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“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~

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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

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

#1 Volunteer

 

Dear DW,

 My wife is on staff at a church.  Any time she needs anything, I am there for her.  I build sets, I haul stuff, I sponsor events, I even fill in when she needs a last minute volunteer to help with something on stage. I am very proud of her and I love being a part of what she is doing.  How do I tell her that I need a break?

 #1 Volunteer

 

 

 

Dear #1 Volunteer, 

When I read all that you do for your wife and her ministry, I’m almost sure I heard a collective “aaahhhh” from the ladies out there.  Do you do dishes too?!  What a blessing you are to your wife, her ministry, and your church! 

 However, no one can do it all, not even the perfect husband!  It’s convenient and easy to ask our family members to be the “fill-in everythings” at church.  It’s more difficult to ask a church member to make those sacrifices.  But, in the long run, it will be better for you, your relationship, and her ministry for her to expand her volunteer base.  At this point, you may not be able to just step out cold turkey.  I suspect that she has become a little dependant on what you do for her.  I would start by telling her that you need a break.  Let her know that you love supporting her in ministry but you need to step back.  Pick the one thing that you are most passionate about helping her with in ministry, and let her know that you will continue to do that one thing only.  Make plans with her to take a total ministry break sometime in the near future.   The break should have a definite starting time and ending time so that she knows you are not going to be gone forever!  When you come back from break, you won’t need to be her #1 go-to-guy because she will have been forced to develop alternative solutions to her volunteer needs in your absence.  This may be a little rocky to employ, but every minister wants their volunteers to be fresh and excited to be serving in the ministry.  If you don’t step back now, you may begin to resent being the #1 Volunteer later.   And that would be very disappointing for all the “aaahhhh” ladies who read this blog!

Love,

DW~

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~

 

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                                                                                                                  

 

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~

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