I'm just a wife and mother who earnestly desires to grow in my faith and it's demonstration. DISCLAIMER! I have absolutely no problem with women in the clergy. As a matter of fact, I have several female pastors who I consider friends. In my home, the pastor is a male so the pronouns I use to refer to a pastor tend to be male. This is not a statement of any kind. Just a reflection of my every day life!

Archive for September, 2012

The Care and Feeding of a Pastor’s Family – Part 4

Lest I give the impression that life as a member of a pastor’s family is nothing but hardship, I wanted to share a funny story from life as a Pastor’s kid.

I was not allowed to go to movies growing up.  And as much as that rule might have bugged me I did appreciate the fact that my mother was consistent and said she didn’t want to own a VCR.  We had never owned a machine when Beta was all the rage, and she wasn’t interested in changing that policy when the format changed.

Then came Christmas, my Sophomore year.  The church always held the Sunday School Christmas program on a Sunday night in place of the weekly evening service.  It was tradition, at the end of that program, for the church to present a Christmas gift to the Pastor and his family.  My dad had just taken that particular position in October of that same year so we’d only been there a couple of months.  (Side note – we had attended this church in the past so when my dad took the job we basically “came home”.)

The program ended, and the family was called up on the platform so the presentation could be made.  They brought up a huge box and my dad opened it.  It contained a brand new television (which we desperately needed since our old one was barely hanging on; someone had apparently been observant when the family was moving in).  But they had gone beyond just a television.  They had also bought us (drumroll) a brand new VCR.  My sister’s and I were so tickled we almost couldn’t contain ourselves!  All the teens were laughing hysterically because they knew my mom’s “No VCR” policy.  My mother, bless her heart, kept a smile on her face and said just loudly enough for her family to hear, “We’ll discuss this later.”

My mother was gracious enough to keep the gift but she did insist that our movie choices consist of classics and musicals so from there till I graduated it was a steady diet of Bing Crosby, Howard Keel, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers . . . you get the idea.  And you know what?  I loved it!!

The Care and Feeding of a Pastor’s Family – Part 3

In my previous posts I’ve mentioned the fact that your Pastor’s family may live FAR away from extended family.  True, this is not always the case.  But the closest I have lived to my parents since I got married was 2 hours.  When you add the “every-single-weekend” demands of Pastoral life, you can understand why an honorary extended family means so much!

Sometimes it can mean the difference between the Pastor’s family feeling like they are truly “home” or feeling like outsiders.

(Reminder to self – kid gloves on, tread gently here cuz this could get touchy!)

Most of us long for some sense of community.  We want to feel connected – VITALLY connected – to people and events around us.  It’s important for us to know others miss us when we are unexpectedly absent from an event.

This is especially true for someone living in a Pastor’s family.

I’ve said before that the members of a Pastor’s family prefer not to have extra expectations placed on them simply because they happen to be related to the man in the pulpit.  But they want to “belong” in your church.  They want it to feel like home and this desire is magnified significantly if they are a long distance from siblings/cousins/aunt/uncles/grandparents/etc.

Can you imagine leaving all of those familial bonds behind – and leaving friends as well – to come to a new place because of dad’s new job and then discovering that they had a list of expectations you were to live up to AND that they had no intention of building a relationship with you?!

I’ve spoken with so many Pastor’s wives and kids who have been there.  It hurts.  They are spoken to warmly in the walls of the church building and complained about if they don’t speak to every single church member when out in the community (never mind that those complaining didn’t speak first – apparently members of a clergy family are expected to speak first!).  I’ve heard stories of holiday’s spent alone because the Pastor’s family can’t travel on Easter (or on Christmas if it’s on a Sunday) and it just doesn’t seem fair to constantly ask extended family to travel to see you!

MAJOR CLARIFICATION – the type of lukewarm welcome I just described is not at all what we’ve experienced in my hubby’s current ministry.  We are, after all, in the midwest!  Midwesterners are some of the most amazing people in the area of welcoming newcomers to the community! The weekend hubby candidated at the church, he was offered the position and accepted on the spot.  Before we left that Sunday, I had collected several phone numbers from people who wanted to help expedite the move on the “arrival” end. One “new friend” offered to coordinate food for the day of the move so that my family and the movers would have sustenance.

