Letter to the church as a millennial: set your women free!

Dear Church,

I love you. And I am disappointed. I’m disappointed that you’ve not only been responsible for historic oppression of women, but currently, so few of you have set your women free. As long as women are told to “play small” in church, we won’t see the Kingdom come on earth like it is in heaven. And we’ll continue to see less and less millennials in our pews or chairs. Millennials are good at picking up scents of oppression and running the other way. More than just attracting millennials to our churches, we want to be churches that are busy about loving God and others well. With love as the motive, here are three areas that you can work on as a congregation to help set your women free:

1)Let’s start with the “first lady” of your church, if you have one. The Pastor’s wife. Oh how Pastors’ wives need to be set free. They must not be seen as a 2-for-1 package.  Just like everyone else in the church, the pastor’s wife needs to be free to serve out of her unique gifting, passion and personality. When you do this, you will be a church that appeals to millennials. Why? By setting your pastor’s wife free to be who God created her to be, your church will be a refuge. You will be demonstrating that this is a safe place for all – even, and especially, the pastor’s wife. And you’ll be ridding your congregation from a yucky part of church history that involves sexism in how pastors’ wives have been pigeonholed and unfairly treated.

2) Women need to be free to serve in positions of leadership in the church and encouraged to do so. If we study the life of Jesus, keeping in mind historical context, we see that Jesus was a radical in his inclusion of women in his life and ministry. And women were in positions of leadership in early Christianity , building and growing the church alongside the apostle Paul. If you already are a church that supports women in leadership on paper, great! Just make sure that you demonstrate this support in practice, too. Millennials want to experience evidence to the effect, not just a statement on paper.

3) The third area of consideration is mostly for the pastors and teachers in the church. How you can help is to be intentional about using examples of women from the Bible and throughout history in Sunday School lessons, Bible Studies and in Sermons. Millennials don’t desire for biblical and historical lessons of men to be pushed aside, rather, they ask that leaders in the church remember to teach about female role models, too.

I realize that it’s a bit bold of me to write a letter to the Church on behalf of millennials. And yes, I know that I don’t speak for every millennial who is connected to a church. But I’m also not the first millennial to think of or express these thoughts. Not the first to ask for our churches to do a better job at setting women free. And I’m fairly certain that I won’t be the last.

With best regards,
a church-loving millennial

When a pastor resigns remember the pastor’s wife

I just did the math. It’s been 85 days since we’ve become a pastoral family “in transition”. 85 days since our last day at our church. That’s almost 3 months. Here are few reflections from my perspective as a pastor’s wife re: resignation, leaving and being in transition:

  1. After my husband resigned from our church, he received phone calls and e-mails and coffee dates from colleagues who were all interested in seeing how he’s doing. He even had a coffee date with a pastor in our area who is from a different denomination. As a result, he felt very supported. During that same time-period, I was attempting to process everything. But no one called to see how I was doing. This was a wake-up call for me. Of course, it’s natural for my husband to be more connected to his colleagues than I am to other spouses of a pastor. Part of his job has included denominational networking and he’s been part of an interdenominational pastoral group in our town. While I was previously aware that there’s not the same networking for spouses of pastors, this reality really hit home when we entered into transition and I was processing our new reality alone.
  2. In the weeks leading up to our last Sunday, we as a couple were committed to, “leaving well by loving well”. For me, I found it rather therapeutic to write encouraging cards to congregation members and to give a speech on our last Sunday at the church.
  3. Some days or moments, I’m able to soak up this “in transition” status. There is significantly less stress and more family time. We actually go to church together as a family! That’s been so nice.
  4. At other days or moments, I’m feeling impatient. Searching for a church can be a long process. I feel lost without a church family. I want to know people at a church and be known. I desire to serve. I describe us as being “an island” at this time. Not fun.
  5. A retired pastor said to me, “leaving a church is a loss no matter the reason”. He’s right. Some days or moments, I miss our old church family so badly that my heart aches. We’ve created appropriate space between us + them during these early transition days. But I think about them. I pray for them. I don’t love them any less now that we are gone.

If you recall anything from these ramblings, I hope it would be this: Remember the pastor’s spouse during a season of pastoral transition. Remember that their life has changed in a big way, too. They could be experiencing relief or grief or anything in between. They are likely feeling very alone.  Do ask how they are doing and offer support in the best way that you know how.

 (We’ve been asked by some people what “in transition” means.  In the Canadian Free Methodist Church, pastors are first approved for ministerial service by the denomination.  Then, they are eligible to be interviewed and hired by a local church Board.  That employee-employer relationship is then formalized by the Bishop officially placing the pastor under appointment at the particular location.  For those familiar with the terms ‘episcopal’ and ‘congregational’ when describing church governance, the Canadian Free Methodist Church is a bit of both. In a nutshell, then, “transition” is the season between when a pastor resigns from one appointment and begins another appointment.)

