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She Fed my Baby Soda

Dear DW,

 I’m having a problem with a woman in my church.  She really is a nice lady, but she has pushed me too far.  I have a five month old baby.  He’s my first child.  This lady must have a sixth sense because as soon as I come into the church building, there she is whisking away with my baby.   A few weeks ago, I thought I saw her feeding him ice cream.  Today, I walked around the corner and saw her letting him suck soda from a straw!!!  I am fuming mad!  She’s a sweet woman who has been somewhat of a mentor to me in the past.  I know she loves babies but recently she has just about frayed my last nerve.  I’m not sure what to do.  I’m finding myself hiding and doing everything I can to avoid her when I see her.  I don’t want to lose her friendship and, honestly, I don’t want to offend a church member.  What do I do?

 Frayed and Torn in Nevada

 

Dear Frayed and Torn- 

Since this is your first baby in ministry, I want to help you with your priorities:  Baby, #1, Church Lady #31.  You have permission to offend!  It’s ok to assert yourself where your kids are concerned.  It’s probably not going to be the last time so you might as well practice while your son is still a baby. 

 I am getting the feeling that the reason you haven’t already dealt with your angst is because this lady is not just anybody in the church.  It sounds like she has been someone special to you.  Even more important that you approach her about how you are feeling.  You don’t want to spend your time hiding in the bushes from someone you admire as a mentor.  Approach her about how you are feeling so that you can reconcile with her!  If you value her friendship, make sure that this does not become a rift between the two of you.  She may not even realize that she has crossed the boundary lines.  Might you offend a church member or friend… yes.  But your baby, your frayed nerves, and your friendship are worth the risk. 

 Avoidance is not going to make this better.  Face it head on, chin up, and ready to take a blow.  However, you may be surprised if that blow feels more like a soft apology and a hug from a friend.

 Love,

DW~                                                                                                             Matthew 5:22-24

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Get a Job!

Dear DW,

My husband is a full-time paid youth pastor.  At every family gathering, we hear the same question, “When is Mike getting a ‘real job’?” How can we make the family understand that this IS a REAL JOB?!  Urrrgh!   I’m taking someone down if I hear it one more time!

 Hittin’ Below the Belt

 

Dear Hittin’ Below the Belt,

 Repeat after me…Serenity now…Serenity now! 🙂  Put away your boxing gloves for a minute and consider something with me.  When you were on the other side of the pew as a church member only, what did you think the staff did for work?  Did you imagine that they worked more than a couple of days a week?  Did anything about the staff EVER cross your mind at all unless they were in front of you during church?  The reality is this: unless you grew up in a ministry family, you don’t have any idea how much time, energy, effort, or pizza goes into youth ministry!   You don’t know about the midnight crisis phone calls from parents.  You would think it was a joke if someone told you that they were “working” while on Facebook.  Taking 40 teenagers to an amusement park looks like the easiest way in the world to make a living!  It’s on the other side of that church bus key where you discover what it really means to WORK in youth ministry.  Give your family a break.  Take some hits on the chin for Jesus.  The reward for your work is coming from Him anyway and He knows from personal experience how demanding full-time ministry can be.

 Love~

DW

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Colossians 3:23-24

Missing Mom at Christmas

Dear DW, 

We have been in ministry for five years.  For five years, my husband has been involved with the Christmas Eve service.  Because of this, we don’t even start our holiday travel to see family until Christmas day.  Everything is a big rush so that we can make it back to church for the next Sunday.  This is the only time of year that I get to see my whole family.  I love our church, but do I have to sacrifice my family every year at Christmas? 

Missing Mom at Christmas

 

Dear Missing Mom, 

In Matthew 10, Jesus talks about loving Him more than we love the members of our own family.  I don’t think this means that we have to sacrifice everything for the annual Christmas Eve service!  You need to draw a line.  It’s ok to occasionally take a real vacation over the holidays.  The congregation can lead more than they think they can.  Give them the opportunity.  If you have other pastors, let them rotate leadership for this one service a year.  I think your congregation will understand.  I bet not many of them have made it to all five of the last five years of Christmas Eve services.  It’s good to retreat as a minister’s family.  Take some time to step away and just be removed. 

You didn’t mention where your husband stands on this issue.  All of this goes for him too.  Sometimes in our pastors’ zeal to serve, they forget to refresh and renew.  When you are new in ministry, especially when you love your church, it’s really hard to step away for even a week to go visit family.  Talk with your husband about your desire for some balance over the holidays.  Even if he doesn’t miss your Mom as much as you do, he needs some Sabbath time as well!

 Love,

DW~

 

Mama Bear

Dear DW,

 What do you do when your spouse is on the staff of a church and you’re not happy with the children’s ministry?  Our church averages about 250 people, is growing, and the children’s ministry is dying.  The children’s minister has been with the church for a long time and is very set in her ways.  There is very meager security in the nursery wing.  Honestly, if I didn’t know the people in the nursery, I wouldn’t leave my children.  Also, the children’s programs are dwindling in numbers and very poorly organized.  I’m seriously considering taking my children to another church for weekday programs.  Is that wrong?  I am praying for the ministry, but I also want my children in a thriving program.

