3 things the church could be more mindful of: introverts, singles, and the coveting of young families 

The following has been on my heart and mind for some time. In no particular order, here are three areas that the church could be more mindful of in 2018:

Introverts.

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I’ve heard it said that our school system is designed for the kids in the middle of the bell curve. This means that there are lots of children who struggle to learn in an environment that wasn’t geared with them in mind.

Most churches would fall into a similar camp. Historically, the Sunday morning church service and the weekly church activities have been designed for a certain type of people: the extrovert.

In the past, it’s been thought that only 25% of the population are introverts. More recent studies are showing that the general population is closer to 50/50 (50% extroverts, 50% introverts). Real quick – introverts = people who recharge their energy best by being alone; extroverts = people who recharge their energy best by being with others.  Please keep in mind that an introvert can be very outgoing and an extrovert could be shy. Really.

Now let’s think about church. Sunday morning church service can be very energizing for an extrovert (lots of people/small talk opportunities). Since large, group activities are plentiful and promoted in the life of the church, extroverts can easily fuel up, while introverts may end up feeling drained and inferior. When is the last time you heard a sermon encouraging you to experience God in nature, or meditation or solitude? When is the last time you were told that meaningfully connecting with a believer 1:1 is just as holy and important as being involved in a small group? (Introverts tend to prefer 1:1 – Jesus did say that when 2 or 3 are gathered it is legitimate church.)

Now is a good time for us to remember, “not wrong – just different.” 🙂 The church needs extroverts. The church needs introverts. We need all. But what the church must stop doing is catering church services and activities for what would recharge an extrovert only. Nearly 50% of the congregation may be introverts, and if it’s not, then has the church lost its introverts? In 2018, let’s learn new ways that we can experience God by inviting more introverts to church leadership and planning.

Singles.

While I currently attend church with my husband and child, one day my husband or I am likely to attend church alone. My child will grow up and one day, my husband or I will walk this earth without the other. Hopefully this happens later rather than sooner but when that time comes, will we feel that we fit/have a place at church just as much as when we were attending as part of a young family? Months ago, when my husband and I were looking for a new church, a single friend said to me, “Churches will want you – you have a cute, young child. Try looking for a church as a single woman. No one knows what to do with me.” This statement opened my eyes and broke my heart.

If you attend church with your significant other, I’d challenge you to attend church some Sunday attempting to see it through the eyes of someone who attends church alone. Look in the bulletin or on the website for upcoming events. How many are excluding or inviting to singles? And what is the language like on the website or at church? Would someone who doesn’t attend church look at the website/promotion materials and conclude that this is a church for families and not a church for someone without a family?  This leads to the third area the church could be more mindful of in 2018.

Coveting young families.

The other night, an advertisement popped up on Facebook saying, “Every church can and should have lots of young families! Let us help you reach your goal.” As my husband read this to me, we both cringed. Many churches place a strong emphasis on wanting to be attractive to young families, and while every church can do some simple things that go a long way (like ensuring that the nursery is both clean & safe), I don’t feel comfortable with making young families the ultimate prize. All people matter to Jesus. Seniors. Singles. People with developmental disabilities. All people. When we prioritize one demographic (young families) above all the others, we should stop and ask ourselves why. Is it because we feel more warm and fuzzy about a young family joining our church than a single man? Are young families prized because we hope to ‘get more’ out of them in terms of money or volunteer commitments? And do we desire having more young families when we don’t even know what our neighborhood demographics are? Please hear me out, I have nothing against young families (I am one of them). What breaks my heart is when a church puts such an emphasis on getting young families that other people who aren’t in that demographic (who matter just as much to God) are missed.

For more on this topic (one of my most favourite blog posts ever) click here:
https://achurchforstarvingartists.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/when-churches-want-a-pastor-who-can-bring-in-young-families/

In 2018, can we be mindful of the above, and in our churches, can we be more inclusive of singles and introverts while discontinuing the coveting of young families? How do you relate to any of the above? Please don’t be shy if you have something to add to the conversation!

On my heart this Christmas

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I’m in awe that I get to experience feeling our baby move and kick at this magical time of year. I’m so grateful. December 2014 could have been such a dark time for me. And while heartache and pain never really go away, I can’t believe that I’m not only pregnant but feeling baby’s movement this Christmas. It brings me to tears. Tears of thanksgiving. And tears for those in a dark place this Christmas.

Thank you God for this wonderful gift of life. For the joy and peace that the timing of this little one brings. Please be especially near to anyone with hopes and dreams gone unfulfilled this Christmas. Let them feel your love. Please give them strength in the coming days. Wrap them in your comfort in a way that only you can. Amen.

Book Review: Kisses from Katie

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This is the story of a well-to-do American girl who leaves her yellow convertible behind to live in Uganda for a year after high school. She ends up feeling that Uganda is home and stays (she later ends up adopting 13 girls).

Where to begin? I was looking for a book that may challenge me to grow in faith. Kisses from Katie did just that. This book is difficult for me to critique as it felt more like an experience than a book. I’d compare reading Kisses from Katie to going on a missions trip. Have you ever heard a person come back from a missions trip and say that they have a hard time explaining what it was like and how it changed them for the better? This is how I feel reflecting on Kisses from Katie.

Warning: this book may cause you to want to leave everything you know and live in a 3rd world country. At the very least, you may look at your own wealth and ability to help others in a new way. Katie states that she doesn’t want all of her readers to move to Uganda, rather, she wants us to see that there’s more we are capable of doing right where we are at. This is a book that was an experience that has left me wrestling. I highly recommend it!

