The Ups and Downs of Changing Congregations

11 Feb

“What just happened,” “Well, that was quick,” “I guess it’s decided then.”

Those are just some of the words that came out of our mouths a while ago when we decided to move and change congregations.  Moving your family is never easy and everyone knows this, but I don’t think others REALLY understand what it’s like to change your job unless you’ve been there and done that before.  Now that some time has gone by, I thought I’d finally write what all went into “The Decision” (thank you, Lebron James), and the stress, anxiety, and burden that enveloped us, well, at least me, as the Wife.  Hopefully, this can prepare you for when THAT MOVE takes place in your life, or perhaps it can help you better relate to those ministers and wives that move into your congregation.

It really happened so quickly.  One minute, we were thrilled with where we were ministering and living, and the next, we were questioning EVERYTHING.  A job offer from elsewhere came to us and all at once, we started wondering about the “what ifs” and the “yeah, buts.” It scared me.  I didn’t like thinking about leaving.  We had it all there, or so we had thought.  Everything was perfect, or so we had thought just yesterday.  But now, we started coming up with the pros- and cons- list and we really started to see some things that we couldn’t see the day before.  Again, it scared me.  “But, this was where…..,” “But our friends are…..,” “But that isn’t a big deal that…..”  Suddenly, our Utopia was looking less and less like the paradise that we thought it was.  And I hated that feeling.

Guilt.  I began to feel guilty.  Guilty that we were thinking about leaving.  Guilty that the idea had even crossed our minds. It consumed me for quite a while.  Guilty that we were thinking of ditching our friends.  Guilty that we were thinking of moving our kids out of their birthplace.  Guilt.

Once we really started to think about things and about the direction our current congregation was going, we followed up with that job offer we had received.  We heard back from them pretty soon, with a “No, there’s no need to come and try out this time,” response, but the wheels had already begun turning.  Our doubts had come up to the surface and our questions had to be answered before we could fully re-commit to where we already were.  My husband went to the elders about the things concerning him, and while I waited at home praying and praying for him to get the “right answers” from them, we both had a sinking feeling that maybe our time there would be shortly coming to an end.

Scary.  Talk about scary.  We didn’t intend for this to happen!  We were gonna be there until the day we died! It all came up so suddenly.  We didn’t know what to do, but we did know that we needed to be at a place where we could do the most good for the glory of God.  And, we had to suddenly face the reality that this might not be the place anymore.  Scary.

We were appeased for a little while, but deep inside, we knew that those doubts and questions had crept up for a reason and when 3 other job offers came up within a 2 weeks time (out of the blue!), we knew we were in for it and that I might as well start packing up boxes.

The congregation that we were most interested in looked like a home-run from the outside.  Being in ministry and “trying out” somewhere else is a tough thing to do.  Again, those guilty feelings were hitting home hard with me that weekend, as we “snuck” out of town so we could see what lied on the other side of the fence.  I felt about the size of an ant.  It’s just something you’ve got to do, and I guess almost every profession is faced with that, and I wish it didn’t have to work that way, but it does.  Everything felt right about the new place – the staff, the elders, the amount of kids the congregation had, the location, but yet, to me, it felt bad at the same time.  It was just those guilty and “I can’t believe this is happening” feelings creeping up.  (Can you tell that I was conflicted?!)  We knew in our hearts and minds that moving was the absolute right thing to do, and it didn’t take us very long at all to make that decision….but to actually pull the plug and come to grips with it, well that is something that took a lifetime it seems.

Sadness.  Leaving behind so many memories and loved ones is something that I’m sure everyone has to deal with at some point.  That doesn’t make it any easier though.  We’ve announced that we were leaving to a few congregations at different times in our life and I absolutely hate it.  When I think back to those Sundays, a feeling overwhelms me with sadness.  No matter what laid in front of us, the pain, guilt, and sadness on those days is absolutely horrific.  I wouldn’t recommend it (unless it’s for the better for the congregation, for your family, and for God’s glory, of course!)  Telling your kids.  Telling your friends.  Telling the ones you’ve worked with.  Telling the congregation.  Sadness.

