December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

2009 has been a joy-filled year for me. I had my first child in January, and the year was filled with wonderful moments and exciting milestones.

For the church, however (and thus my spouse's professional life), the year has been a challenging one. As my blog posts here indicate, I am generally pretty negative about church life, and (surprise, surprise) that attitude has not really helped the situation, for me or my spouse!

So, I'm resolving to be more positive in the new year. I'm not sure exactly what that will look like--especially since I place a high priority on being "real," and not hiding or burying one's emotions--but I am going to try to look for the positive in challenging church situations and people.

I am going to try not to indulge and nurture the negative attitudes that inevitably creep in. Do you know what I mean? Sometimes anger or frustration flares up quickly, but rather than relaxing and letting it pass, I dwell on it and fan the flame until it burns hot.

What about you? Are you making any resolutions for 2010? Any that affect your relationship with your spouse and the church?

Jessica Miller Kelley celebrates mommyhood and tries to "keep it real" at her blog, The Parsonage Family.

December 30, 2009

The Angriest People

I recently came across an article that appeared in Circuit Rider (a magazine for United Methodist clergy) a couple years ago. "Keeping Up Appearances," by marriage and family counselor Linda Hileman (herself a PK and clergy spouse), discusses the isolation many clergy families endure, having no one with whom they can be honest about their feelings and struggles.

She discusses the case of Mary Winkler, the Baptist minister's wife in Tennessee who killed her husband in 2006. Church members all said she was "the perfect pastor's wife" and that "they had no problems, as far as we knew." Those congregants and Winkler's lawyers all made statements about her, but Hileman wants to know where her friends and family were. Did she have anyone with whom she shared her private pain?

Hileman's piece is definitely worth the read, but I'll share the money quote here, in case you don't have time to read the whole article:
The vast majority of pastors state that the ministry is detrimental to
their families. One counselor, who sees a large number of clergy and clergy
spouses in his practice, says that United Methodist clergy-wives are the
angriest people he sees. It is ironic that in a connectional system such as
the United Methodist Church, we and our families have so few

This is the quote that I always remember from this article. "...the angriest people he sees..." I try not to let that be a self-fulfilling prophesy, but I think about it whenever I feel angry, and I wonder what it is about the UMC in particular that makes clergy-wives so angry. Is it the lack of choice in the appointment process? Is it the frequency of moves? What do you think?

December 24, 2009

The Live Nativity

One of my favorite Christmas memories happened when my husband, Mike, pastored a church on the southside of Indianapolis. Every year, the church had a live nativity. Adults and children were able to participate in this ministry to the community. People signed up for half hour shifts which lasted from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

The parsonage was right next to the church, so we had the responsibility to feed the two sheep who were part of the scene. The children looked forward to having these animals every year. A couple of the men built a pen next to the church where the sheep could stay sheltered from the wind. One year the children decided that the sheep needed names. They decided on "Bee" and "Baa". We took pictures of the sheep and of the children with their favorite animals. We talked about "Bee" and "Baa" all year. Of course, we couldn't tell if the same sheep returned every year, but that didn't matter, because they were still "Bee" and "Baa".

I was Mary in December, 1984, when I was eight months pregnant with Anna, the youngest daughter. Mike, was Joseph, and Sarah, the oldest daughter was an angel. I could really identify with Mary that year. Then there was the year that Mike was Joseph, I was a woman passing by the manger, and the children were angels. These were fun days, especially since each shift concluded with cookies and hot chocolate in the church basement.

All of us looked forward to the live nativity each year and our participation helped make the events in Bethlehem very real and personal.

Jacquie Reed is a spiritual director, Stephen Minister, in Fishers, Indiana.

What are my motives?

Dear Friends,

Do you know Iyanla Vanzant? Heard of her? She's an amazing African American author and speaker I have admired for some time and wasprivileged to hear speak last month in Phoenix. Her very presence is so beautiful and powerful. And holy. She has her "Tips For Daily Living" in a 50-card deck. I use these during my devotional and meditation time. (along with the Bible, journaling, etc.) Each card asks a series of questions that addresses some of the critical issues we all face in life.Each question, when answered honestly, will support us in creating a new vision of ourselvesand our lives.

