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Each month we will bring you new resources to provide support around your wellbeing now and in the future. Be sure to bookmark or print these resources for easy reference.

Meaningful Moment  
Just Checking In  |  Welcoming the discomfort of Lent
NEW Dear Lindsay  |  Sabbath boundaries
What We’re Talking About  |  Recommendation of the Month: Mental Health Podcasts 
Conference Resources  |  Ambiguous Loss & Pastoral Identity, Lenten Worship Resources

Meaningful Moment

Image of the dedication page of Sarah Bessey’s new book, A Rhythm of Prayer

Just Checking In

Today we begin Lent all over again. In a lot of ways, it’s hard to believe there was ever a time we weren’t in Lent. These past 11 months have felt like a nonstop Lenten journey through our own suffering and the suffering of the world. We didn’t choose what vices we would give up in order to spend more time and energy focused on our relationship with God. We were stripped of so many of our pleasures – our routines, our relationships, our future hopes. It has felt like we’ve been in one giant, never-ending season of wilderness.

Yet, the Ash Wednesday ritual is here once again – this time with some new creative parameters. Whether your congregation is marking a cross on foreheads with ash (through distanced take home packages), handing out temporary tattoos of crosses, or throwing scraps of paper that contain your burdens into the firepit, the familiar words will be said once again, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  With more than 470,000 Americans dead from COVID, our ritual Ash Wednesday phrase feels a little too close for comfort this year. You’ve probably buried someone you knew and loved – a family member, a friend, a colleague, a parishioner, or a community member. We are all too familiar with how quickly life on this physical earth or even life as we dreamed it can abruptly come to an end.

Lent is a time when we are supposed to notice our discomfort. 40 days (plus Sabbath) when we have traditionally given something up (or occasionally taken a practice on), to be a little uncomfortable and grow closer to God as we recognize that we have often shifted our reliance from God to others or things around us. 

Lent is only officially starting today and I’m already ready for it to be over. I’m exhausted giving things up. I want to start taking things back. 

Part of why Lent is challenging – heck, why these past 11 months have been challenging – is that we don’t like to be uncomfortable. We like reliable patterns and routines. We like understood roles and expectations. We don’t want things to change. We want to stay comfortable and for life to be easy. 

But what I’ve also learned this past year, is that life was never really comfortable. It wasn’t as safe and predictable as we claimed. We just wanted things to be comfortable and lived our lives seeking that high. What if we stopped running away?

Let’s normalize discomfort. 

Life is always going to be changing around us. There are going to be seasons of wilderness. It’s not always going to feel good. Let’s start saying it’s okay to not have it all together. Discomfort doesn’t mean we’re doing it wrong. Life is uncomfortable. And that’s not a bad thing.

Discomfort reminds us that we don’t have to be perfect. Discomfort gives us space to breathe and be more present in the moment. Discomfort gives us permission to let go of control. Discomfort helps us rely on God. 

Maybe we do need Lent more than we think. Together let’s welcome (and normalize) the season of discomfort. 

Grateful for you,

Dear Lindsay

Welcome to the newest section in our monthly newsletter! It’s our version of “Dear Abby.” Here you can submit any questions you might have about wellbeing resources or seek recommendations on how to handle personal or congregational situations. Submit your entry below and we’ll feature one each month! 
Ask Lindsay
Dear Lindsay,
     The pandemic has erased some of the boundaries at my office. Now that we are all working from home, there isn’t really a 9 to 5. It’s especially challenging when my senior pastor doesn’t take his/her vacations days or Sabbath time. I don’t want to complain because we all appreciate the flexibility we’ve gained, but I’m also burned out and need to be off work sometimes. What do you suggest?
     Burned Out Pastor

Dear Burned Out Pastor,
     That sounds exhausting – and you’re not alone in feeling that way. Funny enough, I received more than one letter about this topic over the past month! With the flexibility we’ve gained (being able to do laundry during a mid-morning stretch break between meetings), we worry we’re asking too much for a day off. Boundaries are bleeding over at the edges because we are expected to do too many things at once. It’s hard to crisis-school a child while planning dinner – all between Zoom calls (where you’re trying to keep everyone else in your house off camera… right?) Be kind to yourself. You’re not doing less working from home – you’re doing more, just not in the same concentrated time. Everything is overlapping and your brain is doing more work to try to keep up with it all at the same time. Everything in life takes more energy – including keeping our emotions in check. We need more battery recharging than in “regular” life. So asking for time off, even when your work life is more flexible, does not mean you are unappreciative. It’s not comparative suffering. Both of those can be true at the same time. And if we don’t talk about this now, lack of boundaries and time for rest can start to build resentment over time.
     I would request a staff meeting with everyone (Senior Pastor included) to talk about Sabbath and vacation time. This is especially important to have documented, to reference when we don’t see each other’s faces in the office (or forget what day of the week it is). Encourage every staff person to pick a Sabbath day each week and keep it on a master calendar or spreadsheet that everyone has access to. Put this Sabbath information on church voicemails, in the bulletins, out-of-office email notices, and share it from the pulpit. Create an action plan of how to handle a situation on a staff person’s Sabbath day – who covers for that staff person that day? When does the request go to voicemail and when does another staff person respond instead? This not only helps everyone hold clear boundaries, but modeling rest to the congregation can make a huge impact on their lives as well. When it comes to vacation, work with your SPRC chairs as well to help hold everyone accountable to taking the full vacation allotted each year. This will help prevent burnout and create longevity for clergy – which in turn, helps the congregation. Encourage the SPRC to check in with staff quarterly to see how they are progressing on scheduling time off. I hope that this group involvement will expand the conversation beyond between you and your Senior Pastor and make it a group dialogue about how to be healthy for the long-term health of your congregation.