Well, moving time finally, yet quickly, came.  Pulling into our new town, I took a deep breath, shed a few tears, and then put on my big girl clothes and said, “Let’s do this.”  We had a new adventure at our feet and we were going to hit the ground running.  We were the new preacher and preacher’s wife and we had a job to do.  And of course, we immediately began working at it….when those first church members came to help unload the truck, it was time.

Work.  Building relationships takes work.  Learning a new town and a new routine takes work. Continuing to keep your old relationships viable takes work.  And it all takes a lot of time, too.  Try not to get discouraged when you don’t have your new best friend in a week!  It takes time – they’re trying to figure you out as well —- thrilling notion isn’t it!

New.  New things sometimes get a bad rap because of the change that’s understood behind it.  But, new doesn’t have to equal bad.  A new house.  A new office.  New friendships.  A new eldership.  New stores for shopping.  And hey, with all this new stuff, it’s the perfect opportunity to consolidate and get rid of all that old junk in the junk drawers! And don’t forget that sometimes with a new house, you just HAVE to get new furniture, too!

After being here a while, I’m so happy we made the decision that we did, but it still is hard to think about the ones and the place we left behind.  I’m not sure if that gets any easier or not with time, but about every Christmas time when we receive cards and well-wishes from each place we’ve lived, I think that we’re blessed to have been able to work with so many people that we can call our friends.  What a true blessing that is to have people across the country that you can count on — yet, another blessing of being a member of the Lord’s body!

How to deal with people criticizing your preacher husband?

19 Mar

……

Well……

Do you have an answer to the above question, because I sure don’t!!  🙂

As preacher’s wives, we sometimes have to deal with people (members of the congregation or complete strangers) that have differing views with our husbands and don’t mind sharing them.  People can be mean!!  It not only affects our husbands, but I’ve come to discover that it also affects me!  “How dare people say that to my husband, why would someone say that, etc”  are all thoughts that can go through our minds.  It can really discourage us and even make us angry.  It’s hard to see him go through those critiques EVERY single Sunday or any other time that he is called on to proclaim the Truth, even if he says it doesn’t bother him. We are in this ministry together and if you say anything about my husband, those are fightin’ words!!!

What can we as his helpmate do?  This is one aspect of being a preacher’s wife that I don’t guess I had spent much time thinking about.  It’s hard to think that every word he speaks in front of the congregation is being judged and talked about over people’s lunches – good or bad!  (I’m inferring of course that our husbands are speaking only the TRUTH and is being judged just on opinions, etc. that he may state)  Sometimes, the pressure can get to us and we might begin to think, “My goodness, how does he deal with all of that,” which could then translate into, “My goodness, how can I deal with all of that?!”

I found some of the following on a blog that I thought shared some pretty good ideas about criticism:

“The Benefits of Criticism: Personal Growth

1. Looking for seeds of truth in criticism encourages humility. It’s not easy to take an honest look at yourself and your weaknesses, but you can only grow if you’re willing to try.

2. Learning from criticism allows you to improve. Almost every critique gives you a tool to more effectively create the tomorrow you visualize.

3. Criticism opens you up to new perspectives and new ideas you may not have considered. Whenever someone challenges you, they help expand your thinking.

4. Your critics give you an opportunity to practice active listening. This means you resist the urge to analyze in your head, planning your rebuttal, and simply consider what the other person is saying.

5. You have the chance to practice forgiveness when you come up against harsh critics. Most of us carry around stress and frustration that we unintentionally misdirect from time to time.

Emotional Benefits

6. It’s helpful to learn how to sit with the discomfort of an initial emotional reaction instead of immediately acting or retaliating. All too often we want to do something with our feelings—generally not a great idea!