Pastor’s Wife resume: reflections on the last 5 yrs & a heart stirring

While making a veggie dish for book club tonight, I began thinking of my role as a Pastor’s wife. Growing up, most wives of the Pastor tended to serve on the music team (played piano to be exact). While I took piano as a child, I’m not in any shape to play publicly (unless you want to hear a right-hand-only simple music piece, ha!). When I think of pastor wives that I knew growing up, I’ve often felt different. What I’ve recently started telling myself is that maybe this is OK. Maybe how we each serve as Pastor’s Wives is not better or worse, just different.

On that note, I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve served over the last 5 years at our church. During this time, my primarily focus has been identifying gaps and filling them. Basically, I like to start things that no one else is doing and then hand them over to others! Here are some examples of things that I’ve started from scratch over the last 5 years:

  1. A Youth Group (that now has other leaders in place)
  2. A Church Softball Team (I didn’t play but organized it to make it happen)
  3. An Adult Sunday School group (that continues to meet)
  4. A monthly social group for young adults (this group has had various leaders over the last couple of years)
  5. Filled in as Nursery Co-ordinator (there’s now a new leader in place, yay!)
  6. Book Club (the group carried on when I took a break from reading books after we welcomed a newborn to our home)
  7. Community Outreach (there’s several passionate leaders now part of this small group).
  8. A College & Careers small group.

I absolutely love filling the gap & then having someone else take over. When someone else is able to take over leadership then it gives me more time to do something else. I also LOVE to figure out what someone is gifted in/passionate about and help to plug them into meaningful service. That gives me great joy.

I guess in a way, I like being an entrepreneur. In regards to entrepreneurship, lately, there’s been a new stirring in my heart to combine my skills & experiences as a social worker in church ministry. More specifically, I’ve thought of maybe doing public speaking/training on specific topics. Some examples might be: Assertiveness Training (can include conflict resolution + boundaries), Social Justice, Marriage, Financial Freedom, How to talk to your kids about sex, etc. etc. We’ll see! I am returning to full-time work in April. But my heart is definitely bent towards creating teaching topics that may help spur people on towards health. And the hope would be that non-church folk may be interested in a teaching topic as well!

We’ll see what 2016 has in store. First and foremost, I hope that I grow in my relationship with God and that I love others better. In the end, that’s all that matters.  And we’ll see if I can take baby steps towards this new heart stirring. If you’re married to a pastor and reading this, please remember that how we each serve in the church is not better or worse, just different.  You are amazing at being you.

Pastor’s Wife: working full-time and raising a family

I’m a pastor’s wife. I’m also a social worker who works full-time (and has a 40 minute commute each way). And I’m now a new mom as of April, 2015. When I’ve searched on google for answers re: balancing full time work, being a mother AND being a pastor’s wife, I can’t seem to find anything. Oh I’ve found plenty of great articles re: the challenges of balancing ministry life while raising a young family, but nothing re: working full time + raising a family + being a pastor’s wife. Hmm.

Serving is something that I love to do. My desire to give back existed before I met my husband and I hope will continue to the day that I die. I’ve often thought that I’d love to be a full time volunteer! But then reality hits. We do need money to survive. And I love being a social worker. I’m passionate about social work.  If I were to give a few words to describe me, I’d definitely include social work (as an aside: I’ve had people in the congregation tell me that I bring a lot to the table because I’m a social worker. That’s been nice to hear).

Back to the point of this post, I plan to return to my job in April. I’m not sure how I’ll manage working full time and raising a young child and being a pastor’s wife. It may be a challenging season of finding balance through creativity and establishing priorities.

Are you a pastor’s wife who works outside of the home? If so, I’d love to hear from you! If you have any thoughts to add please leave a comment below.

5 Things I LOVE about being a Pastor’s Wife

In my previous post (click here) I wrote about some common challenges that spouses of pastors face. Just like a parent who speaks to the challenges of raising children, its a shame if they also don’t also mention the joys. Here are 5 things that I love about being married to a pastor:

  1. I love my husband. He’s my best friend. He feels called to the pastorate. To support him in ministry is a privilege.
  2. I love people. All different types of people. Different ages, stages of life and economic backgrounds. Being married to the pastor helps me to meet more people! And I love that.
  3. Speaking of people, I wouldn’t know those at our current congregation if my husband wasn’t a pastor. We wouldn’t have moved to where we are living now if he wasn’t pastoring our church. I LOVE the people in our church. What a shame it would have been if we never met them.
  4. I’ve likely stepped out and tried more new things as a pastor’s wife. I like to be challenged. To learn more about the areas I’m gifted in (and not so gifted in!). This has helped me to grow.
    people filling the pews5. This last one has only recently come to my attention. Prior to having a child, I used to sit at the front at church. Now I tend to sit in the back in case I need to step out with our baby. One Sunday during the singing ,I looked around and thought how beautiful it is for so many different people to gather together. The following reality struck me: I know about the struggles and the disappointments so many in this room have experienced in life. I know the HARD parts of their life story as a result of them telling me or my husband and I together. What an incredible privilege. Instead of seeing a room full of people who have their life together (what people often say that church goers look like) I saw a room full of people with scars who come to a saviour who carries our burdens for us. What a beautiful sight to witness. I get teary just thinking about this.

