I remember writing a philosophy of education essay on the subject of “distribution of scarce resources” which was about having to decide where to blow the limited budget; on the brightest kids who might go on to push the boundaries of scientific discovery, or on giving the best chance to the kids with the most disadvantages, or on making sure that the maximum number possible achieved their statutory five c-grades; and having made that decision, find a way to sell it as a good plan to the parents of the kids you left out. That was twenty years ago, and luckily for the future of the world and its children I’m not the minister of education for anywhere. Today I’m making decisions not about money or education, but about a resource so scarce, it would be worth more than any precious metal if we could figure out how to mine it; that elusive teacher that kills all its pupils; time.
Parenting two pre-school children on different and sometimes conflicting daily routines is an effective exercise in learning to fill the unforgiving minute while juggling plates with ones elbows, and occasionally being floored by decisions such as “the kids are both asleep, do I do a bunch of jobs because they need doing, do I take this opportunity to do something that I wanted, or do I go to sleep just to see what it feels like?” Right now though, my logistics exercise is to plan a programme of church visits for the UK so that we can make the most of a short amount of time without causing the kids to drive everyone else crazy in the process.
Continually under pressure to raise our support (sorry to disillusion anyone who thought that mission wasn’t about money), the temptation is to prioritise people according to finances; who gives the most, who might give more if we encouraged them a bit. (Scandalised? How many churches do you know where the richest members don’t have any sort of leadership role?) Meanwhile, juggling the knowledge that we won’t be allowed back if we haven’t raised enough, with what’s left of our principled belief that mission isn’t all about money, we might then prioritise congregations who are already mission minded, or maybe concentrate on folk who might become more mission minded if we encouraged them, or maybe think about returning some generosity to some who have been particularly supportive of us personally. Budget in the factors that most people will be on holiday for at least some of the time, that there are only four Sundays to a month, and that half of my emails seem to disappear into the ether of the spam filter. Cover the diary with several layers of scribbling and tippex. Give up and decide to fill the blank bits with people we’re looking forward sharing a pint with, and voila; a programme worthy of any education minister. Old Speckled Hen anyone?