Clergy Confessions: Brain Farts [What’s Your Name?]

design

Over the course of my time serving in vocational ministry, which is nearing the twenty year mark, would you care to guess what one of the most difficult tasks I have found to be?

Remembering people’s names. 

Seriously, even though I can memorize dozens of pages of musical lyrics in various foreign languages (Russian, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Hebrew, etc.), it is difficult for me to remember folks’ names. Now, when I’m memorizing musical lyrics, I am sitting with those pages of music for many hours each and every day. Yet, as typical with church attendance, most folks don’t attend church each and every Sunday. Statistically speaking, it’s usually two out of four Sundays a month. So, that adds to the challenge of remembering names. Not to mention, most pastors have multiple hundreds of names to remember (if not multiple thousands). It may not be popular to admit this, but even in trying to do my best, I make mistakes and have “brain farts“. And don’t tell me you don’t occasionally have them, too! Because if you did, we’d have to talk about lying then, wouldn’t we?!

In all sincerity, I am STILL learning folks’ names at the church where I am on pastoral staff, and I have been working there for two years (and this is my second stint at this very church, so there are a few carry overs from my previous tenure). However, I am trying to show myself some grace, and hoping others will do the same. As a church shifts and changes during staff transitions and, especially, when a church is growing (and praise God our church is!), it takes time for pastors to get to know folks. And, it’s all the more difficult when folks dart out quickly after service. On those occasions, we hardly have time to say, “Good morning!” much less engage in an actual conversation and make polite introductions. Then, of course, there’s football season, when pastors around the country wonder, “Where’s my congregation? Did I miss the rapture and get left behind?”

Between preaching and/or leading worship, putting out fires or filling in for the volunteer who didn’t show up, managing emergencies that arise (sometimes, church-related, but other times family-related, because pastors don’t cease to be parents on Sundays), praying for people (which we absolutely love and live to do) and, then, engaging in a bazillion and one conversations in between services, please know that we, pastors, sincerely do our best to remember each and every detail–including your name, your spouse’s name, and all of your children’s names and ages, too. Seriously, we are trying. But, sometimes….it’s just not there. And we wonder where it went, because we can recall every other random detail or unnecessary fact that’s rolling around in our brain. But your name, for whatever reason, is gone. It’s like a system failure, and we have no clue when it’s going to happen. It’s just like POOF!

Unfortunately, it all comes back to one very real, but annoying fact: We are human. Shocking, I am sure. But pastors are not and never will be super-human. Instead, we are simply run-of-the-mill-boringly-ordinary-nothing-special-about-us human beings. As such, we have limited brain capacities, especially on Sundays. Which, as a reminder, happens to be our fullest and most fatiguing workday of the entire week. And, sometimes, we are simply tired. Occasionally, those of us pastors  with kids haven’t gotten one single wink of sleep the night before church due to sick children (Three cheers for dual-pastor families!). Or because we may be dealing with aging and elderly parents ourselves. Or, perhaps, we were at the hospital all night long with a grieving family. Or we may have been tossing and turning throughout the night in fitful sleep; finally giving up on it and, instead, begin to fight a spiritual battle through prayer on behalf of someone (or several someones) in our congregation.

Yet, we are up bright and early on Sunday mornings, because it’s our job to show up, to serve you, to share God’s Word, to pray with and for you. And we take all those things ever so seriously. But the brain farts continue to happen. It’s like they are uncontrollable, unstoppable, undeniable. They are unexpected and unbelievably annoying. And, sometimes, they cause pastors to forget names. (Heck! Sometimes, brain farts cause me to forget my own kids’ names! What’s up with that, huh?) 

So, might I make a humble request, dear church member, regular attender, or cherished guest: Please, oh please, if we are talking with you at church, or if you happen to run into us while out and about in the community, and you can tell that we can’t quite recall or remember your name, please don’t be offended (or leave the church). Instead, would you be ever so kind to show us some grace and, perhaps, even remind us of your name? It would really help us out a lot.

It may come as a surprise, but most pastors have already figured out that we are not perfect, we make mistakes, we (occasionally) say stupid stuff, and we forget things. (Sometimes, we forget our kids at church. True story!) And we put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves to get things right, to serve you well, to represent God in a worthy manner. So, a simple, but gentle reminder, would be absolutely amazing. And if you forget my name? Well, just make one up! Tommy or George, Sally or Sam, doesn’t matter to me. I am sure I have been called worse!

With many thanks and much grace,
A Pastor, who dearly loves her congregation

Advertisements

God Bless America!

cemetery-and-flag-11298491535eH0

During this time of year, it’s not uncommon to hear people say, “God Bless America”. Or we need God to bless America again! Especially after the events of the last few weeks, the use of this phrase has escalated. Yet, I wonder, do we really know what we are asking for when we say, “God Bless America”?

After traveling the world, I have met folks with little more than a shanty to live in, the clothes on their backs (and, perhaps, one additional outfit) to wear, and a meager ration of food to eat for their daily sustenance. I have looked into the faces of people who’ve experienced real persecution, yet whose countenance continued to radiate with joy. And whose lips continued to express sincere thanks and gratitude. Even with so very little, these people considered their lives blessed! Blessed, I tell you!

As a result, the word ‘blessed’ has taken on an entirely different meaning in my life. At least as compared to the typical American connotation of the word. Personally, I rarely use the word ‘blessed’ anymore. It’s depth of meaning resonates deeply within me, and I can no longer use the word flippantly. It’s one that I use sparingly, cautiously, and carefully.