We showed up at the house on December 30, 2009, to a spread of food that was overwhelming!!  (One thing you should know about Baptists – we like to eat and will use pretty much any gathering as an excuse to do so!) On the way into town, one of the other mom’s in the congregation wanted to know if we had plans for New Year’s.  I laughed.  We were, after all, moving into a new city on DECEMBER 30.  Plans? Uh, no. I responded “I’m pretty sure we’re free.”  She then invited us to hang out with them at their home to ring in the New Year.

Since then we’ve had bonfires at friends homes, watched various sports events in their living rooms, hung out “just because”, filled a snow day with a visit to or from friends, engaged in a game or two of Mexican Train dominoes, hung out at a local restaurant after Wednesday night choir practice, and, in general, felt pretty loved on.

There are a few older people in the church who have lovingly reached out to my kids, too.  Whether it’s the older couple who have been married more than 60 years but who have the enthusiasm of a couple MUCH younger or the widow who is a former Pastor’s wife who is just genuinely happy to see my kids, it matters a great deal.  When any of my kids is involved in a performance – whether it’s a school, the summer youth theater or a community choir performances – there are certain people that my kids know will be there and will speak to them after the performance is over.  I know this is the case because my kids tell me they are looking for them to be there.  And you know what?  They almost always are!

Let me get down to brass tacks now that I’ve rambled a bit.  Invite your Pastor’s family over just to “hang out”.  Include them in a family holiday celebration if they are far from relatives (this one is ESPECIALLY important to me around Christmas – I’m just a big kid!).  If you visited a church for several weeks in a row and didn’t feel welcome, would you keep going back?  My guess is probably not.  The simple fact is your Pastor’s family doesn’t have that option.  Oh, I’ve heard stories of Pastors whose wives attended a different church.  Those Pastors never stayed in that particular place for very long!

Most church people are good-hearted individuals who want to take good care of the Pastors and there is a simple way to do that.  Take care of their families as well. Build relationships with his family.  Especially his wife.  She needs friends and connections or she will start to lean VERY heavily on him to make her feel connected and her frustration with her LACK of connectedness to the church will land on him, putting him in a tough spot!  (Believe me, I’m speaking from experience!)  Don’t get me wrong, my involvement in local performing arts activities has given some very dear friends outside of our congregation.  But I have a special place in my heart for my “church family”.

December 30, 2012, will mark our 3rd anniversary in Iowa.  There are times I cannot believe it’s already been that long because we are still discovering new things about our surroundings.  There are other times that I cannot believe it’s been “only” three years because I have connections with some members of my church family that make me feel like this has always been home.

The Care and Feeding of A Pastor’s Family – Part 2

Quick note:  I already posted a couple of disclaimers in the first post that I won’t repeat here.  Today’s thoughts are inspired by the fact that I have personally experienced how touching it is when a congregation member expresses appreciation.

Are you ready for part 2? I’ll be honest – this one could be tough.  Are you sure you are ready?  Okay – here goes.

Say “Thank you”.  Often

Sound simple?  Or maybe a little ridiculous?

Let me explain why it matters.  Your pastor is on duty 24/7.  Literally every day of the year.  Sure, he may take a vacation.  But I assure you that if a major crisis came up – for example, the death of a church member or an illness that put them in serious condition – there is a strong chance that your pastor (and his family) will lose their vacation so he can be there for the person in crisis.  Those big family holidays that so many choose to visit family for?  Your pastor can’t exactly do that.  He has to work on Christmas Eve, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day. . . you get the idea.  In the last post I mentioned the fact that a Pastor and his family may live several hours away from extended family.  If he’s working Christmas Eve and the family lives several hours away (in our case, 10 or 17 depending on which family we would visit) he will either have to fly ($$$) or spend most of Christmas Day driving.  His family too.

I’ve had date nights cancelled because a church family member had been rushed to the hospital. Other dates have been interrupted (sometimes repeatedly) when we ran into members of the congregation around town and hubby stopped to chat.  Same goes for family outings.  It’s just the nature of the “business”.

