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Julie Justification

Dear DW,the tv

I think I have a disease.  Every time I buy something, I feel the need to make sure everyone knows that I got it on sale or that I used money I had saved up for a long time.  Just this week, someone in our Bible Study group noticed the new flat screen TV in our living room and my first reaction was to make sure she knew that it was a gift from my in-laws.  The disease part of this is that I’m not telling people these things because I think I got a good deal or because I want people to know what great in-laws I have, it’s because I don’t want them to think that we are wasting “God’s Money” on frivolous things.  I feel like I’m being judged when I show up to church with a new dress.  I feel anxiety when I get my hair done.  It made me nervous when I bought my son an iPod for his birthday because I just knew someone was going to see it and wonder how we could afford it.  We don’t make much money serving in the church and there are people who know that we struggle financially.  I don’t know how to stop feeling the need to explain every penny we spend.  Please help!

Julie Justification

 

Dear Julie Justification,

You are right.  You do have a disease.  Actually, it’s more like a virus.  I’ve caught it off and on throughout our ministry.  It’s called the I-am-focused-more-on-what-church-people-think-about-me-than-on-what-God-thinks-about-me virus.  The symptoms start out subtle like not showing off the new ring your husband bought you because someone might think he spent too much money.  It progresses into feelings of guilt or dread when you buy or do something that might elicit a comment from someone at church.  And, if left untreated, the virus morphs into full-blown “plasticity” where you either hide the real you from church people or you make decisions and behavior changes based on what people at church might say or think about you.  This virus will make you really sick- sick of church, sick of people, sick of ministry, and sick of your spouse’s calling.  The last stage of the virus can cause complications of bitterness which, everyone who reads this blog knows always leads to wrinkles! 

The only way to combat this virus to focus on the opinion that matters most in your life.  Are you wasting “God’s Money”?  Can you stand before Him without guilt?  Are you living a life pleasing to Him?  Then it doesn’t matter what other’s might think or say.  It’s exhausting trying to guess who you should be to make everyone in the church happy with you.  So don’t do it.  Stop justifying your purchases and actions.  I have a feeling that you are more conscious of what is being spent at your house than anyone in your congregation.  And even if you are not, God is the only one who can change the heart of someone who is so ridiculously judgmental.  Your qualifying statements won’t change a thing. 

You know, it’s ALL “God’s money”.  When is the last time someone at church called you up to justify the new boat they bought or reported to you that they just got another credit card so they could go on a vacation they can’t afford?  So stop stressing.  Enjoy your gifts.  Focus on what matters and avoid those wrinkles!

Love,

DW~

“Bizarre-o World”

Dear DW,

What is happening to me?!  I feel like I just walked into bizarre-o world!  Several weeks ago, the pastor called us up to the front of the church and told everyone that we were in the process of becoming full-time missionaries.  Our close friends have known this but not many other people until recently.  Since it was announced, I can’t seem to set foot in the church building without people feeling compelled to give me their opinion!  Not just on becoming a missionary, but on everything- my kids, my spouse, my clothing!!  Up until a few weeks ago, I was just a church member, but this announcement seems to have put me into some alter-world category that makes people I have known for years feel the freedom to openly run with diarrhea of the mouth.  I never asked for or invited this kind of attention.  How do I make it STOP!? 

I’m not a pastor’s spouse!

 

Dear “not a Pastor’s spouse”,

 While your spouse may not be a pastor, you have unwittingly found the key and unlocked the door that leads to the Secret World of Pastor’s Spouses.  Unfortunately, it’s too late to retreat.  This “bizarre-o world” has begun to take over, but the good news is, you do have control in your new alter reality.  I’m sure that you have already recognized that some of these people lavishing you with unwarranted attention do have good motives.   They want to encourage you and, in some small way, be a part of what you are doing for the Lord.  In fact, I believe most people THINK that’s what they are doing when they feel compelled to give opinions.  But, being in the Secret World of Pastor’s Spouses is kind of like when a woman is pregnant.  Everyone, including strangers, feel compelled to tell her pregnancy stories (to help her out, of course!).  They also like to reach out and touch her in places that they never would touch if she wasn’t pregnant.  It’s uncomfortable.  Privacy and sometimes decency are encroached on in this world.  But it’s mostly harmless and with time you do get used to it.  In a few more weeks, you will be able to figure out who is safe, who you need to smile and nod at, who you need to avoid in the hallway, and who might become a new friend. 

There is no way to avoid this attention.  We can’t control other people’s actions or stupidity.  But you can filter the comments, judge actions rightly, and respond transparently.  When you feel like someone has crossed the line, it’s ok to tell them so.   

You may not have invited this kind of attention, but God may want to use your new platform for His Glory.  Don’t be so quick to slam the door and throw away the key because of the initial shock of what you have experienced.  Come in.  Look around.  There’s beauty in this secret world too.  I hope you discover it soon.

Love,

DW~

IT Insult!

