On being a PK…

This August we were driving “down south” to visit my husband’s sister and her family for a much needed family vacation. The drive was lengthy and we had already gone through all our books on CD so we cranked up the volume on some local Christian radio. Between every song advertisements for a special conference came up over and over again. We heard them for the whole week we were there, and I tell you, I could recite them by heart. This conference was important for someone. Near the end of the week it struck me that the conference wasn’t for adults, but was for pastor’s kids still in the home. I turned to my daughter (age 12) and blurted, “Wow, a whole conference just for pastor’s kids! Is that really necessary?”
 
My sweet daughter was oddly quiet. I looked back at her from my seat next to my husband.
“Do you think of yourself as a pastor’s kid?” 
 
In my mind, Macee was just like any other kid. Bright, fun, beginning to get past the grouchy stage of early adolescence…beautiful. Child of God. Redeemed, transformed, made new. The only thing different between her and another child of God, in my thoughts, was that she was tall for her age and had a special gift for loving on any person, of any age, at any time. 
 
But that doesn’t answer the question does it, for Macee. “Do you think of yourself as a pastor’s kid?” From the backseat came the small answer,
“Everyday, Mom. Everyday.”
 
As I sat back and contemplated her response and my apparent lack of understanding of the life of a PK, I recalled a different conversation in our house three years prior. My daughter, broken hearted, needing a friend, feeling unloved and unworthy came to me in tears,
“People just think we’re weird, Mom. Everyone thinks we’re different.”
 
At the time I thought that conversation was just about us. Just about our family’s zest for individuality and zeal for uniqueness. At that moment I realized, it’s not about me, it’s not about our family, it’s about the church and that weird place we put church work families. “What?!” you say, “What place? I don’t put anyone in a place?” But you see, we do. 
 

Colossians 3:21 encourages Fathers to avoid provoking their children. But how many kids in churches do we raise the bar for because of who their parent is, expecting more from them?

This verse is fitting for the church, because really, that is where my child, under no choice of his or her own, is growing up.
Church, don’t provoke your children.
Just as you love your pastor, love his children. Don’t raise the bar for them. Don’t expect more of them. Don’t assume you know them, until you spend time getting to know them individually. They are each beautiful and precious, and unique. Their love for Jesus comes not just from the home they’re raised in, but the church that raises them.
Don’t love them for who you think they should be, love them for who they are.
Colossians also promises what will come when we set the bar too high for our pastor’s children (whether in our own home or in church)
…discouragement. Almost every single translation uses this same word- discouragement. 
 
What does the discouragement of a PK look like? It’s different for every child, obviously, but I think that it’s the cracks, the fissures of faith that begin innocently that are most concerning. The PK who simply can not sit in a pew contentedly for the ants in their pants, and is scolded by more than their mother. The PK who is frustrated with being the acolyte for the 84th Sunday in a row because they are the only ones who show up. The PK who is afraid to tell someone they struggle with their body image, because it’s just more stress for mom or dad, who is helping everyone else. The PK who hears the words people say about their Dad and has no where to go with them. 
 
How do we create churches who love and uplift their PKs? Love and uplift them…as individuals! Celebrate their unique gifts and do not give them more than there fair share, simply because they show up. Notice who they are, not in relation to who is their parent, but in relation to who God made them to be. This is how our children learn that the church is a place to grow and be loved and desire to stay there and flourish. 
 
May we take a step back and be an encouragement rather than a discouragement. I take numerous steps and build all kinds of boundaries to protect my children from the life of growing up PK; to help them love Jesus and love the church, not because I do, but because they have the Spirit of the Living God inside them. Foolishly I thought I could do this alone. My daughter reminded me I could not. I need the church to do this with me, to see with me how precious she is as herself, and herself alone. 
 

*No Macees were harmed in the writing of this blog post. All Macees were asked permission to share their stories with the world at large. 🙂

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 🙂