 Sincerely,

Mama Bear

 

Dear Mama Bear,

 When it comes to protecting the cubs, don’t ignore your instincts!  Your first responsibility and ministry is to your children.  If you feel uncomfortable with any issue in the children’s ministry, especially safety concerns, always protect your kids before you protect someone’s feelings.  Now, having said that, know that you and your husband will face consequences for that decision.  But let’s consider the sacrifice you’re making: kids vs. hurt feelings, kids vs. awkward silences, kids vs. questions from congregation, kids vs. questions from the pastor, kids vs. my husband’s job, kids vs. having to move.  In my book, the kids win every time! 

 I really don’t think that taking your kids to another church for weekday programs will get your husband fired, but it might, so you have to be unified in whatever decision you make.  This action will surely bring to light some of the issues in the children’s ministry.  Be aware that you will probably influence other people to move their children as well.   Protect your kids, but know that you will be disturbing the status quo and since no one has addressed the issue thus far, you are going to ruffle some feathers.  There will be fall out and in that make sure that you “keep a clear conscience” by answering questions with “gentleness and respect”. (I Peter 3:16)

In all of this, Mama Bear, I can’t help but challenge you a little bit.  I’m glad to hear that you are praying for the ministry, but I’m wondering how you are supporting the children’s minister.  Could it be possible that because you see the issues in the children’s ministry that God might be asking you to address some of them?  Is your children’s minister overwhelmed and in over her head?  How long has it been since she has had encouragement and support?  If this was your husband’s ministry that was failing, what would you need from the congregation?  While I do think that it’s time for the teeth to come out concerning your kids, please don’t ignore that this minister may be facing some of the same obstacles in ministry that you deal with as a family.  In your prayers, be open to God prompting you to act in ways that you aren’t expecting.  Taking the kids out of the ministry may not be the only solution.

 Love~

DW

Wounded 2 Ways

Dear DW, 

 I just got out of the hospital after having surgery and I will be in recovery for 4-6 weeks.   During my three day hospital stay, not one person from church called to see how I was doing.  My husband is one of the pastors at church.  None of the other staff pastors called either.  We have three kids and don’t live near family.  Soon, we won’t have any help at home.  I’m worried about how my husband and I are going to manage during the recovery.  DW, Why wouldn’t anyone call or offer to help?  Who’s our pastor? 

 Wounded 2 Ways in Texas 

 

Dear Wounded, 

My heart is breaking for you.  I wish I could come over and help!  Who knows why people do what they do but here are some thoughts on what might be going through people’s heads:

“I don’t want to bother her when she is sick.”

“I’m sure her family is there to help and I don’t want to intrude.”

“The pastors will take care of it.”

“What if she had ‘female’ surgery-I don’t want to make her feel uncomfortable.”

“I’m positive that someone has already organized meals for them.”

“I’ll call once I know she’s out of the hospital….oops, has it been that long!”

 While service, outreach, and sacrifice probably come naturally for your family (you are in ministry), it’s just not the bent of most people to meet someone’s needs unless they are asked to do so.  Should they have known that you needed help…YES!   And I’m boggled by the inaction of your fellow pastors!  I’m hurt and disappointed for you that the pastors at your church did not reach out to your family during this time.  Pastors should be the first ones to respond when someone on their team is hurting and in need.  Unfortunately, ministry families are seen as “able to handle it”.  There is an assumption by other pastors that “they will understand how busy I am”.  In the Good Samaritan story, it was the Priest and Pharisee who walked right past a battered and dying man lying in the road (I wonder if he was a pastor’s spouse).  

 Wounded, you have 2 ways to handle this hurt.  You can carry it around with you and let it fester and infect everything you do in ministry for the rest of your service there OR you can prick it now and let the pain and infection drain out giving you the chance to heal by choosing forgiveness.  We all miss it sometimes.   People and pastors mess up.  You know pastors aren’t perfect-you live with one!  I urge you to choose grace in this situation.  Holding on to this hurt will only lead you to bitterness.

  And, ASK FOR HELP!  Don’t assume that people will know you need it.  You and your husband need to call, pester and do what you have to do to let people know that you need help.  It may surprise you to see who responds and what bonds are formed within the church when the pastor’s family admits that they are human and in need.

 My prayer is that healing in all ways comes quickly.

 Love~

DW

 

WHY!?

Dear DW, 

Why me?  Why this?  Why here? 

Whiny in Washington

 

Dear Whiny, 

I don’t know.  I can’t explain it.  All of us get tired.  The path is long and draining.  Sometimes we don’t see our spouses for long periods of time and even when we do see them, we don’t connect like we should.  The kids are unhappy.  The church is dry.  We seem to be being attacked from all sides.   Questions start to pummel us: When will it be normal again?  How much longer here?  How do I catch the next train out of Crazyville?! 