Dear DW,

 My husband handles all the technical aspects of our church ministries.  He was hired with the title Minister of Media.  The problem is that he spends a lot of his time just fixing the computers in the church office.  What happened to the “minister” part of his title?  I don’t think that the staff sees him as a REAL pastor.  He recruits and ministers to a large team of volunteers who run the all the tech in our services.  He leads those volunteers in Bible Study and pastors their families.  He has a religious undergraduate degree and he is a licensed minister.  Why do they treat him like the IT guy?  My husband tells me to blow it off and not worry about it.  He’s a lot less concerned about this than I am, but I’m irritated.  How do I get past this attitude?

 Insulted in Indiana

 

Dear Insulted, 

This may be one of those things about ministry life that you are going to have to just let go of in order to find some peace.  It is definitely our first reaction to defend our spouse when we see an injustice taking place.  Especially when we think they deserve so much more respect than they are receiving at church.  Changing your attitude starts with:

  • Recognizing that while man sees the outward appearance, God sees the heart (I Samuel  16:7)
  • Realizing that no matter what happens with the staff or congregation, we do our work as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24)
  • Start claiming God’s promise that what is sacrificed to Him in secret will be rewarded (Matthew 6:4-6)   

 And don’t diminish what your attitude can do for your spouse.  It may be that the reason your husband can accept his relegated role so easily is because you see him as so much more.  Sometimes it only takes one person, the most important person in our lives, recognizing the work we are doing to give us the strength to push through when ministry is difficult.  Balance your admiration of your husband with the viewpoint that the only person you are really trying to please is God and I think your attitude will swiftly find adjustment.

Love~

DW

These Slapped Hands Sting!

Dear DW,

Last week, the pastor asked my husband and me to meet with him in his office.  He started by telling us that there are a few people who are unhappy with the youth ministry and he named some areas that he feels need improvement.  He told us that we need to be more consistent or my husband may be facing a formal reprimand from the personnel committee.  My question is this: What do I have to do with this meeting?  The church doesn’t pay me as an employee.   I felt like I was a little kid being called in to the principal’s office!  I was so stunned by the whole experience.   I didn’t know what to say at the time, but the more I think about it the more offended and hurt I am.  I’m not sure what to do at this point.  Do you have any advice? 

These Slapped Hands Sting!

Texas

 

Dear Slapped Hands, 

Girl, you know I have advice!

 #1) I agree.  What do you have to do with this meeting?!  Why were you called in to it if you are not employed by the church? 

Sounds to me like someone has some boundary issues.  Either the pastor has made an assumption that he is getting “2 for the price of 1” or the lines have been blurred as to who is in charge of the youth ministry.  In either case, these boundaries need to be clearly defined for you and for your pastor.  You and your husband should honestly evaluate how big of a role you are taking in the youth ministry leadership.  Have you been taking on responsibilities that go beyond being a volunteer in the youth ministry?  Are you doing things for your husband that is really a part of his job?  Is there any way that you have projected an image that you are sharing  job responsibilities or did the pastor overstep by calling you in to his office?

#2) Where is your husband in all of this? 

It’s up to him to protect you from these kinds of confrontations.  If he didn’t do it during the meeting, he absolutely should now go to the pastor and make it very clear that you do not work for the church. It doesn’t matter how the boundaries have been blurred or not blurred, there is no circumstance where a spouse should be evaluated, criticized, or chastised by the church leadership for the pastor’s job performance. 

#3) Be cautious how you proceed now and in future churches.

It seems like things are getting sticky in your current church.  Since your husband’s ministry is being called into question, you may want to take a few steps back until things cool down so that you don’t get caught in the crossfire.  In the future, you and your husband will want to make it clear to potential churches that you are a volunteer, not a part of a package deal.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t be an integral part of what is happening in the youth ministry, but it does give you and your husband the freedom to remind pastors and parishioners that your service to the church is volunteer and should be treated as such.

Now some salve for that sting…I’m so sorry that you have been hurt.  I promise, the sting only lasts for a little while and then the redness will start to fade away.  Praying this hurt heals quickly. 

Love,

DW~

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

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                                                                                                                  

 

Big Mouth Spouse

Dear DW,

 I am a very opinionated person and I’m not afraid to speak my mind.  Can someone be too mouthy to be a pastor’s spouse?

 Big Mouth

Jackson, MS

 

 Dear Big Mouth,

Good News-there’s no mold; God calls all kinds of people to be pastor’s spouses…even the mouthy ones!  I don’t think that you have to go through a personality lobotomy to be a ministry spouse.  God uses all that we are for His glory.

However, having said that, I do think that it is important for ministry spouses to consider that they have a much bigger influence and responsibility than the normal person in church.  As a ministry spouse, your opinions not only represent you but can be mistakenly assumed to be the opinions of your spouse, your spouse’s ministry, and/or the whole church staff! 

Consider your audience when you give your opinion.  Is this something that might influence their spiritual life negatively if I say it?  “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Colossians 4:5-6 

Use your mouthiness as a vehicle of grace.  It’s an honor and a trust for God to give ministry spouses such a big of a sphere of influence.  Be who you are.  God chose YOU for this role, not some mousy, shy, fading flower.  Trust that He knows what He’s doing. 

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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