7. Criticism gives you the chance to foster problem solving skills, which isn’t always easy when you’re feeling sensitive, self-critical, or annoyed with your critic.

8. Receiving criticism that hits a sensitive spot helps you explore unresolved issues.Maybe you’re sensitive about your intelligence because you’re holding onto something someone said to you years ago—something you need to release.

9. Interpreting someone else’s feedback is an opportunity for rational thinking—sometimes, despite a negative tone, criticism is incredibly useful.

Improved Relationships

10. Criticism presents an opportunity to choose peace over conflict. Oftentimes, when criticized our instinct is to fight, creating unnecessary drama. The people around us generally want to help us, not judge us.

11. Fielding criticism well helps you mitigate the need to be right. Nothing closes an open mind like ego—bad for your personal growth, and damaging for relationships.

12. Your critics give you an opportunity to challenge any people-pleasing tendencies.Relationships based on a constant need for approval can be draining for everyone involved. It’s liberating to let people think whatever they want—they’re going to do it anyway.

13. Criticism gives you the chance to teach people how to treat you. If someone delivers it poorly, you can take this opportunity to tell them, “I think you make some valid points, but I would receive them better if you didn’t raise your voice.”

14. Certain pieces of criticism teach you not to sweat the small stuff. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter that your boyfriend thinks you load the dishwasher “wrong.”

Time Efficiency

15. The more time you spend dwelling about what someone said, the less time you have to do something with it.

16. Fostering the ability to let go of your feelings and thoughts about being critiqued can help you let go in other areas of your life. Letting go of worries, regrets, stresses, fears, and even positive feelings helps you root yourself in the present moment.

17. Criticism reinforces the power of personal space. Taking 10 minutes to process your emotions, perhaps by writing in a journal, will ensure you respond well. And responding the well the first time prevents one critical comment from dominating your day.

18. In some cases, criticism teaches you how to interact with a person, if they’re negative or hostile, for example. Knowing this can save you a lot of time and stress in the future.

Self Confidence

19. Learning to receive false criticism—feedback that has no constructive value—without losing your confidence is a must if you want to do big things in life.

20. When someone criticizes you, it shines a light on your own insecurities. If you secretly agree that you’re lazy, you should get to the root of that. Why do you believe that—and what can you do about it?

21. Learning to move forward after criticism, even if you don’t feel incredibly confident, ensures no isolated comment prevents you from seizing your dreams.Think of it as separating the wheat from the chaff; takes what’s useful, leave the rest, and keep going!

22. When someone else appraises your harshly, you have an opportunity to monitor your internal self-talk. Research indicates up to 80% of our thoughts are negative. Take this opportunity to monitor and change your thought processes so you don’t drain and sabotage yourself!

23. Receiving feedback well reminds you it’s OK to have flaws—imperfection is part of being human. If you can admit weakness and work on them without getting down on yourself, you’ll experience far more happiness, peace, enjoyment, and success.”

I would also add to that list, to pray about it and to not lose heart or your confidence.  Try to not let it get you down and look at all the positives that you two are doing together and how you are bringing glory to God.  He’s the only judge that matters anyway!!! And, this world is only temporary…along with it’s own critiques and smart-alek remarks!!

“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” ~Aristotle

Preacher’s Wife AND Mom

16 Jan

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As a Preacher’s Wife, and really it would be the same even if I didn’t have the “title,” and a mother of two small children, I find it difficult to be as involved with church activities as I would like.  I attend most of the “outside activities,” but I would also like to head-up and start ideas that I have, but I just don’t have the time to do so.  How do you make it work??

For instance, I’ve thought about starting a “Mom’s Devo,” but don’t know how to go about it.  My kids take up most of my day and the two hours I have to myself during nap time…well, they are mine. (selfishly I guess!)

How can I serve my boys AND serve the congregation where I am a member, yet alone, the Preacher’s Wife?? The “title” makes me feel even more so that I should be doing SOMETHING new and exciting for the women of the congregation.

