What I know now…Time, Experience, and Ministry

My husband just celebrated a monumental anniversary- 10 years as a pastor. It may not seem that big to those outside the church work world, but for those of you in it, you know – It’s exciting stuff! 

It got me thinking

What are things that would have been helpful to know on day one?

It’s almost like being a new parent. Would I have even been able to listen if someone would have tried to enlighten me on the difficult stuff? For what it’s worth, though, here are some of the things I’ve discovered in this ministry life that I just wish I would have understood earlier. Things they either don’t say in Seminary or my ears just weren’t open enough to hear them.

#1 – Church hurts. 

It doesn’t always hurt, there are endless joys, but I just didn’t know that it would be so hard. There is a nugget of wisdom that serves us all well: church is hard because it’s full of sinners.We are all sinners, so why am I surprised when someone says something hurtful, when someone criticizes my husband unnecessarily, or someone (myself included) fails to put the best perspective on it all?

Ministry is a wonderful and beautiful gift from God. But let’s not fool ourselves- It’s difficult. Someone please tell us this. Shake us and tell us the reality of watching families fall apart and children become prodigals and friends walk away from church forever.

It won’t scare us away from ministry, it’s part of strapping on the armor. Would I trade it in? No. Because God heals the hurting places, and unlike basic Neosporin, His healing creates something completely new and worthwhile, better than before, and this testimony in Christ will go out and reap a bounty.

#2 – Finances will always be difficult.

No one ever got into the ministry looking for the big bucks, it’s true. But when we pulled out of the seminary parking lot and into the parsonage garage, I thought that with a regular paycheck and some savings in the bank, it might at least get a little easier.

Truth: money is a struggle for all people, all the time.

Yes, contentment is important but whether you have millions or a momentary salary, stewardship always will require thought and sacrifice. Money is difficult because you care about what God thinks about it. That means constantly living in the realm of should we use a little to go out to eat or buy the little one a new pair of shoes, should we spend the fuel to visit a good friend, then we have less money if the youth group has that fundraiser next month. Constantly thinking and planning with money is exhausting and there will never be enough of it because our sinful flesh always craves just a little bit more. I am glad I finally understand that there isn’t a magic amount in a paycheck when it just all gets better and contentment comes. It’s time to lay it before God, ask Him to help our churches be faithful to their pastors and help us to be content in each circumstance and find answers to the difficult times.

He is faithful when people are not. 

#3 – When people don’t choose church, their not choosing between something else and you…they’re choosing between something else and God.

Ok, hear me out- it’s not that when someone misses a Sunday they’ve gone heathen and we’re all judge-y about that. Nope! But it does hurt when a visitor comes and they pick the church down the street, or you invite someone to Bible study for the fourth time and they have too much going on to do it. This is a weird church worker family emotion, that I’m not sure others understand. It’s personal. We have to work to not take it so personally, because even in this, it’s about God, it’s not about us. People have to make all kinds of decisions and it’s not the preaching or the programs or anything else that people might choose to come to church for in the end. It’s about Jesus. It’s between them and God. Maybe God has a ministry plan for them in this other choice, maybe they’re ignoring His still, small voice to get involved in a Bible study…who knows.

God knows.

We invite and we love. He fills the gaps when people disappoint. Know that He thinks highly of you. You are complete enough for Him in Christ. It’s not personal.

#4 – You will need someone to spiritually care for you.

As much as we wish God gave us superhero powers when we entered this church work life as a family, He didn’t. (Well, He gave us the Spirit, so that’s arguable…but you get the point.) We need spiritual care, just like the next guy. And for us, it’s not as easy as showing up and sitting in a pew on Sunday. How many of you feel like a single parent on Sunday mornings? I get the sermon recap at lunch, so that helps.

Our husbands are our rocks, but they can not be everything to us at all times.

And there is a weird and wonderful and complicated dynamic involved with sleeping with the pastor. This is personal opinion here, not Biblical truth, but I believe we also need to seek spiritual care in other places. Who else do you have in your life that can fill you spiritually? Maybe for you it’s not a person, but your own quiet time with the Word in the evening, or you have a spiritual mentor from another church, or someone you know that lifts you up in prayer regularly. I have a women’s Bible study that meets every Wednesday. I can share my real self there. I don’t have to hide. I am filled weekly. I have a tiny group of gals from college that I talk to every day in a little chat group. I get a text from my friend, Sarah, that says “What’s your day look like today? I’m praying for you.” almost every morning. These people fill the Spiritual places deep in my heart and my husband helps them to overflow. 

So- would I have listened had someone shared these jewels early on? I hope! But probably not. When we are young, whether in age or experience, we feel like we kind of know. We almost need to be in it to experience the yoke and lift it before the One who can make it something beautiful. 