Here's three I wanted to share...

FORGIVENESS: Where in my life is there room for more forgiveness? Am I willing to forgive everyone for everything today?
Forgiveness is a gift to myself that prepares my heart for more of everything.

LOVE: When do I feel most loved? Am I willing to be loved today?
Self-love is the magnet that attracts deep and profound expressions of love from others.

SIMPLIFY: How can I simplify my life? Am I willing to live with simplicity today?

If I'm doing something to get attention, recognition, approval, or rewards...DON'T DO IT!

What are MY motives? Most of my life I have been motivated by any and or all of the above reasons.

But now... older and maybe a little wiser I ask myself these questions:


If I could really "get it" that everything is really just between ME and GOD--anyway it would eliminate so much...hurt feelings, disappointment, heartache, bitterness, unforgiveness, judgement, injustice, indifference, score-keeping, pettiness, unkindness, revenge, gossip,dashed expectations, etc., etc.

WOW! Now that would certainly free up a lot more room for the character of GOD to show through in my own home, at work, at church, and everywhere I AM.

Faith Mayton

Faith is the widow of Rev. J. Andrew Mayton, Sr.

December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve ... and Adam

My friend's aunt has two Christmas teddy bears she sets out every year. A girl bear and a boy bear. The girl she named "Christmas Eve." The boy, then, had to be "Christmas Adam." Everyone knows Dec. 24 is Christmas Eve, but in my friend's house, Dec. 23 is Christmas Adam.

So today, on Christmas Adam, let's talk about Christmas Eve--services, that is! Dec. 24 is a work day for most of our spouses. To what extent does that affect your family's celebration? Is dinner squeezed in between 5:00 and 7:00 services, or do you have lots of family time before an 11:00 candlelight service?

Will you attend all of them, or just one? Or maybe none at all! Tell us by responding to the poll in the sidebar, and/or give the details by commenting.

Merry Christmas!

Struggling to Be Supportive

I did it again.

My husband came home from a church meeting. Naturally, I asked how it went. He hesitated to open up about it because I have this bad habit of responding with not just my two cents, but with two big ceramic piggy-banks of opinions on whatever issue was being discussed at the meeting.

I’ve been trying so hard lately just to listen. To nod empathetically and ask active-listening questions like “How did you feel about that?” and “What happened next?” I had actually been doing fairly well at this recently.

The trouble is, my husband can read me like a book. Though I was saying, “Hmm…that’s interesting,” he could tell my eyes were saying “I totally disagree with your perspective.” He called me out on my transparency and of course, I had to spill it all then. (Why couldn’t I have just said “I’m sorry,” and worked harder on my poker face?) Instead, I stopped listening and started talking.

I don’t know if it’s because I also have theological education (my husband and I met at div school) or because I edit the writings of megachurch pastors in my day job, or if I’m just plain too opinionated and think I know the best way to do everything (probably that), but I find it so hard to stay detached from what my husband experiences in his job—to just listen and support him, and not make it about my feelings or what I think he should do.

I don’t go around telling family members who are accountants, lawyers, or scientists how to do their jobs! And dear hubby certainly doesn’t tell me how to do my job! So why do I persist in trying to tell him how to do his job?

The reasons (excuses) I mentioned above may certainly have a lot to do with it. But I also wonder if it is something peculiar to the clergy family. I can imagine few other work environments that have the spiritual significance to the worker’s spouse that a church does. While it might bother a person that her or his spouse’s office does things a certain way, those practices likely do not directly affect people’s relationships with God (including their own), nor is that office chiefly charged with facilitating God’s work in the world. Additionally, the clergy spouse is present and aware of things in the church that perhaps spouses to people in other fields are not. In what other profession do they have “bring your spouse to work day” once or twice a week?

I’m being glib there, but I am curious. Do you have trouble staying detached enough to be a neutral sounding board and empathetic source of support? Do you think it’s a function of the job or just the personality of the spouse?

I’ll admit, I would probably be a snarky loudmouth even if my husband were a dentist. But then again, I only go to the dentist twice a year.