Dear Senior Pastors,
     I know this is a scary time of uncertainty. And when things become more uncertain, fear begins to creep in. Will I retain membership? Will our finances carry us through this? What do I do if I can’t visit parishioners? If I/we don’t do enough or perform well enough, will the church still need me? If I’m not busy enough will the church think I’m lazy? When we start worrying about all of these things, our natural inclination is to buckle down and do more. We start over-programming, we work extra hours, we micromanage others. We become the energizer bunny out of fear and worry. Our busyness helps us avoid naming our deep fears of what could happen and what people might think of us. And it’s easy to start channeling that towards our staff as well.
     Pause. Take a deep breath. Spend time naming what you’re really scared might happen if you and your staff stop being busy. Be vulnerable with yourself. We’re all trying to survive with more on our plates than usual. Navigating caring for parents, crisis-schooling our children at home, worrying about sick family and friends, feeling lonely, and all the while worrying if we’re doing enough to make our congregations happy and retain our jobs. When we start worrying about job security, we often start doing work out of desperation for attention rather than responding to actual congregational needs and wants.  
     I hope you can encourage and support your staff taking the time off that they have earned (and is in their contracts / job outlines). You have the personal choice to not take time off and work extra hours, but remember, others look to you as a leader. It is more important to model health than busyness for the health of your staff and congregation. Please be cognizant that your unhealthy choice shouldn’t have to be the choice of your staff. They are entitled to the time they have been promised and have been working 11 long months already. If you want to retain staff and avoid resentment, even if you don’t model good boundaries yourself, support and encourage their healthy choices. We don’t want anyone to leave ministry due to burnout – which is mostly preventable. 

What We're Talking About – Recommendation of the Month!

Each month we will share some of our favorite wellbeing resources.

Lindsay has compiled all of her Mental Health Podcast recommendations in one place!

New Resources

Each month we will link new resources we have created to support your wellbeing now and in the future. Be sure to bookmark or print these resources for easy reference.

What We’ve Lost: A Dialogue about Ambiguous Loss & Pastoral Identity in COVID-19
Rev. Lindsay Geist, LCSW & Rev. Dr. Quincy Brown

On-Demand video goes live on Monday, March 1st 
Zoom Follow Up Discussion on Wednesday, March 3rd at 11 am, REGISTRATION COMING SOON! 

Lenten Worship Resources
Center for Congregational Excellence releases “So Be It: A Lenten Journey in Covenant Prayer,” the next iteration Worship Resources Bank. It includes music, liturgy, prayers, sermons, and even an entire section of devotions, must reads, and resource banks built by others beyond NGUMC. We hope you utilize some of these great resources to help with worship – and also create additional moments of rest for yourself during this Lenten season. 

WE WANT YOU! Do you have a great resource we need to know about? We are compiling resource lists of virtual/in-person grief groups, therapists, spiritual directors, and clergy coaches. Also, we are building lists of recovery resource groups in each district, so if you know of great active AA/NA/CA/Celebrate Recovery groups (or any others) in your area, please share them with us

Previously Released Conference Resources

All resources can be found at any time on the NGUMC Wellbeing website.

Ambiguous Loss Rituals
"A Weary World Rejoices" worship resources to help you take a Sunday off
Holiday Conversation Starters
Stages of Grief resource
Tips to Manage through the Holiday Season
A Walking Meditation guide 
Rest & Renewal Plan
Reflection Guide for Rest and Renewal
100 Self-Care Ideas 
A Moment of Reflection journal template 
Letter to SPRC Chairs (October 2020)
Crisis Hotline Numbers
How to Find a Therapist video
How to Find a Therapist guide

COMING SOON! Season 2 of “Not Alone: Faith and Mental Health” Podcast

Want to keep talking about topics of wellbeing and how they fit into our faith journey? Join Rev. Michael McCord, Director of the Georgia UMCommission, Evan DeYoung, a campus minister, and Rev. Lindsay Geist, a licensed clinical social worker, as they walk together through a life of faith and wellbeing. Find Not Alone on your favorite podcast platform.

Apple Podcasts



Key Contact Numbers

For a printable list of Mental Health and Substance Use crisis numbers, click here.

Additionally, the Georgia COVID-19 Emotional Support Line (866-399-8938) assists callers needing emotional support or resource information as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Emotional Support Line is staffed by volunteers, including mental health professionals and others who have received training in crisis counseling.
Rev. Lindsay Geist, MDiv, MSW, LCSW
Church Transition & Clinical Resource Specialist
North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church
Copyright © 2021 The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, All rights reserved.

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