So, you may be asking, “Well, do you or don’t you want God to bless America?” Well, I guess it all depends.

Please understand, I’m thankful to live in this great country. I’m proud to be an American. Yet, I wonder if we, Americans, specifically American Christians, realize how flippantly we use the word ‘bless’. Like the word ‘love,’ I fear it has lost its depth of meaning, and original intent.

You see, to me God’s blessing has little to do with material possessions, problem-free living, getting what you want, or even America, for that matter. To me, God’s blessing begins when His children, those of us who identify as Christ-Followers, fall to our knees in humility, pray, seek His face and turn from our wicked ways.

If we sincerely want God’s blessing, then, Christ-Followers, it’s got to be all about Him! Period! Worshipping the Almighty God, not idolizing the almighty dollar, the flag, patriotism, or even our own preferences. It’s got to be about following his ways, not ours. It’s got to be about living a life of faith, not fear. And our worship must be about Him, and Him alone. Sadly, I wonder if we’ve created idols for which we are unaware. Remember: Good is the enemy of the BEST.

If we want God’s blessing, then, it’s got to be all about the One who breathed all of this into existence. The One who sent His one and only Son to earth to take on the sins of the world, to die on a cross, so that our sins would be forgiven. This must be our singular focus.

So, if this is what you mean when you say, “God Bless America,” then, I’m all in.

What about you, Christ-Followers, are you really ready to receive God’s blessing? It may come in ways you don’t expect. Be revealed in ways you may not clearly see at first. Most likely, it will bring His children to point of significant surrender in order to experience His blessing in it’s fullness.

“…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

 

© 2010-2017 JADA SWANSON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife (or Husband): Ministry Marriages

decision-13550502488fQ

This morning, I was  made aware of a headline about another prominent Christian leader who resigned due to an affair (Actually, both husband and wife had affairs). My heart aches for this couple, their extended family and their church family. Unfortunately, this seems to be occuring more and more. Or at least being made public. Which is both good and bad. Good because coming clean with God and others is best. Bad because who wants their ‘dirty laundry’ aired for all to see?

What causes a pastor, minister, or their spouse to have an affair? How is this prevented? How can we be proactive to invest in our marital relationship? How can we be more protective of our marriages? I don’t pretend  to have the answers. Yet, I continue to ask the questions.

Although I have never personally been in this situation, I have journeyed alongside of dear friends who were on either side of this scenario. And some things just don’t make sense, can’t be figured out, or easily explained. All I knew to do was to love them, to listen to them, and to pray for them (and their kids). It wasn’t pretty. It was messy. It wasn’t something that was easily forgiven or fully forgotten (by either party). It was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. And the casualties were many and varied.

Absolutely no one is immune to relational difficulties in marriage, not even pastors.  The reality is that ministry life can be a pressure-cooker of unrealistic expectations, never-ending demands and prioritizing work over marriage and family to ‘get the job done’. There’s a fine line between doing your job well and sacrificing your marriage on the altar of ministry. Sadly, many cross this line without even realizing it.

And I’m well aware that folks who work in professions across the spectrum experience these to some degree. Yet, unlike other professions and vocations, when one works in vocational ministry, a marital impropriety not only altars the marital relationship–oftentimes, dissolving the union–it brings about relational carnage with extended family, especially children; as well as causing disillusionment and mistrust within the congregation of which the pastor was shepherding; not to mention, potentially sidelining the pastor from ever working in vocational ministry again. Thus, leading to a plethora of other issues to navigate: financial, vocational, relational. And at the top of the list: spiritual.

Just last week, I was listening to a podcast where Donald Miller was sharing about how to avoid the “performance trap”.  He, specifically, related this to pastors and ministers. Addressing how they feel the pressure to perform, or to always ‘be on’. Never giving themselves permission to go unmasked.  Never having found a safe place to land. Never having developed relationships with safe, trusted friends outside of the ministry context with whom they can share their dark side in a healthy manner. Therefore, they seek out expressions and experiences which are unbiblical, unsafe, and unbecoming of the ordination vows for which they took.

Both the news of which I heard today and the podcast that I listened to last week, hit home with me. Why? Because both my husband and I are pastors. He is the Lead Pastor (full-time) of the church where I serve as an Associate Pastor (part-time). In addition, I also maintain a piano/voice studio of 20 students. And we share the responsibilities of homeschooling our two kids (ages 10 & 12).

As much as we adore our pastoral responsibilities and church family, we don’t allow the work of ministry (or other vocational endeavors) to come before investing in our marriage or nurturing our children. Of course, there are ‘busy seasons’, but it’s just that: a season, not constant. During these types of seasons, we are in on-going discussions. Giving one another the opportunity to express concerns and needs. Together formulating a plan how best to navigate our vocational responsibilities without sacrificing our marriage or family on the altar of ministry.

It’s been a journey to get to this point. One that has required each of us to listen both to what is spoken and to what is unspoken. In marriage, we’ve discovered what one doesn’t say is much more important than the words that are voiced aloud. It’s also been a time in which we’ve learned to give and take. It’s not just about me, or my husband, or even our kids. We have learned to make decisions for what is best for our family unit, not merely an individual.

