This is not the year for grand gestures.
Keeping ourselves and those around us safe during a pandemic is grand enough. But if we can be faithful with a little, then will that mustard seed grow? Tiny things can be an anchor right now, micro-practices that make us feel human and connected to God. We cannot control much, but the tiny things are still within reach. Built up over time, earning our trust by getting us through the day during the chronic crisis of a pandemic, the tiny things reorient us in bigger and bigger ways.
To bring attention to tiny things, Ellie Roscher and Heidi Barr launched a movement called 12 Tiny Things. From this movement emerged a book due out in January titled 12 Tiny Things: Simple Ways to Build a More Intentional Life. The twelve “things” they chose to highlight are intentionally humanizing and connect us beyond ourselves; they include themes like space, home, sensuality and community— things that cannot help but become spiritual practices. Consider how big these tiny things really are, if we regularly give them our full attention.
I admit to already being a fan, a convert to the gospel of 12TT, before the pandemic. Now, I must evangelize. People in times of transition need to focus on tiny things. That includes all of us right now, endlessly trying to adapt and pivot and turn everything virtual.
- Parents with children at home may get through the day by incorporating micro-practices for grounding and being thoughtfully present in the midst of the chaos.
- People living alone may benefit from the structure of a micro-practice for every day such as in the 30-day calendar on the 12TT website.
- Congregations, especially smaller ones with less staff, need to honor the power of the tiny things we each do to create community, checking in on each other.
Consider this: “Think small” is Biblical. The God who created all that we know, all we can fathom, keeps an eye on the lowly sparrow and every hair on your head. Surely we, made in the image of God, are leaning into our most abundant life when we notice and value the tiniest of things.
Micro-practices have the potential to meet people from so many different walks of life where they are but also not leave them there. Here are some possible ways to incorporate micro-practices into congregational life in 2021:
Social media: thoughtful posts highlighting a “tiny thing” may catch those scrolling by with just the right tone to tumble through our heads the rest of the day. Scheduling posts with a pattern (every Wednesday, for example) can create a touchstone for those who are most interested to follow them all.
Online groups: While we are not living moment-to-moment in physical proximity to one another, if we are reflecting on the same key concepts, an “asynchronous” way to share what we are discovering may be just the ticket. Invite people to comment on their own time to discussion prompts.
Journaling: Encourage—or even equip by dropping off physical notebooks— people to have their conversations on paper, writing their experiences of their micro-practices, either in letters to each other or a personal journal to keep. You could even compile everyone’s favorite reflections to share.
Tie Practices to an Outdoor Activity: In the heart of winter in parts of the country, tiny practices like “looking all the way up” could be introduced while on a winter hike together. We may need accountability and a date on the calendar to get outside everyday, so a “tiny things” commitment could help.
Micro-practices affirm that tiny does not mean insignificant. It is an empowering, faithful concept for church leaders and members alike to embrace small acts of faithfulness. For more ideas and a downloadable 12-week content guide for congregations, visit 12tinythings.com.
Want to Explore More?
Join the authors of Twelve Tiny Things, along with Meta Herrick Carlson author of Speak it Plain: Words of Worship and Life Together, and Lee Ann Pomrenke author of Embodied: Clergy Women and the Solidarity of a Mothering God, for the free online event, Care for Church Leaders: Storytelling, Rituals and Embodied Practices for Resilience.
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