Leaving Church quotes by Barbara Brown Taylor

For a book club, I was asked to share some of my favourite quotes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book Leaving Church. The book is the author’s journey of becoming an ordained priest, taking a small town parish, and leaving five years later. The book club facilitator was interested in my perspective as one who married a pastor and nearly two years ago, we left pastoring our church. In no particular order, here’s some of my favourite quotes from Leaving Church:

“Think hard before you do this,” one said to me when I told him I wanted to be ordained. “Right now, you have the broadest ministry imaginable. As a layperson, you can serve God no matter what you do for a living, and you can reach out to people who will never set foot inside a church. Once you are ordained, that is going to change. Every layer of responsibility you add is going to narrow your ministry, so think hard before you choose a smaller box.”

“Sometimes, when people were busy adoring me or despising me, I got the distinct impression that it was not about me at all. I reminded them of someone else who was no longer around but who had made such a large dent in their lives that they were still trying to work it out.”

“Because church people tend to think they should not fight, most of them are really bad at it.”

The following quote from page 120 comes after Barbara Brown Taylor was finally thrown in the swimming pool along with everyone else:

“I never found out who my savior was, but when I broke the surface, I looked around at all of those shining people with makeup running down their cheeks, with hair plastered to their heads, and I was so happy to be one of them. If being ordained meant being set apart from them, then I did not want to be ordained anymore. I wanted to be human. I wanted to spit food and let snot run down my chin. I wanted to confess being as lost and and found as anyone else without caring that my underwear showed through my wet clothes. Bobbing in that healing pool with all those other flawed beings of light, I looked around and saw them as I had never seen them before, while some of them looked at me the same way. The long wait had come to an end. I was in the water at last.”

“Although I never found a church where I felt completely at home again, I made a new home in the world. I renewed my membership in the priesthood of all believers, who may not have as much power as we would like, but whose consolation prize is the freedom to meet God after work, well away from all centers of religious command, wherever God shows up.”

If you haven’t read Leaving Church, I’d recommend it. Barbara Brown Taylor is an incredibly gifted writer. In the sharing of her story of Finding Church – Leaving – and Finding life again she has given us a gift. If you’ve read it, do you have a favourite quote to add?

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!

What’s next?

With Derek’s last day as lead/solo pastor behind us, we’ve been asked “what’s next?” Starting this week, Derek will be a stay-at-home dad to our toddler daughter. He’s looking forward to it! We don’t know how long this will last so we are going to soak it up while we can.

This summer and into the fall, we’ll be looking for a new church to worship at. We plan to visit all of the Free Methodist churches in the area and will be praying about which one to plug into. Derek will continue to serve the Free Methodist Church in Canada at a denominational level as a member on S.C.O.D. (a theological and doctrinal study and writing group).

You may still be wondering: but what’s next for him regarding pastoral ministry? At this time, we don’t know. This response is unsettling for some (’cause a pastor always leaves for another church, right??), but it’s not unsettling for us. We have peace about this next season of life and ministry.

As Christians, we believe what matters most is that you love God & love your neighbour. Good news – this can be done in a 20 person church or a 2,000 person church. A person can be a lead pastor, an associate pastor, OR a lay person and be greatly used by God. We desire to love, serve and grow wherever, whenever. All the while, we want to remain open to however God may lead.

What’s next? Hopefully lots of this:

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Being a Pastor’s Wife is HARD: Then and Now

Disclaimer: while I don’t like the term Pastor’s wife for several reasons, I’ll be using this title in this post. 

While visiting my grandmother earlier this week, she reminded me of some of the difficulties of being a Pastor’s wife in her day and age. Today, while being married to a pastor can still be hard, I remember my grandmother’s generation and how much more difficult it was then.

Being a Pastor’s wife THEN (1950’s to the 1980’s):

1. Church members would state their opinions at society meetings and other places re: what they felt the pastor’s wife should be doing. She would be told where she should serve and where she should not serve in the church. This was done without asking her thoughts or opinions and with no regard to her comfort level or giftedness. She was often given the jobs that no one else in the church wanted to do. She was not compensated in any way, nor did a pastor with a wife get paid more than a single pastor.

2. It was quite common to be given mixed messages back then re: appearance and being a pastor’s wife. Many in this generation were told not to wear jewelry, not even their wedding band, for fear that they may be seen as vain. Yet, at the same time, they were expected to dress up for every church event, to create an image that they were well off even when most were dirt poor.

3. The church came first, the family second. No exceptions. Dad was always gone. He often knew far more about his parishioners than he did about his own wife and children. And church members often had a key to the pastorate and stopped in unannounced to “check on”things. There was rarely respect shown for family time and privacy.

Being a pastor’s wife NOW:

1. Some congregants continue to have strong opinions on what the pastor’s wife should be doing. The mentality re: getting a 2-for-1 package deal when the pastor is married still exists in some congregations today. Many churches still ask the pastor’s wife to be present during the interview process and sometimes interview her.

2. There continues to be a preconceived notion re: what the pastor’s wife should dress like. How sad that a woman said to me, “I could never marry a pastor, I could never wear dresses and skirts all the time!” This was said in 2010!

3. In regards to priorities as a Minister, family time has begun to take higher priority in recent years. There’s now been generations of PK’s (pastor’s kids) who have left the church as a result of their father devoting his life to the parishioners while neglecting his family. In scripture it says, “what good is it to gain the whole world yet lose your soul” – Mark 8:36. In a similar regard, pastors are wrestling with making family more of a priority these days. For what good is it to gain the congregation while losing your family?

There’s more that could be said re: the challenges of this non paid, no training role (Pastor’s wife). It was hard in my grandmother’s generation. It remains hard today but there are glimmers of hope, evidence of change. There’s still a long way to go, but change is a process. It takes time.

P.S. We are happy at our church, fyi! 🙂 This post was inspired from the conversations that I’ve had with pastor’s wives over the years. It’s remarkable just how common these themes are despite the different contexts.  

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! 🙂