And Sunday?  Craziest day of the week in my house!  I was once chatting with another pastor’s wife when someone joined our conversation.  Somehow we got on to the topic of Sunday and this third person made the comment about Sunday being a day for slowing down and spending time with family.  My pastor-wife friend and I looked at one another for a moment and, at the exact same moment, burst out laughing.  Sunday is pretty much the complete opposite of slow and family-focused in my house!  Most pastor’s families would say the same thing.  I love hearing my hubby preach so that’s the trade-off for me.  But he is busy working, connecting with church members, etc. from the moment he arrives in the building (before 8 a.m.) until we get home four hours  later(or thereabouts).

In every congregation, there is that one person who is just never completely happy with the pastor (or his spouse or his kids) and is very willing to let the pastor know when he or a family member has failed to meet expectations.  My hubby once got a complaint because my son was slouching in church.  My son runs the computer that is hooked up to the projector and it sits on the pew next to him so sometimes he slides down in the pew to be able to see the screen and click the arrows at the right time.  To me, griping about slouching is silly and petty but hubby still has to field those complaints and I’m so grateful he does!

I’m not sharing any of this to gain sympathy or point fingers.  There is no other profession that I know of that requires a person to be on-call, ready to go at a moment’s notice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  In a discussion with other pastor’s wives about this very issue, one of the women said, “Since we can’t change the 24/7 demands of the job, what do you think would make it easier?”  There was a moment of silence until one of the wives spoke up and said, “Thank you.”  We looked at her, confused, until she explained:  “It would be nice for hubby or the family to hear a ‘thank you’ now and then.  I’m not looking for more money or more days off.  Just some appreciation.”

Want to ease the strain of a 24/7 on-call lifestyle for both your pastor and his family?  Let them know how much you appreciate his willingness to be so available and how grateful you are for the families willingness to roll with the schedule changes that happen at a moment’s notice.  A simple “Thank You” means more than you can possibly know.

The Care and Feeding of A Pastor’s Family – Part 1

Disclaimer #1 – The stories (and possibly frustrations) I will share are not necessarily my own.  I was a Pastor’s daughter whose father served two different congregations and am now a Pastor’s wife whose husband has served as a Youth Pastor, an Associate Pastor in two different congregations, and is now a senior Pastor,  In other words, I have encountered 6 different congregations as a member of the Pastor’s family.  A majority of the people I have encountered in that capacity have been wonderful.  Unfortunately, there are those who just don’t get it.  Some of the stories I share will be from other pastor’s wives/kids I’ve encountered over the course of my life.  Don’t ask me why, but we tend to find one another because there is a level of understanding that exists between us that others just don’t get.

Disclaimer #2 – The Pastors I have been related to have all been men so I tend to use male pronouns to refer to men, female pronouns to refer to their spouses.  This is not a statement of my attitude toward female clergy, simply a habit born from my personal experience.

Part 1

The most important thing you need to remember is fairly simple – you hired a Pastor.  One person.  Unless you put his family on the payroll, they don’t work for you.  I know that sounds harsh and I’m sorry but I just couldn’t think of a more subtle way to say it.  Every Pastor’s kid I’ve ever talked to (or given birth to!) feels the same way.  As a Pastor’s wife, I am committed to being involved in the life of the congregation my husband ministers to. But I need to be sure that I am involved in ways that allow me to use my gifts and passions and that may not agree with what the congregation wants.  True, I’m a piano player which is stereotypical “pastor’s wife”.  But that’s where the stereotype stops.

A Pastor’s kids are kids.  They will behave quite a bit like the other kids of similar age in your congregation.  It’s tempting, I know, to set your expectations for them higher but may I lovingly suggest something?  Don’t.  Expect nothing more or less of them than you do any other kid in their age group.  The best way to help them become amazing young men and women is love on them.  Lots. Attend their games, concerts, plays, musicals, etc. and love them. If your Pastor’s family has moved a significant distance from their extended family, those kids can use surrogate Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents to love on them in the absence of their biological family.  As a matter of fact, they NEED you.

Let me be very clear – there are aspects of being a Pastor’s wife that I absolutely love.  The most notable is the fact that I get to hear one of my two favorite preachers speak every Sunday AND I’m related to him! (Funny thing is, I’m related to my other favorite preacher too!)  I love planning and putting on the annual Open House that we put together each December for our church family.  I truly feel that we – our family – were called to Fort Dodge and I believe that we each have a purpose in this community.  And I deeply value those members of our congregation who “get it” – they love on me and my kids and they value my husband’s work but they realize that his job and his family are two separate things.