For these reasons and many more, I will forever be grateful for the experience of being a pastor’s wife. Perfect I am not. Privileged I am!

What’s hard about being a pastor’s wife + what you can do!

People often say that raising a child is the hardest thing that they’ve ever done. Many spouses of pastors would say that being married to a pastor is the hardest thing that they’ve ever done. Now that we have a child, in several years it will be interesting to see which one I’ll conclude is the hardest: being a mom or a pastor’s wife.

wedding

It’s no secret that I was nervous to marry a pastor. I actually met with several pastor’s wives and interviewed them before getting engaged to Derek. I wanted to hear what the experience was like for them + see if they thought I could cut it. The best advice that I was given from one pastor’s wife was this: all you need to be is the best Christian you can be. That’s it. Make that your focus and you’ll also be the best pastor’s wife you can be.

My grandfather was a long-time minister of the Free Methodist Church, so I was able to gather from my grandmother little bits and pieces of what being married to a pastor was like for her. My grandmother totally rocked hospitality in a way that I will never even come close. But there are ways that I serve in the church that my grandmother wasn’t gifted in. That’s the problem with comparison: we forget the unique role that we can play in making our church and community a better place. The comparison game is hard for spouses of pastors because in addition to the ways that you are already hard on yourself, there are also opinions from congregation members regarding who you should be/what you should be doing.

The statistics re: burn-out in ministry are astounding. It seems that every year I hear of a pastor and his wife who are filing for divorce. I know of many pastors who’ve taken leaves from ministry due to mental break downs and burn-out. And we all know of pastor’s kids who are totally turned off to Christianity as a result of growing up as a PK. Being in the ministry is no cake walk. IF pastors make it to retirement (I’ve read that as many as 85% of seminary graduates leave ministry within the first 5 years), these pastors may make it to the finish line without their mental well-being and family by their side.

Criticism seems to stick with us longer than compliments. The church is the same way as general society in that people tend to go out of their way to give a criticism rather than go out of their way to give a compliment. It’s no wonder that pastors feel discouraged when criticism (whether large or small) seems more frequent in their daily week than encouragement. Pastors always seem to be dealing with conflict in addition to attending to congregants’ health and personal crises on a weekly basis.

Social isolation is hard for pastor’s spouses. Pastor’s spouses are often encouraged not to spend too much time with any one person or family in the church. This is to avoid seeming like they have favourites. Confidentiality is also a key factor – there’s not much worse than a pastor’s spouse who spreads gossip or causes division. All of this can lead to a pastor’s spouse feeling very, very alone, for who can they turn to? And if they move to a new location to pastor a church, the pastor’s spouse is unlikely to have any friendships outside of the church.

October is Pastor’s appreciation month. I’d like to encourage you to go out of your way to encourage your pastor. Not just in October but always. If there’s anything you appreciate – tell them! Don’t assume that they know. I’d like to add a twist to Pastor’s appreciation month this year. This October, please go out of your way to also bless your pastor’s spouse! I’m not writing this for selfish reasons but for every other pastor’s spouse out there. The high expectations put on self and from others is real. Ministry burn-out is real. Family stress. And the social isolation can be devastating. Encourage your pastor. Encourage the spouse. Bless their socks off this October! YOU can play a role in keeping them in ministry for the next 5+ years. YOU can be a tremendous encouragement. Don’t forget that October is Pastor’s appreciation month. And while you’re at it – send some love to your pastor’s spouse as well!

Going to church with young children

thTYRQOYRIIt’s Sunday. My husband is a pastor. And I stayed home from church this morning with the baby (gasp!)

Ever since our girl joined our lives 4 months ago, my church attendance is no longer 100%.  With our newborn, I’ve arrived at church early, arrived late, and I’ve missed church altogether. Please remember that as a Pastor’s wife, I’m essentially a single parent on Sunday mornings.

I really hate missing church. Especially in the summertime when people are gone to their cottages or trailers. The summer months are hard for the pastor (our church’s attendance drops by 50% in the summer. Most pastors have to work twice as hard in the summer months while congregation members disappear. I digress).

I know that I’m still fresh into motherhood but so far, going to church with a baby has been challenging. Church begins right around the time that our girl would take her first nap. Do I let her sleep and stay home? Or go to church and forgo that nap? I’ve done both. If I take her to church instead of letting her sleep, then the rest of the day is a write off. She won’t sleep at church as there are too many new sights and sounds. And then I leave church with an overtired baby who fights sleep the rest of the day.

I believe that it’s so important to go to church with young children. Not easy but important. Most congregations welcome the noise of little ones. And every time that I’ve gone to church with our baby I’ve gotten something out of it. Even if I’m in the nursery for most of the service, it is still so good to connect with the church body. Church is more than the singing and the message. It’s being part of a community,too. Even if it’s hard to get out of the door with a baby, I’ve been encouraged each time I’ve gone.

I want to be at church each Sunday. It’s good for me and I believe that ultimately, it’s also good for my baby. So I guess what I’m looking for is your tips and experiences. I am eager to learn! Can you relate? Do you have any advice? I welcome your thoughts!