So much so, that during a particularly trying season in our lives, we resigned from a church position where the leadership expected my husband to work 60+ hours, in addition to being out four nights during the week with work responsibilities, meetings, etc. Quickly, we realized this pace wasn’t healthy for him, our marriage, or our children. Was it scary? You bet! Were we misunderstood? Yep! Did we care? Nope! Early on, we realized if we don’t fight for our marriage and make it a priority, no one else will. Not even the church we serve.

Years ago, one of my mentors shared with me that you train others how you will allow them to treat you. And it’s true. We realized it was necessary to have and maintain healthy boundaries, to invest in our marital relationship, and to prioritize the needs of our family. Do we always hit the mark? Absolutely not! Nothing is ever perfectly balanced. EVER! We don’t always get it right, but we are committed to never giving up!

So what have we done?

TAKE DAYS OFF
Perfect, we are not. But we make sure to take our days off. For us, those are Monday and Tuesday. In ministry, emergencies do arise. But thankfully, our church staff doesn’t call us unless it’s a true emergency. Likewise, we don’t call upon our staff on their days off unless it’s a true emergency, and their presence is absolutely required.

Mondays are our Sabbath. We rest. All of us, even our kids. No work, no homeschooling. As a rule, Tuesdays are for running around, doing errands, completing house/yard work, etc. By prioritizing and setting aside these two days, we are better prepared for the demands of ministry, the emergencies that do arise, as well as day-to-day responsibilities of home and family.

Although I have another job (music studio), I have made the decision to organize my work schedule to match my husband’s to where we have our days off together. This has prohibited financial gain and reduced the number of students I’m able to accept into my studio. But once again, my marriage and family are more important. In the midst of it all, we’ve learned to live below our means, maintain a creative budget, and to be frugal with our finances, especially with residing in a high cost-of-living area. This affords us the opportunity to work lower paying jobs because we are called to them. As a result, quite a bit of stress has been taken off of us.

FAMILY MEALS
Gathering around the table is just as much (if not more) about nurturing relationships as it is about nourishing appetites. Even though we have non-traditional work schedules, we make family meals a priority. The meals we eat together isn’t always dinner, but it’s at least one meal during the day. No matter how busy we are with work or kids’ activitivities (this is another discussion, but we keep these to a minimum), each day, we eat at least one meal together. This provides us the opportunity to check-in, communicate, and simply enjoy a nice meal with the people we love. Sometimes, we have to get really creative. Case in point: This past Christmas Eve, both of us were on pastoral duty at church. So, I made a crockpot of soup, and we enjoyed a Christmas Eve family dinner at the church in the conference room.

DATE EACH OTHER
After 16 years, we continue to date. Even when our kids were much younger, we made sure to have a weekly datenight. Since we have never lived near extended family, specifically grandparents, we’ve had to purposefully and specifically budget for babysitting, date nights. We’ve been blessed by having two college/seminary students live with us who gifted us a weekly date night for a few years. Best gift ever! And one that we never took for granted. We also got creative with date nights at home after the kids go to bed. This was much easier when they were younger, and their bedtime was 6:30/7PM.

You do not have to “keep up with the Joneses” when it comes to date nights. Get creative! Breaking the bank or busting the budget doesn’t have to happen when it comes to date nights. Can’t afford an expensive restaurant or dropping $50 at the movie theater? No worries. Cook a simple meal at home, then enjoy it on the deck or at the table with fine china. Then, watch a Redbox movie! (It’s only $1). This is totally what we do!  It’s still a date, but much less expensive.

Sometimes, we take a walk in our neighborhood sans kids! Can I just say there’s a newfound freedom since they can now be home alone for a small amount of time. Occasionally, we go out for a coffee. Or simply make coffee at home; then, sit around the fire pit talking, dreaming and connecting. A couple times a year, we do it up right, and go into the city to catch a show and enjoy a restaurant meal.  Mostly, though, it’s smack-dab in the middle of the ordinary and mundane that we purposefully connect with one another. 

HAVE NO SECRETS
Although I trust my husband implicitly, and he trusts me, we don’t keep secrets from one another. We may have surprises as in a special gift, or celebration. But we don’t keep secrets in our family. If our children tell us something, and ask that we not share it with the other parent, they know that we simply can’t do that. What you tell Momma, she will tell Daddy, and vice versa. Unless, of course, it’s a surprise.

In the age of technology, how is this practically applied? Well, we simply give each other access to everything. We share log-ins, passwords, everything. Rarely, do we feel the need to ever read one another’s texts or emails, but we know the other as complete access. We are open with one another. We are honest with one another. And having an intuitive spirit and being a confronter, if concerns ever do arise, they are nipped in the bud pretty quickly.

Over the years, my husband has learned to trust my instincts. We have been in a coupe of churches where certain ladies were getting a bit to clingy and flirty with him. To be honest, he was a bit oblivious, but my radar zoned into it almost immediately. And he trusted my instincts. He trusts me, and I trust him. In the same token, there have been folks who gave me the heebie-jeebies and he listened to me, and never left me alone around these particular individuals. Don’t have secrets. Even if it’s awkward to share, or you are concerned about overreacting, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

And for the record: This no-secrets and open-access policy within our marriage goes hand in hand with ministry. However, because I work for my husband on his pastoral staff, there are things I simply don’t need to know about regarding people in the congregation, or don’t want to know for that matter. Although, we don’t keep secrets, as an associate pastor on his staff, I am on a need-to-know basis. If I need to know, he tells me. If I don’t, well, there ya go!