What are your ideas?  How do you juggle ministry and motherhood?

Building a Relationship with Minister’s Wives

26 Sep

In many congregations today, you will find many ministers employed – perhaps a youth, pulpit, and even other ministry directors.  As a preacher’s wife, how do you cultivate a relationship with those men’s wives?  You share a big thing in common – you both support your husbands in encouraging, edifying, and working with the church.  You share those ‘late nights’ and ‘being on call 24/7’ together.  You both ‘live in a glass house’ and are raising ‘preacher’s kids.’  Whether you are divided by a vast age difference or personality differences or not, how do you develop a close friendship with them?

 One of the main things that I can think of is to always maintain an open communication with those women.  Let them know that you want to hear from them and that you are there for them.  Give them an occasional text, email, card, or call.  Share with them your difficulties and your joyful triumphs in ministry.  Another idea is to go out with them once in a while – just the 2 of you – minister’s wife to minister’s wife.  Grab some coffee and just be together and visit.

 I think that we minister’s wives need to join together and be a family – we already are a part of the family…let’s act like it!  Encourage each other, listen to each other, help each other.  What are some more ways that we can build that relationship with the other minister’s wives in our congregation?  What do you do?

Quiet Kids!

2 Aug

How do you keep your kids quiet during church services?  Really…I need your help!!  Especially if you are a minister’s wife and you have to do this on your own while your hubby is up there preaching the word – How do you do it?  I have snacks and colors for them now, but it seems to only work for a little while.  I’m planning on giving the speech of my life to my oldest one about keeping quiet – any tips about that, too?  He seems to get wiggly and restless and loud, especially when he pretends that his crayons are guns, etc., hah!!  What do you do?

Book Ideas

6 Jul

I love reading!!  I wish I had (made!) more time to do so, but I really enjoy reading – whether it’s learning new things or just imagining myself right along with the characters!  Have you read any outstanding brotherhood books about being a preacher’s wife?  I haven’t looked in a while, but it seems like there aren’t many out there, especially for us in the Church.  I’ve read and recommend, “A Sunday Afternoon with the Preacher’s Wives” by Paula Harrington.  What are your suggestions?  I’d like to read them!!

A Sunday Afternoon with the Preachers' Wives

To order this book, click here.

Also, in addition to my previous post about “What is a Minister’s Wife,” it’s my opinion that minister’s wives need to make an appearance at most of the church gatherings.  Whether it’s baby showers or congregational nights at the building, I think it’s important that the Church see that this lady is involved and is participating in fellowship with other women of the congregation.  (Of course, all women should be doing this anyway, but is it perhaps MORE important for the preacher’s wife to be present?) Maybe that’s just my high standard I perceive in my head.  What do you think about the minister’s wife’s attendance record?

A Penny For Your Thoughts…

30 Jun

A Penny for your Thoughts…

Years ago, when my husband accepted his first pulpit position, I asked a couple of preacher’s wives for some advice as I entered “their realm.”  I was blessed with receiving some helpful hints and some things that I’ve kept in mind through the years.

Some of the advice I received included:

“Be sure to work on your own spiritual walk and not just rely on the congregation or your husband’s”

“Be friendly to everyone in the church – not to just a select few”

“Protect your family time”

Some things that I would like to add would be:

“Open up your home to the church family.  You seem more real and personable when you do so.  Plus, we as Christians should be doing that anyway!”

“Be a trustworthy confidant for your husband.  Whenever he needs to vent about his day or relax, be there for him and don’t repeat what he says to your church family or hold it against them when you see them in the halls.”

“Develop friendships.  We need a close girlfriend or two!”

What advice would you give to a preacher’s wife?  What thoughts, tips, or suggestions  do you have?  A minister’s wife has a lot of responsibilities and shares her husband and family with the congregation, so I think that it’s important to help their job be a little easier.  It’s a big load to carry!  What are your thoughts?  Please share with our little community!!  🙂