 

The best things my mother taught me

With my mother’s birthday being tomorrow, I figured now is a good time to reflect on what she has taught me.  As a teenager, I often focused on my mother’s flaws (like how she knew NOTHING, hehe, not true!). Into adulthood, I began to appreciate her many strengths and realized that the world would be a much better place if there were more people like her.  Here are some of the best lessons I learned through my mother:

1. She did not praise everything that I did.  While both she and I knew that I wasn’t going to be a super star athlete, mom encouraged my ability to relate to people of all ages.

2. She taught us that sometimes, giving to others isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth doing. I remember giving away a favourite piece of clothing to someone that would wear it more often than I did. For the remainder of the day, I kept thinking about the item of clothing and regretting giving it away. When I talked with my mom about it, she shared that it’s good for us to practice giving away something that we like, to give away something that’s not easy to. By doing so, it helps us to not hold so tightly to our possessions. Also, we should give people our nice things and not just our garbage/yucky stuff that we ourselves wouldn’t use. This lesson really changed my perspective on giving.

3. She carried with her a perspective that we are rich! As a child, I hated wearing second hand clothes and we never had nearly as many toys and videos as our friends did. When my mother would tell us that we were so rich, I did NOT believe her. I thought we were poor. As I grew older, I now understand that she wasn’t comparing us to my friends. She was a) celebrating that we had our basic needs met and then some and b) she was thinking of others around the world who had much less than us. Her perspective has tremendously helped me as an adult when I think our house is too small, our vehicles too old, etc. I remind myself of the fact that, “we are rich!”, and this perspective causes me to want to give more to others.

4. “Giving to others” could be my mother’s middle name. The best thing about this? She isn’t just a mom has has given so much to her children. Or a mother who has given so much to her children and her church. She’s a mother who did those AND looked for opportunities to be a blessing to those outside of her circle. She looks out for the underdog, the people that others may miss ministering to and she finds ways to encourage them. She befriends the homeless. Mentors and loves new immigrants and refugees. She does the simple things like find shoes that fit a homeless man or brings a thanksgiving meal to one that may not eat today otherwise. My mother didn’t just teach us girls to give to others with our money and that’s where it ended. She modeled with her actions what loving others well can look like.

5. She sought opportunities to challenge herself. My mother would tell you that hospitality does not come naturally to her. She would often be stressed before having company over. The beautiful thing about this? She forced herself to do what did not come naturally again and again and again. Eventually, when I was a teenager, she had new immigrants to Canada come and live in our basement apartment! I love that she challenged herself to do what did not come naturally, and God has really blessed our family and others as a result.

I could continue writing about what my mother taught me about money (which has been tremendously helpful!) but I will end this post here. I guess the best “things” my mother taught me aren’t things at all. These life lessons have left imprints on my heart and I hope they will remain there forever.

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Pastoral Ministry: the Best and the Hardest

Being in pastoral ministry has its great moments and its challenging ones. Here’s my thoughts on the best and the hardest of them all.

The Best: Getting to know so many different people. Being a pastor’s wife gives me opportunities to meet new people (yay!) and our social network is greatly increased as a result.

The Hardest: Getting to know so many different people.

In regards to the hardest, I’m not talking about those with personality disorders or even the complaints people make (although these aren’t a walk in the park either). Rather, I find the hardest part of being a Pastor’s wife is that we are regularly  exposed to the sadness and suffering that others face. When your network is greatly increased by your husband’s profession as a pastor, you end up knowing more people who are diagnosed with cancer, marriages that are on the rocks, those dealing with childhood trauma, unexpected deaths and you attend funerals more frequently.

As a social worker, I can no longer live in naivety towards human suffering. My profession reminds me of the brokenness of this world on a regular basis. Also, as a pastor’s wife, I also can no longer live in naivety towards human suffering as there’s rarely a week that goes by where someone that we know (as a result of pastoral connections) isn’t heavy on our hearts.

You may be able to appreciate why the best thing about being a pastor’s wife for me is also the hardest. Being in ministry means that we trade some naivety for additional tears and sadness in this life. To know more people (the best) also requires to know more suffering (the hardest).

There you have it, that’s my answer to what’s the best and the hardest part of pastoral ministry as of July 11th, 2013.  If you have a thought, don’t be shy, would love to hear from you in a comment below.

Real Life Pastor Funnies

While being a pastor or a pastor’s wife isn’t always fun or funny, there are times when its just priceless! Here are two of the funniest things said to us to date:

1) After we bought our house but hadn’t moved yet, the children next door were having a conversation with their grandfather. The youngest boy said to his Grandfather, “we’ll have to be very careful when we go fishing”. When Grandpa inquired as to why he said this the boy explained, “we need to be extra careful that we catch and release properly because the ministry is going to be living next door soon!”. He had heard that a minister had bought the house and assumed it was the Ministry of Natural Resources!

2) A couple told their non-churched neighbour that their minister was coming over for dinner. The man said with his girlfriend present, “oh, we could get married when he comes over!”.  Funny that he thought he could just pop on over during dinner and get married by the minister. But then he went on to say,  “shoot, no we can’t, I’m not divorced yet”.

Never a dull moment! 🙂

The Daniel Plan: Part 1

Last week, I started a “diet” with 10 people from my church. The Daniel Plan is a small group video curriculum through Saddleback Church. Rick Warren speaks to the importance of being good stewards of our bodies. The first 6 weeks are the toughest as it’s essentially a cleanse diet. Today I’m starting week two of the plan. I have learned so much already. I thought that I had a good gauge on nutrition, yet, with the Daniel Plan, I’ve realized that I have been blind in some areas.  In this video, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Amen’s wife Tana walk through a grocery store and point out the “bad stuff”. Take a look!   The Bad Stuff You Eat