GO TO COUNSELING (OR A MARRIAGE RETREAT)
You don’t have to be at the point of no return before you make a counseling appointment. Pastors, worried that your congregation might see you in the waiting room? Good! If you see them you know they’re working on their marriage. If they see you, they know you’re investing in your marriage. Be proactive. Don’t wait until a minor problem has snowballed to seek help!

Over the years, my husband and I have attended a couple of Marriage Encounter Weekends, and are now part of the ministry team. Marriage Encounter is for every marriage. Regardless of whether you have been married for five years or fifty-five, you will benefit from attending one of these weekends. You will gain new insight, new communication tools, and find new levels of closeness as you and your spouse examine your relationship to each other, and to God. ClICK ON THIS LINK for more information about Marriage Encounter. 

SAFE PEOPLE
Having served in various roles in vocational ministry for the last twenty years, I totally understand that as a ministry family, you can’t share all your ‘junk’ with people in the congregation.  No matter how close you are. And for the record: I believe (and know) you can have good friends in the church. Some of you may have been told otherwise, but that’s HOGWASH!

Even still, you have to be smart about what and to whom you share. Therefore, it is imperative that you have friends, mentors, and safe people—known to both husband and wife— who are not in your congregation. In these relationships, you can ‘take off the mask,’ get real, and be yourself. Not having to ‘perform’, be the pastor (or pastor’s spouse), or have all the answers.

For the last several years, I have met monthly with a spiritual director who works with Soul Formation, an organization who is committed to the spiritual and emotional health of Christian leaders. My spiritual director,  listens to me, and, sometimes, sits in silence with me as we listen to God; prays for and with me, and seeks God on my behalf. Personally, I don’t think anyone in ministry leadership should go this road along. And I would highly recommend that all who serve in vocational ministry meet regularly with a spiritual director. Someone needs to pastor the pastor (and the pastor’s spouse).

GIVE ONE ANOTHER SPACE TO SHARE
Especially as a ministry couple, it is important to give your spouse space to express his/her needs and concerns. Even if, or especially when, you do not want to hear it. If either husband or wife is feeling as if the church is the ‘other woman/man’ in the relationship, something has got to change. That’s not how God ever intended for it to be.

I’m a confronter, so I’m quick to express my concerns. On the other hand, my husband is a stewer. Nevertheless, we have learned the importance of giving one another space to express our concerns, our hurts, our fears, our failures, our needs, our wants, and our dreams. And we are able to share how our work – specifically the work of vocational ministry – may be negatively impacting our marriage relationship.

In closing, please know, we know we don’t have it all together. Neither do we have it all figured out. These are simply a few things we implemented in the early years of our marriage, and continue to practice to this day. Ministry friends, your marriage is important. More important than a position, a job, or your image. Invest in it! Prioritize it!  Protect it! 

The Secret Life of Pastor’s Wife (or Husband): Holy (h*ll) Week!

Picture Credit: Public Domain Pictures I’m sure some of you cringed at the title of this post. Even still, this is truth for many pastors and their families.  In addition to regular work and family schedules, the additional services and programs can quickly turn Holy Week into Holy (h*ll) Week!  Most pastors and their families dread church holidays because they are anything but celebratory or relaxed. If truth be told, they’re exhausting, and not just for the pastor-parents or spouses, but also for the pastor-kids.

A few years ago, our family found ourselves in this place. Passing one another like two ships in the night on the hamster wheel of ministry: going and going and going. Just like the Energizer Bunny, only not so much. We were tired! No, we were physically exhausted. We read our Bible and we prayed, but spiritually, we were dry. Actually, personally speaking, it was more like completely and utterly parched. We laughed when we read the verse, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” That just wasn’t our reality as we navigated the journey of ministry. Still, we continued to keep at that pace.  Erroneously justifying it all by believing since it was “for Jesus,” then, it was okay.

But, one day, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “If this is what vocational ministry is all about, we don’t want any part of it! There has to be more to life, more to ministry than this. What’s this business about ‘missional living’? Heck, we don’t even see each other, much less our neighbors because we are never home! We are always at church! Something’s got to change.” And something did: We did! In fact, many things changed.

We realized Jesus never called pastors to sacrifice their marriages and/or families at the altar of ministry. And that boundaries weren’t  merely nice, they were necessary. No, actually,  imperative. Even if others didn’t respect them or understand them. We discovered we could love and serve our church and community with our whole hearts without burning out or ignoring our marriage and family. After all, what good is it to have a thriving ministry if our marriages and families are dying and going to hell in a hand basket?

Oh, yes, something changed! Our hearts changed. Our schedules changed. Our jobs changed. Our ministry philosophy changed. Our priorities changes. And while change can sometimes be a four-letter word, in this instance, it was a welcomed oasis in the desert that was our lives during that season.

Since then, we have been on a mission to simplify all areas of our lives, but especially the excessive busyness around holidays. Now, some may say the holiday schedule that pastoral families face just comes with the territory. Others may think our efforts to bring about change is futile. Still, simplifying is our goal. (Have you read the book Simple Church written by fellow La. Tech Alumni, Eric Geiger and Thom Rainer? If not, definitely one to pick up!)

It’s our desire to change the paradigm both within our nuclear family, but also within the church(es) that we serve. You see, we don’t believe that busyness = godliness. And we have vowed not to sacrifice our marriage or our family at the altar of church ministry. Ever. It’s our belief that effective, Kingdom-impacting ministry doesn’t have to result in complete and utter exhaustion for anyone: pastoral staff, lay people, or even the congregation.

