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

Emotions leading up to last Sunday at church

With this Sunday being our last at our church (of 6 years), people have been asking me how I’m doing. The best way that I can describe it is…it reminds me of what it felt like to graduate from my beloved college. The years were special. Amazing friendships. Spiritual and personal growth. There were hard times but lots of good times. Life felt full due to living in community. But it had to come to an end eventually. You’re thankful for what was…sad that it’s over…and a little anxious with all the unknown that is ahead.

While that’s the best analogy that I can offer for how I’m feeling now as a season of life & ministry comes to an end, it also falls short. You see, after graduating from Roberts, I could go back to visit at anytime. It didn’t affect my friendships. Leaving a church (for whatever reason – even for those who retire) is different. I can’t go back. It would be considered bad practice if I walked in the church doors on a Sunday in the next year (or more). The finality of it all chokes me up in ways that my college graduation didn’t.

So to be honest, with our last Sunday quickly approaching…I’m either keeping myself busy by helping my husband tie up loose ends or feeling the weight of it all (sad). Leaving a church is a form of loss for every pastor and their family, even when it was their decision to do so.

Maybe it’s a good thing that I feel sadness as we lead up to our last Sunday. Maybe my emotions confirm what I say with my mouth: I’m grateful for the past 6 yrs at our church and will never forget it.  And maybe my emotions are showing me just how deeply I have loved this community of people (lump in throat). Okay, so on that note, I’m going to have a little cry…

Wish us luck for Sunday!

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!

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!

Not your average Pastor’s Wife

For Sunday morning, I wear dress pants. No skirts or dresses.

I don’t play the piano for Sunday morning. Or sing on the worship team.

While I volunteer in the nursery, working with children isn’t my life’s passion.

I work full-time and have a 40 minute commute each way.

Some people have no idea what all I do in the church. And yet, my involvement can feel like a part-time job.

I tend to serve where I see the greatest need. That’s the social worker in me.

I love to serve. But before I commit to something I ask myself, “would I do ____ if I wasn’t a pastor’s wife?”

I give my husband feedback on the service (not just his message) fairly often.

At society meetings and the like, I worry about voicing my opinion because of how it may come across as the Pastor’s wife. But I do speak up at times (and worry about it later!).

 

I can feel invisible at times in the presence of my husband when people want his thoughts or wish to praise him. But it helps keep me grounded.

Here’s just a few points about me. Can you relate to any? What about you?

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 rarely respect shown for family time and privacy.

Being a pastor’s wife NOW:

1. People still hold strong opinions on what the pastor’s wife should be doing. Instead of telling her their thoughts and expectations, comments may be made among each other. No matter her level of volunteer involvement, for some, she’s never doing enough. 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 look like. How sad that a woman said to me, “I could never marry a pastor, I can’t wear dresses and skirts all the time”. This was said in 2010! If we don’t expect Sally-Lou who is the worship leader to wear a dress or skirt every Sunday, why is it still assumed that a Pastor’s wife must?

3. In regards to priorities as a Minister, family has begun to take higher place in recent years. There is 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.  

The problem with the title “Pastor’s Wife”

Besides being married to the President and receiving the title of First Lady, there aren’t many professions where the spouse receives a title by default. The professor’s wife? Nope. Open Heart Surgeon’s wife? Never heard this. Even CEO’s wife has not graced my ears. Yet, there is one title that I hold simply by marrying a man who is a Minister – I’m often referred to as “The Pastor’s wife”.

“Pastor’s wife” is a title that carries with it certain expectations. Here are some (just to name a few): homemaker, hostess, piano player, children’s ministry worker, women’s ministry leader, dresses up often (but not so much that she seems rich or conceited), etc. Interesting that she is assumed to hold so many positions and yet the “Pastor’s wife” has never received any training to give her that title. She hasn’t been to school for pastor’s wifery. She also will never receive a paycheck for being “The Pastor’s wife”.

These days, many a “Pastor’s wife” works outside of the home. Often they are working 40+ hours a week and expected to fulfill their role as “Pastor’s Wife” at church. It’s understandable why “The Pastor’s wife” often feels as if she is failing (Why the Pastor’s Wife is the Most Vulnerable person in your church). She is given a title with no clear expectations, no support for it, and is supposed to thrive in making everyone happy.

I wonder if the title “Pastor’s wife” was no longer used if she’d feel less pressure to perform as a result. Instead of, “this is our Pastor’s wife”, what if people said, “this is Sally”. What if instead of, “our pastor’s wife is great”, people said, “Claire is a great person!”

I love being married to Derek. He’s my best friend. He’s also a pastor. I desire to support him, cherish him, and cheer him on. I also enjoy serving in the church, although I ask myself the following before committing: “would I do ________ if I wasn’t a Pastor’s Wife?”. I try to make decisions based on personal convictions and passions rather than what others may expect of me.  But it’s not always easy.

Maybe the wife of the pastor would feel less pressure if she was referred to as “Sally” instead of ” Sally the Pastor’s wife”.  Maybe the title “Pastor’s wife” holds more weight than we realize. Maybe it’s time for a change.