I pray for ministry families every day. What would you add to this list? What wisdom can we glean from you?

May those yokes of “youth” be a blessing to you eventually. May you always be filled with the Truth and Knowledge of the One who trades us His yoke, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

This is us, feeling youth-filled 🙂

The sacrifice of family

My sisters visited this weekend. They left, and I think they took a little bit of my heart with them. We laughed and played cards, we ate, and played tag with the kids. We recapped struggles and joys of childhood, we plotted our sisters cruise plans, and lamented living 8 hours apart for 10 solid years now. (And it wasn’t even all my sisters!)
 
This is perhaps one of the most difficult passages for people to “take.” What in the world could Jesus be talking about? His mom just wanted to talk to him. How rude! What is all the talk about ministering to your own family in the New Testament? Here’s Jesus blatantly disregarding the people in His own household. (Of course this isn’t true, but isn’t it a frustrating passage at times?)
 
Here, sisters, is the reality of life in ministry. One of the most difficult things about life in ministry is right here in these passages. We are called to give up our family. Yep, give them up. Many of you have been there. You packed up everything you owned in a small u-haul, you had a garage sale or gave things away so it would fit in the cheaper one; you waved goodbye as you watched little pieces of your heart fly out the window and watched the people you love get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. 
 
This is the little-talked about sacrifice of ministry- people. God asks us to once again give up the comfortable and the familiar, and turn it in for the new, the unknown, the stranger. 
We walk away from our niece’s birthday parties.
We miss out on cooking dinner twice a week with our sisters.
We give up being there when Dad gets the diagnosis.
We aren’t the person our nephew turns to when he gets a blue ribbon.
 
But if we believe God is who he says he is. He has a plan, a purpose, and a hope. When God asks us to give something up, he promises to fill us with so much more.
 
In my experience, by giving up our family in ministry, intentionally- acknowledging this sacrifice, bringing it before the Lord in prayer, and being honest that it’s a painful part of the process…we get our family and so much more. 
 
Yes, we still miss the birthday parties. 🙁 But we don’t lose our family. It looks a lot different than we expected, but God teaches us just how much He wants to be the one to fill us. He teaches us what family is in the body of Christ, in a way very few people come to understand without this kind of sacrifice. He primes our hearts for joy and struggle with people we never would have met had we stayed home. He gives us family with different last names, but the same Jesus-shaped heart and he gives us sweet, sweet reunions with loved ones far away. 
 
It doesn’t necessarily make it easier, it doesn’t diminish the tears, but it does make it better. Knowing it’s His.
 
I’m curious about your story. What is it like for you? Who did you “give up” to follow your husband in ministry? What is the thing you miss the most? Feel free to share it with me. We can support each other in the sacrifice, sister.
 
Here’s a picture of my family…in all their crazy wonderfulness. 
 
 
And my sisters and I…until next time 🙂


Scattering gifts…

For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

1 Corinthians 12:14

One day during Holy Week, my children and I sat around the school table, talking about plant classification (exciting stuff!). Someone was probably lamenting the heavy burden placed on them by Mom, the homeschooling tyrant. Someone else was probably demanding a snack. 
 
My husband innocently pops his head in the door and sweetly says to me, “Hey, were you planning on singing for Easter? I’m just getting the bulletin organized.” I glanced up from my work, and I’m not sure the look on my face, but I knew the turmoil inside-
      One more thing, Lord. Really. 
      How am I going to manage?
      Where is the time going to come from?
      Maybe I can practice while the noodles cook….
      No, I need to return that phone call.   
      How about during quiet reading time?
      I need to get Bible study ready for tomorrow. 
 
And so on and so on. We all have the internal dialogue. Mine tends to range from organized files to harried and discombobulated. 
 
My husband looked into my face and gently imparted timeless wisdom for every woman –

“You don’t have to use all your gifts at one time.”   

 
Good call, dear husband. I’m going to sit this song out. I’m going to praise the Lord on Easter morn from the pew. 
 
I so often want to seize every opportunity, meet every need, heal every hurting heart, but not only is that God’s job, I was placed in a body to serve together. A wise person once said, “A need does not constitute a calling.” Sometimes it all seems so overwhelming, so many hurting people, little things to be done here and there and everywhere. God knows. He has a plan. Even this is in His hands. Sometimes His plan for me is to say, “Thanks, but not this time.”
 
God gave each of us many gifts to use for His glory. I’m sure you have so many ways and places to use them. He is so creative with each of us! Rest in this, sister…
      Use them, bless with them, but remember –
      You don’t have to use them all at one time. 🙂