Although we we are proactive to guard our family time and purposefully include ‘white space’ on our calendars, the nature of our jobs requires that we work church holidays. As pastors’ kids, our children know the days leading up to holidays can be all-consuming for the parental units, and not really family-friendly, if truth be told. Easter Brunch doesn’t happen around here. (Well, unless, they’re noshing on the free donuts in the foyer at church.) And Christmas Eve dinner is usually take-out in between services. But this year, instead of Chinese food, I actually cooked. Well, my crock pot did: Vegetable Beef Soup! Our holiday traditions may not be of the Normal Rockwell variety, but we still try to make them fun for our kids because they have not one, but two, pastors for parents!

Due to the nature of my job(s), I work several evenings a week either at church or in my music studio. As such, I’ve never attended a Maundy Thursday service. However, I just found out that my last three piano/voice students are unable to attend lessons today; so, after 6PM, I’m free! In texting back and forth with my husband, we have put together a Maundy Thursday service and dinner menu for our family this evening.

Lamb (Pesah): No lamb in the house, but I’d already defrosted chicken legs. So, baked chicken, it is!
Bitter Herbs (Maror): Covered! Thanks to the big ole bag of mixed power greens in the fridge.
Unleavened bread (Matzah): Well, in a pinch, saltines crackers are gonna have to suffice.
Wine: Instead of grape juice, the kids will have Martinelli’s Apple-Cranberry. That’d be a good substitute, don’t ‘cha think?
Haroset (Charoseth): Now, this sounded complicated at first, but I discovered it’s simply apples and cinnamon with raisins tossed in. Got it! Tonight, it just might be cinnamon-flavored applesauce and raisins. 🙂

This evening, we want our kids to know–now more than ever–as much as we both adore our vocational roles as pastors and the church we serve, we are their parents first. And they are our priority. Along with an improvised Passover Meal, we are creating a Maundy Thursday service. With a simple internet search, I found a few service templates to pick and choose from, in order to create our own family service. Two elements that we are including are Communion and foot washing. Our kids are familiar with Communion, but foot washing will be something new for them. Jesus instituted this ordinance for His disciples, to illustrate His willingness to unconditionally serve and love us. In washing our children’s feet, I hope they realize our love for them, but more importantly, the depth of Christ’s love for them.

Easter Sunday is just around the corner. For our family, the buzz of the alarm will go off early in the wee hours of the morning to begin a day of work and service.  But this evening, we are going to slow down, simplify and savor the moment. And as parents, we are going to serve our kids and share with them The Story that changed our lives, the gift that was freely given, and the grace that continues to flow over us even though we don’t deserve it. To us, training those two up is of more importance than having a church filled to the brim on Easter Sunday or any other Sunday, for that matter. Sometimes, we have to take a step back ourselves, ya know, to regain perspective of what matters most.

So, to my ministry friends, I know this week has been full and, quite possibly, frantic for you and your families. It is my prayer that you, too, can slow down, simplify, and savor the reality of this week. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife (or Husband) #2: Pastors’ Kids (PKs)


bronze-children-statues
When I began dreaming and brainstorming about “The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife (or Husband)” series, my intention was to honestly and lovingly portray the realities of ministry life–the good, the bad, and (sometimes) the ugly.  What I desired most was for my friends in ministry to be encouraged. To know beyond a shadow of a doubt, someone saw them, heard them, loved them, and was praying for them. That was it.

In fact, the first post was written after having conversation after conversation (online and in-person) with pastors’ spouses who were barely treading water. Ready to give up, throw in the towel and be done with ministry. A few, even, wanted to be done with their marriages. This was not okay with me. And it shouldn’t be okay with the Christian church either.

And it definitely wasn’t my intent (or ambition) to go global. Although I thought I was writing to a confined audience,  I guess I sort of ‘struck a nerve’.  Up until the first installment of this series, I could probably count on one hand who read my blog. But this series has been viewed by people all over the world. I don’t share that to boast. I share it because this is obviously a topic that needs to be addressed. Somewhat of an ‘elephant in the room’, I dare say. So, I am either a little brave or a whole lotta crazy, but I say, “Pull up a chair, and let’s talk!” How about it?

The second installment of “The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife (or Husband)” is about Pastors’ Kids (PKs). After I posted a ‘teaser’ on my Facebook page, I was overwhelmed with responses, private messages and even face-to-face conversations with pastors, pastors’ spouses, and even fully grown pastors’ kids (PKs)! These folks thanked me for opening up this ‘can of worms,’ and encouraged me to write about this topic. I wasn’t surprise to hear from these folks; I knew they were out there. Many of whom desire to share their stories and experiences, even what worked and didn’t work while either raising or growing up a pastors’ kid (PK). (Some will be anonymous contributions, of course.)

However, there were a few conversations that did surprise me (in a good way). Over the last few weeks, I have been contacted by church members and Christ-followers from various parts of the county, even right here in my little neck of the woods, who desire to better understand the “Fishbowl Life”. Not to have ammunition against the pastor’s family, although that’s always a concern. (Just being honest here, folks!) No, they truly desire to better understand this life, so they might discover ways in which they can lovingly come alongside the pastoral family in order to offer support and encouragement. From our conversations, it was evident they want to see their pastoral family thrive, not merely survive while living the “Fishbowl Life”.

