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!

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.  

Ministry: not ideal to raise a family?

As some of you are aware, my husband is a pastor. When thinking about starting a family, thoughts of the many challenges of being in the ministry + having children come to mind. Now, let me explain, I’m not saying that those in ministry shouldn’t have children. I’m also not concluding that we shouldn’t as a result of my husband’s profession. I’d just like to write out/process some of the observed challenges that being in full-time ministry and raising a family seems to present:

  1. It’s pretty much the only profession where there are spoken and unspoken expectations on the children. The only thing close to being similar re: spotlight is being a politician or celebrities child. Sorry, PK’s (pastor’s kid), you get all the spotlight with very little dough 🙂
  2.  Speaking of dough, while Pastor’s make more now than they did back when my Grandfather was in the ministry, there are few that receive good work benefits. As a result, the pastor’s spouse may be forced to work outside of the home for the salary & benefits.
  3. Children who grow up with a parent in the ministry rarely experience going to church together as a family. In our case, I would essentially operate as a single parent every Sunday morning.
  4. Pastor’s kids have no choice in the matter. While being a Pastor’s Wife isn’t always easy, I at least had some idea as to what I was getting into. In recent years, the number of PK’s who have left the church as adults as a result of hating the experience of their father being a pastor is scary and very sad.
  5. Most are aware that the Pastor’s work schedule is challenging. He or she works every weekend (forget last minute getaways with the family!). In addition to working regular office hours, the pastor often works evenings as well. And don’t forget holidays! 🙂

For the reasons above and others, raising a family in the ministry presents its unique set of challenges. Sadly, what I have found is that very few PK’s would choose to raise children in the ministry as a result of their experience. But times are changing. There’s a new emphasis in many denominations and churches regarding pastoral health which includes things like self-care and family time. Maybe raising a child while in full-time ministry is not ideal (keep in mind that life is rarely ideal). But maybe, just maybe,  it’s becoming more (& not less) ideal with the passing of every year.

As always, I welcome your comments! If you are a PK, or are raising a family in the ministry, it would be especially neat to hear from you. Whoever you are, it’s great to hear your thoughts whether you agree, disagree, or just have a thought to share.