliefs about God and ourselves. Part of the support system is articulating your beliefs, your moral compass, your view of human nature and Christ’s nature with us. In Thriving, peer learners create the trusting safe space to share these dimensions of our ministry experiences. In doing so, we build resilience.
Even those with good resilience skills and especially those who have drawn on them a lot, experience what Thriving calls ‘resilience fatigue.’ By now in ministry there have been some many decisions made and adjusted, so many starts and changes, and so many emotions to navigate There are always multiple opinions within ministry. We are hearing that recalibrating one more time is an increasingly difficult undertaking. Clergy and lay leaders are fatigued facing into a brutal reality of a pandemic that is constantly changing.
To balance out ‘resilience fatigue’ look for ways that you and your community can gain confidence that we will all, over time, prevail. The short time lines of two week, next month, in six months are no longer practical. One congregation (not TEC) found a way to prevail by looking to their welcome message. Their church says, “All are Welcome.” They decided that until “All are Welcome” could true for everyone, there would be no in-person worship. That means the ‘time-line’ is long term digital so that they can plan, communicate, develop better resources, and use their resources for the ministries of their church. Can we ask ourselves, do we need to keep adjusting or can we set our time line to a value of our parish.
We can take look at the basics of resilience and frame our situation to address ‘resilience fatigue.’
The Rev. Carol Pinkham Oak, D.Min, is the Program Director of Thriving in Ministry.