I used to indulge in these moments and wonder if we made a mistake.  Is this the path you intended for us God?  If so, then why is it so hard?  In the midst of one of those moments, I ran across a little book called Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson.  It revolutionized the way I thought about struggle and questions and God’s work in my life as a pastor’s spouse.  I realized that difficult times aren’t always about taking the wrong path, they can be about patience, endurance, pruning, growing, and becoming all that God wants me to be.  The path of struggle can also be a necessary part of the path towards fruit. 

As a Christian, if I truly believe God’s word in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”, then I have to believe that all these “Whys” have a purpose.  The whiny moments leave me with questions now but will ultimately lead me to a better relationship with God in the future.  My only choice, and what I encourage you to do, is to abide in Him.  In Jesus, there is comfort in the confusion, peace in the pandemonium, and a bulwark from the bombardment.  In Him, you can make it through these “Whys”.  Stop whining and start to abide.  He is where you will find your answers.

 Love~

DW

 

Pastor Unappreciation Month

Dear DW,

It’s Pastor Appreciation month.   This is the month that I always feel least appreciated.  Our church takes up a Love Offering for the pastors on the last Sunday of this month.  The Love Offering is promoted as being “split among the pastors”.

  In the last five years, the Love Offering has been split 70-30 between the Senior Pastor and the Associate Pastor.  (Besides my husband, we have two other pastors on staff.)  All five pastors, secretaries, and janitors are given a $25 restaurant gift certificate with their paychecks.  

I’m not resentful that the Pastor and Associate get the offering.  They work very hard and deserve all of the appreciation they get.  But it does feel like a slight that the other three pastors are given the same gift as the support staff.   I also struggle to respond to congregation members who assume that our family received the Love Offering.  I’m not sure what to say to them. 

 I feel guilty and ungrateful for even writing this all down-

 Mrs. Unappreciated

 

Dear Mrs. Unappreciated, 

Please don’t feel guilty!  If you didn’t tell me, who would you tell? 🙂   It’s ok to have feelings of under appreciation for the sacrifices your family is making to be in ministry.  The problem comes when we dwell in these moments and allow ourselves to set up a root of bitterness in our lives.  We have to keep grounded in the fact that everything we do as ministry families is an act of service to God.  God knows we are not in it for the money and gift cards!!

 Focus on those people who DO appreciate your ministry.  The ones who are excited that they had the opportunity to give to the Love Offering.  If it’s the thought that counts, they COUNT!  Graciously accept their encouragement and don’t dwell on the fact that the money never made it to your family.   

 And give credit where credit is due… don’t attribute the slight to your congregation, but to the leadership who made the decision to distribute the gifts in that manner.  My preference is to assume that they are ignorant of how this action makes you feel.  And even if they do know how it makes you feel, there’s nothing productive that you can do with that information.  This just leads me back to the fact that they are ignorant…

Guard your heart.  This is a tricky, slippery slope and all roads lead to bitterness.  Remember, your real rewards will come much later and God has not forgotten your service:

  “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”     Colossians 3:23-24

Love~

DW                                                                                                                  

 

Next week, I’ll go naked…

Dear DW,                                    

Last week the church secretary approached me during the worship service and commented on my dress.  She made sure to mention that it had been a long time since I had worn a dress and it was nice to finally see me in one.  The week before, a different lady told me how nice it was that I wear dresses every Sunday because it had become so rare to see that in church.  WHAT?!!!  #1) Why do they care so much what I wear?  #2)Whatever is clean is what gets put on the body that Sunday.  What’s up with the fashion police!?  Next week I think I’ll go naked and see what they have to say.  

Au Naturel in Jacksonville, FL

 

Dear Au Naturel,

Wow!  I guess you didn’t realize that when you became a ministry spouse you instantly turned into Jackie O.  How does that verse go- “Church ladies look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”- something like that (I Samuel 16:7). 

You made me laugh and I think that is the only way to deal with situations like yours.  Of course it is utterly ridiculous that these ladies have expectations of you regarding what you wear to church, but realistically, nothing you say or do is going to change their expectations of how you should clothe yourself for worship.  There are some things as a ministry spouse that we have to be sensitive about when it comes to the congregation and their opinions and feelings about us.  Clothing should not be one of them as long as you are biblical in your expression of it; “ Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;  but let it be the hidden person of the heart…” I Peter 3:3-4.   Be careful not to put too much stock in the ignorance of flippant comments.  Ministry is stressful enough without indulging every single expectation church people have of you.  Be comfortable in your own skin by knowing that you choose to please God first, the “paparazzi” second.  And as for going naked….intriguing… somehow I  think your husband might appreciate that much more than the church ladies!

Love,

DW

 

 

 

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