Welcome to the Resolve series, in which the KPC team explores top 5 takeaways from the McGrath Institute for Church Life’s Church Communications Ecology Program at the University of Notre Dame. This week, we explore what it means to be authentic and vulnerable.
If you follow KPC, you may have noticed a trend popping up here and there in our work over the last year: Fred Rogers.
As a child of the 1980s and now a wife and the mother of four beautiful, rambunctious children, I’ve spent a lot of time with Mr. Rogers in the Neighborhood of Make Believe’s inhabitants: Daniel Tiger, O the Owl, Lady Elaine and Prince Tuesday.
But I was surprised to find Mr. Rogers as a case study in an unlikely place: the Church Communications Ecology Program at the McGrath Institute at The University of Notre Dame.
Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister who was a champion for high standards for children’s programming. He was captivated by television in his younger days and saw great potential in using this technology for education. He specialized in a “neighborhood expression of care” and “being with” in the greatest sense.
He used the latest technology available to make goodness attractive. In a clip from the 2018 film, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" he visits with Jeffrey Erlanger in the neighborhood:
Mister Rogers was patient, methodical, inquisitive, intentional, caring. Above all, he was a genuinely authentic human being. He said “Growth comes from giving care, not from control.” He created a space for dialogue and said the space between us is holy ground.
He ended every episode by saying “You've made this day a special day, by just your being you. There's no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”
As you approach ministry work, it is key to be authentic and vulnerable. It is critical to be accessible and real.
Lead with truth in love.
Shift to a “lived'' religion.
Take an individualized, relationship-based approach to communication, and follow the processes you have in place.
As part of the Church Communication Ecology Program, we were tasked with studying the question: How can we each create the space to give and receive quality attention...the most valuable possession? Fred Rogers says “What we see and hear on the screen is part of who we become.” We should all be building spaces that help us see our neighbor again!
Mister Rogers reflects “I’ll never forget the sense of wholeness I felt when I finally realized what in fact I really was: not just a writer or a language buff or a student of human development or a telecommunicator, but I was someone who could use every talent that had ever been given to me in the service of children and their families.”
Homework: Watch the clip above, and participate in the exercise Mr. Rogers presents.
Who did you think of? What qualities about that person were deeply authentic and vulnerable? How can you honor their impact on your life by being a little more like that today?