Doesn't Have to Be This Way

Spent some time tonight working on music for the worship gathering this coming Sunday.  Had a friend there working with me which ALWAYS makes any music related event more fun!  We have recently made a couple of tiny changes to the way things are done on Sunday mornings.  I like it.  Oh, let’s be real.  I LOVE it.  Tiny steps but definitely in the right direction.  And I have this dear friend coming along for the ride and she brought her guitar with her!

The sad part is not every one likes the changes and some are getting downright cranky. Maybe even mean.  There are small changes going on in a couple of other places in the overall ministry as well.  These same people aren’t real thrilled about those changes either.

This dear friend – the musical friend I mentioned earlier – looked at me tonight and said, “It’s not great that it’s happening but it’s great that I’m getting a taste of what it can be like.  My hubby wants to be a pastor and this kind of stuff is just part of the package.”

She’s right – it’s not great.  In fact, it’s downright sad.  It doesn’t have to be like this.  Each Pastor’s wife brings a unique blend of gifts and passions into the church where her husband serves.  If those gifts and passions were embraced and she was free to put them to work where she felt led, imagine what might happen – new energy, new excitement, new ideas, hearts being touched . . . the possibilities are endless!  Instead, some people have specific ideas of what the Pastor’s wife/kids should or should not do and to step outside those parameters is venturing into dangerous territory.  Pastor’s families burn out in churches just as easily – maybe even more quickly! – than members of the clergy themselves.  Maybe if they felt welcomed, included, and free to use their gifts, they could be a better support system for the man in the pulpit and help him through the rough times in ministry so that he doesn’t burn out as quickly or maybe even not at all.

Is there a chance she might want to try something new?  Yep.  Is it possible that she might want to change the way something is done?  Yep.  And none of that is inherently bad.  Yes, a certain measure of tact and LOTS of conversation is needed before trying new things or making changes.  But simply shooting her ideas down out of hand or getting angry if others support her ideas is not what the church is supposed to be about.  Our focus is to be on sharing God’s love with others, not creating a country club atmosphere that caters to it’s most powerful or vocal members.

It’s just frustrating because it really DOESN’T have to be like this.  But the good news is I have my friend and her encouragement.  She is excited to be a part of the “new stuff” and her excitement is contagious even in the face of the crankiness.  So we will take another step in the right direction and deal with fallout – if there is any – when it comes.  It’s time to focus on the feedback from those who LIKE what is happening and just “keep serving.”

*Deep breath* I think I can do this.

Doing My Part

There is a saying that keeps cruising around the social networking sites that goes something like – “Do not judge others because they sin differently than you do.”  I agree with that sentiment 100%.

I’d like to add a thought of my own – Don’t get frustrated with others who are called to minister differently than you.

It seems a little silly to me that I even need to say this.  I mean, it’s a concept found in scripture (I. Cor. 12:18-19 to be exact!)-

But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?

This passage contains pretty specific examples of just how important each part of the body is.  I mean, you wouldn’t try to hear with your eyeball or taste with your ear would you?

So why do we get frustrated when others aren’t passionate about the same ministries we are passionate about?!  Imagine a church in which every single member is over-the-top excited about children’s ministry.  I would bet that the VBS program would be the best ever and that the Sunday School classes would be the most exciting place to be.  But what would that do to all the other parts of church life?  Ministering to shut-ins?  The music ministry of the church? And what happens when those children outgrow the existing ministry and move into their teen years? Do you see what I’m getting at?

So why do we get so angry with others when they do not get on board the way we think they should?  We may see talents in others that would be perfectly used in a specific ministry.  But we don’t get to make those decisions for them.

It comes down to trust. We have to trust the Holy Spirit to motivate those in our church family to use the gifts HE has provided in the way HE wants them used.  It may not make sense to us.  We may not even like it much.  But if we believe that we are doing our part in the ministry that God wants to do through our local congregation, we need to leave it to Him to get others involved in the way that he sees best.

Unexpected Turns

In the midst of all of my seeking I got an unexpected ministry offer today.  Actually, it came to hubby’s email first.  Then he forwarded it on to me.  Now there is a decision to be made.

Not ready to give many details yet since I haven’t made my final decision.  But I can give the following information:

1.  It hits on a couple of areas of passion that matter quite a bit to me.

2.  It wouldn’t be a HUGE time involvement.

3.  It would give me the chance to get more involved with our Women’s Ministries at the regional level.

Still need to chat with hubby about the possibility – weight the pros and cons for our family, get his insight on whether or not he thinks I’m up to the task, etc.

This doesn’t really settle any of the other “stuff”.  But in a weird way it is encouraging.  It’s a reminder that God may be asking me to take a “sabbatical” from one ministry involvement but that doesn’t mean he has nothing for me to do!

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.