Have I been too blunt and harsh?  If so, I’m truly sorry.  It is my belief that the vast majority of church members are eager to do right by the Pastor’s family.  With this series of posts I am hoping to share some real stories from the lives of Pastor’s spouses/kids I’ve met to help shed some light on the very weird existence that is the Pastor’s family.  I hope we can laugh together, maybe cry together a little and gain a better understanding of how to work together in the family we call “church”.

Legacy

They left a legacy built on the solid rock.

Their footsteps led the way to the firm foundation.

Their faith in Jesus you could see in the way they lived.

They knew the greatest gift that they could give

Was the legacy of heaven.

I wrote those lyrics and sang them for the first time 11 years ago.  One year ago  I sang it at my grandmother’s funeral.

Let me be frank for a moment – my grandmother was not perfect and there were times that we drove each other crazy.  But she loved me, of that I’m sure.  Sometimes she struggled to know how to show it but she got it right often enough that I know she loved me.

It’s strange the things I miss most now that she’s gone.

The bulletins she sent me every week when I was college; just so I would know what was going on in my home church.

Meeting her (and occasionally a co-worker) at the local restaurant for “coffee” after I got out of school and she got out of work.  It wasn’t really a big event.  Just myself, my grandmother, and another woman I’ve known most of my life enjoying a refreshment after a day of responsibility.

The women’s bible study she used to hold in her home that she allowed her teen-aged granddaughter to be a part of.

The tin with saltine crackers in it.

The laundry hanging on the line in her side yard.

The rocking horse that I used as a child.  My children also used it.

Her love of onion sandwiches and bran cereal with orange juice on it instead of milk.

“Doing” corn at the end of garden season.

The Christmas Village she set up every year.

I loved her, am proud to have been named after her, chose to share her middle name with one of my daughters and miss her terribly.  Many people were glad to call her friend.  I was lucky enough to be related to her.

Design and Function

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Psalm 139:14

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10

” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’ ” Jeremiah 29:11

The verses above are personal favorites.  One of them has only recently become a favorite.  I spent many years doubting that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” but that is a story for another time.  Maybe.  These verses are only a few of the scriptural references that state each human being is here with a specific purpose included in their design.

So why do we look at some passions and discount their value as a part of one’s God-given design?  Why do we buy into the belief that some parts of our “design” are somehow less honorable than others?

It’s no secret that I love the theater.  I mean, I LOVE the theater.  I am on the board of a local community theater and had a committee meeting this past week at the theater.  Most of us got there a little early and watched the rehearsal for the next show on the calendar.  I got a thrill just from watching the theatrical process at work.  Yes, I’m such a theater geek that I get jazzed just watching a show in rehearsal!  I told my husband later “I felt like I was home.”  The crazy thing is, I’ve never actually been on-stage in that particular theater!

My passion for musical theater was placed in me on purpose and with a purpose.  I am in a city that had very little for teens who were interested in musical theater.  The high schools do a musical each Spring and the community theater I mentioned before does a show around Christmas time for teens and kids.  But that’s it.  I am blessed to be a part of a church that has chosen to provide space for a youth theater every summer and fill a need in this community.  We give teens another theatrical experience to participate in and I’m thrilled to get to be a part of it!

A few years ago, someone (a fellow believer) asked me when I was going to “grow up and stop all this theater ‘nonsense’ “.  I don’t remember exactly how I answered but I VIVIDLY remember how I felt.  Ashamed, frivolous, shallow . . . I took this person’s words to heart and I shouldn’t have.  I’ve gotten beyond that now thanks to wonderfully supportive friends and my hubby who is my biggest fan.

I will never choose to give up my “theater nonsense”.  It’s as much a part of my design as my eye color.  God gave me the passion for a purpose and I intend to keep using it until He says otherwise.

I make this promise to my fellow Jesus-followers:  when I see you at work in an area of passion, I will celebrate your design with you, pray for your impact in your little corner of the community and cheer you on (even if I don’t fully understand why that particular activity interests you!).  After all, I could never do the work you are  doing or touch the hearts that you are touching so I need you right where you are doing exactly what you are doing!

Wordless Wednesday (Well, Almost!)

ImageImageImage

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: