What's the Goal?

Every so often, I meet people who claim to be Jesus followers and after a brief conversation I have to bite my tongue because I really, really, really want to ask them to please never tell anyone that they are a “Christian.”  No, I’m not perfect.  I freely admit that I am a work in progress.  And I will screw up and hurt people’s feelings from time to time I know that.  But the news is full of stories about churches that are more focused on hate than they are the 2 greatest commandments – Love God with everything you have, and love your fellow man like you do yourself (my paraphrase).

A local church sent out letters to the homes in the area stating that the street-side parking by their building is theirs and they will tow any vehicle parked there.  We happen to be one of those homes and got the letter yesterday.

Um . . . what?!

downloadThis church has a small gravel parking lot that is very definitely on their property.  It sits rather empty most Sundays.  In the summer, our church doesn’t do Sunday School and holds the morning service at nine (no theological reason – it was started by a previous pastor who wanted to get an earlier tee time!)  Frequently, on summer Sundays, I come home to find that I cannot park in front of my own house because church-goers across the street have filled not only the angled-in parking spots, but also the other side of the street.  And their lot?  Almost completely empty.

Hubby made a few phone calls after getting the letter from this church and discovered that the parking spots are within the public right of way and the church has no right to tow the vehicles that are there.  Then my hubby did the pastor of that church a favor and called him to let him know what had been discovered.  He even passed on the name and number of the person he (hubby) spoke to so this pastor could follow up on the conversation.  Then the pastor said something that made me sigh – “If you are right then we are just going to stop plowing those parking spots.”

Here’s the problem.  If my hubby’s information is correct, these parking spots are like a sidewalk – you cannot tell people they aren’t allowed to walk on there and you MUST keep it cleared of anything that might cause a slip and fall accident.

This whole thing saddens me.  This church is surrounded on ALL sides by homes.  What impression are they hoping to leave with their neighbors?  Will they sit in their building and scratch their heads, wondering why no one from the neighborhood attends?  They really shouldn’t.  They take up most of the on-street parking – leaving their private lot virtually unused – and have been known to throw outdoor parties with loud music into the night (great for the families with little ones or those who need to get to bed early because of work schedules!).  Just what kind of message are these people trying to send?!  And how can those of us who disagree vehemently with the behavior undo the damage?!

Care and Feeding of the Pastor's Family – Part 2 (REBLOGGED!)

I am reblogging some past thoughts about the “weirdness” of life as a Pastor’s wife.  If you missed part 1, you can catch it here.  Read on for Part 2!

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”.

A Strange Place to Live

No, it’s not an exotic location or a bizarrely shaped house.  The strangest place I’ve lived is in a Pastor’s Home.  I was a Pastor’s daughter for most of my teen years and am now a Pastor’s wife.  Believe me, it’s different.  DISCLAIMER – the church hubby is currently Pastoring is a great bunch of people!  We have been very loved on and truly feel at home.  These statements are generalizations that come from being a Pastor’s kid in two different churches and a Pastor’s wife in four and not our current church!

I am expected to show up weekly – or sometimes multiple times a week – to my husband’s work.  When hubby worked at UPS, I used FedEx, the Postal Service . . . whatever shipping option worked best for me!

In many congregations, there is the expectation that the Pastor’s wife will serve on certain committees (whether those committees fit her gifts and interests or not!).  Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with that!

Occasionally, the Pastor’s kids are held to a higher standard than the other kids in the church.  (My amazing hubby usually responds with “If you want to have expectations of my family, put them on the payroll.)

With hubby Pastoring a church in a small town, we can’t go out a date night in without running in to someone hubby knows which means he “goes to work”.  I’ve just come to expect those moments.

Kiss Christmas Eve goodbye!  And that occasional year when Christmas is on Sunday?!  Mom has to get creative so the kids still get their Christmas traditions!

But when you are blessed with a congregation who values their Pastor, there is some “upside” to the weirdness!

There are those in every congregation that understand the sacrifice of having a family member who is on call LITERALLY 24 hours a day seven days a week and they are sometimes more protective of the families vacation time and the Pastor’s day off than his wife!

Members of the church family tend to be generous with left-over produce in the summer and have been known to drop off Christmas gifts.

Those members of the church that are of the right age, have been known to step in as surrogate grandparents when the Pastor and his family are living far away from the biological grandparents.

I get to see my husband do something he is really good at every single church service.  I LOVE his passion for preaching and his preaching style!

Yes, it’s weird to be married to a man whose job is simply a part of his life, not something he leaves behind when he comes home each day.  But my hubby is really good at what he does and I respect the heart he has for the congregation, his desire to see God work in the life of each individual in the church, and his skill for teaching the Word.

The Pastor’s home is a strange – sometimes stressful – place to live but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!