So, after giving it some thought, I have realized this topic, Pastors’ Kids(PKs), is one that needs to be addressed more fully than a simple, solitary blog post. Therefore, over the next year, each of the following points, which are listed below, will be a topic for an individual blog post (or more, depending upon who would like to contribute). Some will be written by me. Others will be written by pastoral spouses (husbands and wives). But I am most looking forward to the ones which will be written by adult pastors’ kids. Folks who  faced the realities of Fishbowl Life and lived to tell about it! Some of their stories will be heart-warming. Others will be real, raw and to the point. But it’s my belief that we need to hear them all.

The following is a list of topics that will be addressed in this series. Of course,  we might add a few topics here and there as it seems appropriate and necessary. If you would like to be considered as a contributor for this series, specifically this installment, please contact me HERE. Thanks! 


1.Family Boundaries:  The importance of giving your family your best, not your leftovers. No doubt, when one (or both) parents serve in vocational positions of ministry, the reality is that the work schedule is untraditional with various evening commitments and emergency situations. Even still, there can be a rhythm to the ever-changing rhyme of the work of ministry. 

2. Get REAL! Realistic expectations versus unrealistic expectations for PKs: Due to one or both of their parents’ pastoral roles, PKs may be in a highly visible place. Yet, they are not the “Christian poster child” for proper and pristine behavior for all kids within the church. This momma won’t allow that sort of pressure to be placed upon my kids! 🙂 

3. Church Wounds. We all got ’em: How to navigate them and heal, express hurt and anger in healthy ways and move forward in freedom without losing one’s faith. As well, discussing when it might be time for counseling or other professional support. 

3. Friendships. We all need ’em: Teaching our kids that all relationships require taking a risk, especially those within the church (Hey, it’s true!) So, we’ll discuss the importance of developing genuine friendships inside of the church, but also the importance of encouraging PKs to maintain relationships with friends outside of the church.

4. Not Yo Momma’s (or Daddy’s) Church: Dispelling the myth that kids are the ‘church of the future’. Instead, helping them to embrace the reality that they are the church RIGHT NOW, and letting them know their value, worth, and importance within the Body of Christ. 

5. Developing a Servant’s Heart: Demonstrating and instructing our kids in the ways of servanthood and stewardship. Not because they are PKs and are ‘supposed to’. Rather, because they are part of the Body of Christ and are truly delighted to do so. Helping PKs  learn the importance of stewarding their time, talents and resources from a young age, so that when they become adults, it’s a natural part of their expression as Christ-followers.

6. Personal Mission: Pastor-Parents, it’s your responsibility and privilege to help your kids discover, develop and deploy their unique personal mission within the Body of Christ and in their daily lives into every area and relationship. Helping them to realize the church isn’t merely somewhere we go on Sundays, it is WHO we are everyday. And ministry is a way of life, 24/7.

7. Real and Raw Faith. It’s Caught more than taught: Pastors and Pastors’ Spouses: Our kids need to see us living lives of authenticity and integrity before God and others. They need to see a real-life faith journey, up close and personal. One where the spiritual disciplines are embraced and practiced. Where we model a life of prayer and study of the Word, inviting our kids to join us. Creating opportunities to engage in conversations where no topic is off-limits, and all questions are welcomed.  To be sure, it’s gonna be messy, and that’s okay. Our kids need to see us work through struggles and successes. Admitting when we’ve messed up. Asking for forgiveness. And lavishing grace upon ourselves and others.

[Word of the Year 2015] FREE

For several years now, I’ve selected a Word of the Year. Last year, my word was STILL.  However, in reality and in practice, 2014 was more like a stand-firm-and-don’t-give-up-or-give-in sort of year. In some ways, I suppose that is a variation of the meaning of  the word ‘still’. Nevertheless, it was not the connotation or  the interpretation that I had expected or anticipated at the beginning of 2014.

Up until yesterday, I hadn’t really given much thought to a Word of the Year for 2015. That is until my friend, Sarah Bessey, posed a question on her Facebook page. Then, I took a few moments to ponder what it might be. As I recalled the events and experiences of 2014 and began to identify the areas where I would like to see growth, development and transformation in 2015, one specific word kept appearing before my mind’s eye.

What was the word? Well, it was…

metal-chain-link

The word free has a variety of meanings. Here are the ones that stood out to me:

-not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes.

-release from captivity, confinement, or slavery.

-not controlled by obligation or the will of another: felt free to go.

-not bound, confined, or detained by force.

-not obstructed, restricted, or impeded.

-not taken up with commitments or obligations.

-to make free; set at liberty; release from bondage, imprisonment, or restraint.
to release, as from restrictions.

For me, there is so much, personally and professionally, that is wrapped up in this one word: free from fear; free to be my authentic and unique self; free to move forward in my pastoral calling; free to dream big dreams; free to make mistakes; free from perfection and control; free from other people’s opinions, unrealistic expectations, etc., etc.

So, my friends, 2015 will be a year in which I embrace freedom in all areas of my life. I am excited to see where this leads me in the coming year, what I will learn and discover about myself and how God will use all of this to transform my life and to fulfill his purposes.

In the coming months, I’ll be sharing more about what I’m learning and discovering about my 2015 Word of the Year: FREE. Already, I’ve found a few songs that relate to this word and theme (links provided, take a listen): (Come and Fill My Heart by Avalon, Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave, Free to Be Me by Francesca Battistelli, Break Every Chain by Kim Walker, Where the Spirit of the Lord Is (acoustic version) by Chris Tomlin, and Freedom Reigns by Jesus Culture.

As well, I’ve been reflecting upon various passages in the Bible along with specific verses, which I hope to memorize over the course of the next year.

It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us FREE. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be FREE.
But do not use your FREEDOM to indulge the flesh;
rather, serve one another humbly in love.

(Galatians 5:13)

So if the Son sets you FREE, you will be FREE indeed.
(John 8:36)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is FREEDOM.

(2 Corinthians 3:17)

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you FREE.
(John 8:32)

Live as FREE people,
but do not use your FREEDOM as a cover-up for evil;
live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone,
love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

(1 Peter 2:16-17)

What about you? Do you choose a Word of the Year? If so, please share in the comment section or provide a link to your blog.
Happy New Year!

The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife (or Husband): Gimmie A Break!

Before you read this, please know this is NOT about me, personally; my family, specifically; or anyone you think you may know in your own sphere of influence. It’s written generically out of my sincere concern for and extended time spent in conversation with many friends in ministry, specifically pastors’ wives. This is the first installment of a new series entitled, “The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife”! 

how-i-see-myself
**Please note: I have several friends who are pastors’ husbands. In fact, my husband is, himself, a pastor’s husband. 🙂 Although future posts will speak more broadly to pastors’ spouses (husband or wife), this one is to my friends who are pastors’ wives. 

For nearly two decades, I have personally served in vocational ministry in various positions in and outside of the local church and para-church organizations. Fifteen of those years have been spent married to a man who is also a minister. And after I said, “I DO”, I was branded with the lovely label of pastor’s wife! Whether I asked for it, wanted it, liked it, or not, it was now mine.

Over the years, I have discovered this label comes with a lot of baggage in the form of expectations: those we place upon ourselves and those placed upon us by others. But this label also comes with a gift: a sisterhood of sorts. A unique group of women, many of whom I am honored to call dear friends and Soul Sisters. Some of whom are hurting, and who have been deeply wounded by folks who should be extending grace, instead of grudges. It shouldn’t be this way, especially in the church alongside of other Christians.

So, I’m stepping out on a limb with this topic, but it’s necessary because many of my friends are in a place where they are lonely and feel as if they have no where to turn. Because the place where they should be able to turn, the church, is the very place their wounds have been inflicted. If you attend a church, if you call yourself a Christ-follower, may I please make a suggestion: Give your pastor’s wife a break!

Seriously, cut her some slack. Let go of the preconceived ideas of who you think she should be and what you think she should be doing, and simply allow her to be herself. She may disappoint you. She may offend you. She may not be everything you think a pastor’s wife should be. But guess what? She is a child of God with her own unique gifts, passions and callings that may have little, if anything, to do with the expectations you place upon her or the job to which her husband has been hired to do at your church. For many pastors’ wives, it seems that instead of being seen as individuals, we are only seen because of who we happen to be married to. Sound like fun, huh? 🙂

Contrary to my unique life, where BOTH my husband and I are ordained pastors and serve on pastoral staff of a local church, most pastors’ wives are not employed by the church in any capacity or position. And they simply see themselves as merely another church member, who desires to serve the church as God directs. In fact, many pastors’ wives have their own careers and are not personally called to vocational ministry at all. However, these women sincerely desire to be supportive, loving, and encouraging wives to their pastor-husbands. As I would hope any wife would desire to be, regardless of her husband’s vocation. That’s good for the relationship, eh?

My pastor-husband and I have come to the realization that all relationships require risk-taking, purposeful and strategic investment and at times making the decision to initiate difficult discussions. Our marriage relationship, various family relationships, and, of course, friendships are made up of imperfect humans and, therefore, they tend to be M-E-S-S-Y. Over the years, we have learned (and, to be honest, are still learning) how to navigate friendships both in and outside of the church. But we can honestly say, we’ve met some of our dearest and trusted friends at the various churches where we have served. Even though we are pastors.

Personally, our family is in a very unique situation. We are acutely aware of this reality. You see, we are serving on staff of a church where we’ve previously served (nearly 15 years ago), and are living in a community where we have lived for nearly ten years (with a move out-of-state in between appointments). Consequently, we have a developed network of friends in and outside of the church where we serve. That’s not typical!

And most pastors’ wives don’t have this luxury. Many move to places they may not have personally chosen, but know it’s where God directed their pastor-husband and, consequently, their family. Routinely, their husband’s job takes them to new communities where they know absolutely no one. Not a soul. And they feel all alone. Instantly, the are installed as a member of a new church with folks who have attended for years and years, if not decades and decades. Don’t get me wrong: It’s great to have longevity of attendees in churches. But it’s not always easy for the new kid to find their place. Sounds awesome, huh?

So for those of you who attend church, can I share a little secret with you? Pastors’ wives are some of the loneliest people in your congregations. Why? Remember when you were a little kid and had to walk into a new class at school, or ask to play with a new group of kids on the playground? That was hard. Well, it’s hard as an adult, too. Maybe even more so. And, especially, when you are walking into your husband’s place of employment week after week, Sunday after Sunday. A place where everyone knows you, but you don’t really know anyone. And the reality is, they really don’t know you either. They simply know who you are: the pastor’s wife.

It would seem making friends is easy, but that’s not really the case for pastors’ wives. You see, the definition of friend takes on a new meaning. Seriously, it does. As a pastor’s wife, you wonder if your definition is the same as someone else’s. Or if the person who’s befriended you has ulterior motives? Or when, not if, people will begin talking behind your back because of something you wore to church (or what your kids wore)? And pastors’ wives always have an internal dialogue going on inside their heads. Usually, it’s wondering how (or if) they should address the attacks made against their pastor- husband? (And yes, we know we should keep our mouths shut. Still, gosh darn it, it hurts!) So, if you ever see us with one of those permanent smiles on our face, well, it’s probably because we are trying our best to use our filter. And not say something stupid that could get our husband fired. Or, sometimes, it could be there to keep from crying because someone just said something astronomically hurtful.

Or have you ever had a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, followed by this question: Is this friend going to leave the church disgruntled over a decision made or because they are dissatisfied with the pastor’s leadership? The pastor who happens to be your husband. Or had to ask yourself the question, “Do I have enough money to go out with the ladies from church AND still be able to afford childcare for our date night this month?” Then, spend days agonizing over the decision because you know the church ladies already think you are rather stand-offish. Surely, they will not understand if  you say no. But the monthly date night that you budget for is a lifeline for you and your husband. You both need it. What do you do?

These all questions that I have had, personally, or that other pastors’ wives have shared with me, specifically. And there are more. Many, many more.

And as crazy as it sounds: There are many pastors’ wives who have been instructed not to have friends within the church where their husbands serve. (Now, I won’t even tell ya what I think about that, but I am sure you can imagine!) Think I am joking? I’m not! Totally serious! There are actual courses taught at some seminaries and bible colleges, specifically about how to be a pastor’s wife! And, heck no! I didn’t take those. But I’m sure those of you who know me in real life already knew that!  I’m a square-peg-round-hole-sorta-gal, who has a name, a job of my own, and a life outside of church! And I my pastor-husband supports and loves this about me!

But seriously, dear friends, church attenders, and fellow sinners of which I am a mighty fine one. (Praise the Lord for forgiveness and grace, right!?), if your pastor’s wife comes off aloof, you do know there is more to the story.  There is always more to the story. (And you may never know the entirety of her story and that’s okay!) Perhaps, she has been wounded. Or maybe she’s going through a difficult season in her marriage, as a parent, with extended family, or at her own place of employment. Or maybe she’s duking it out with God over some significant spiritual question or doubts. Pastors’  families are not immune to heartaches or trials, ya know?

Or maybe your pastor’s wife is simply scared. Or shy. Or exhausted. I mean, does your husband’s job require that spouses attend most, if not all, work-related events? Or expect them to cover a position in the event that someone else doesn’t show up? Yea, I didn’t think so! And for the record, my pastor-husband has never and would never expect that craziness of me. But some pastors do AND, worse, yet, some churches do. Please don’t be that church!

And if you are that church that expects the pastor’s wife to be at every event, function, and festivity: For the love of everything good and holy, help a sista out. Heck, help a brotha, too! Consider covering the costs of childcare, travel or registration fees. Because you do realize the pastor’s wife is not an employee of the church. Therefore, she is not being paid for the time spent at those events and functions you expect her to attend. And lemme tell ya: there are many, many events she’s expected to attend.

Honestly, most pastors’ families are not able to budget for all of these extraneous expenses and unexpected expenditures. And it puts major stress and strain on a marriage! (Trust me, I know about this one!) If your pastor’s wife is not attending all of the events, retreats, or gatherings, this just might be the reason. Or she might actually have an honest-to-goodness work commitment at her actual job! And that could entail anything from changing a kid’s stinky diaper, wiping a snotty nose, sitting in a cubicle staring at a computer screen, or educating some of today’s smartest and brightest brains! Or, perhaps, she just needed a mental health day. Nothing wrong with that!

But being a pastor’s wife is not a job. It just isn’t. Please don’t make it that. Don’t treat your pastor’s wife like she’s her husband’s secretary (Unless, of course, she is.) Or assume she’s privy to the inner-workings of the church, such as the details of board meetings, private counseling sessions, or the logistics of the many church events.  On Sunday mornings, she would love to simply be warmly greeted and told, “It’s so good to see you at church today. We are very glad you are here!”

If you know a pastor’s wife, treat her like a normal person. Be friendly. Pray for her. NO! I mean, REALLY pray for her and her family. None of this gossip-via–prayer-business.  Get on your knees and go to battle for your pastor, his or her spouse and their children. They face battles of which you have no clue and probably never will. And for the record: they know all about the permanent bull’s eye on their backs. It’s a constant reminder that everything they do is seen, heard and meticulously discussed by others.

Who is your pastor’s wife? Well she’s many things. She’s a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a (insert hobby enthusiast), a (insert career choice here), but mostly, She’s simply a girl, married to a boy, and she earnestly loves God and is fiercely searching for her unique place in his enormous family. Please let her discover that place on her own without any additional pressure. Trust me, she already places enough pressure on herself.

And to my Secret Tribe of Pastors’ Wives and Women in Ministry, I love you. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet many of you face-to-face. But for the ones who I don’t meet this side of heaven, know that you are regularly in my thoughts and prayers. And can I encourage you with a word: Don’t strive to be the best pastor’s wife you can be. Instead, simply press on in this journey towards Christ. Striving only to know him more while learning how to live and love others as he does.

I leave you with a passage from Philippians 3: 12-21 (The Message):

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

15-16 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

17-19 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.

20-21 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.