Jessica Miller Kelley tries really hard to be a good wife and mother, despite her snarky streak! Read more from her at The Parsonage Family.

December 22, 2009

Choose to Laugh

I don't know about you, but being a ministry family has offered us some unique experiences. Here is an example. Like many, our churches always have at least one, and often more, Christmas Eve services. But there was one especially hectic year when my husband's plans for the services just were not coming together. It was Christmas Eve Day and there was a whole lot left to do. So there we all were in the sanctuary: my spouse, 2 daughters, and myself, with several lay folks working furiously so that the services would be special. However, my cookies were still not baked, our presents were still unwrapped, and the weather was threatening; but there we were. Everyone was pressed into service. My daughter with her newly minted driver's license had to find someplace that was open and buy additional candles. My, then, 7 year-old, was doing something; I have no idea what. I think I was too worried about the older daughter driving in Nashville traffic.

Now, I could have been upset for a number of reasons, but instead I chose to laugh. Would the church people ever know or care? Maybe, maybe not. That really didn't matter. What mattered was that the services were a gift from our whole family. We each had a necessary part and believe me, the services never would have come off without us all. We had fun because we chose to laugh and have fun.

I'm sure you have similar stories. You could have cried, but chose to laugh. You could have been spiteful, but chose to forgive. Actually, I can't always say that I choose the better part. Perhaps you're a better Christian than me, and you can. But my goal for the coming year is to chose the better, more grace-filled, higher road, not out of duty or obligation, but from gratitude for how God sustains our family.

Please feel free to share some of your own Christmas stories.


Kathy is an editor who works at a religious publishing house.

December 21, 2009

Questions for Mary

Here are a few questions that I have wanted to ask Mary for many years. Was your labor long?How did Joseph cut the umbilical cord? Did the innkeeper bring you food while you were in the stable?What did the shepherds and the kings say? What were your thoughts after you pondered the past nine months? Did you feel yourself growing closer to God during the pregnancy and after Jesus' birth? Did you have to grow in your faith even though you were Jesus' mother? Did you have friends or were people in such awe of you being Jesus' mother that they were reluctant to get to know you? Did angels ever appear to you again? What would you like to ask Mary?

Jacquie is a spiritual director and Stephen Minister in Fishers, Indiana

December 17, 2009

"Love Me; Love My Daddy" is the message of Christmas

Dear Friends, It's interesting that the most comments thus far on this blog have been regarding a post about children. It can be hard to understand how some parishioners can be so loving toward our kids and, at the same time, be so negative towards our spouse. But it occurred to me that the same was true about Jesus. As we know, Jesus referred to God as "Abba," the Aramaic word for "Daddy." As a itinerant preacher, Jesus' messages were never meant to point to how great he was, but they were designed to show us how loving God is. His message really was, "Love me; Love my Daddy." The Good News is that when we see Jesus, we also see God.

Now, I realize there are big differences here. But sometimes our kids really don't see it that way. Sometimes they feel the burden of being the preacher's kid. Being a preacher's kid can be a "heavy gift."

Here is an example. When one of my daughters was in elementary school, another little girl offered this hurtful jibe and said in a mocking tone, "You're not supposed to say that because you're dad's a preacher." In the conversation at home following this incident my daughter told me that this kid's father was an accountant, so I asked her. "Is this child good in math?" To which my daughter said "No." "She should be, because isn't her father an accountant?" My daughter laughed. What followed was a long discussion of how So-and-so's parent was this, and that didn't mean anything about who the kid was or what the kid did. She had a lot of friends, so this went on for a good while. But the upshot was, that she only had to be herself. She was not an extension of her parents.

Statistics show that many preachers' kids never darken the door of a church once they grow up. I'm not sure whether is because they've seen too much or too little. Maybe both.

How have your kids coped with being preacher's kids? What ways have you found to help them learn to be themselves even in church? How do you encourage their unique expressions of faith and witness?

It's all about grace.


Kathy is an editor at a religious publisher.

December 14, 2009

Christmas Poll!

Thanks to those who voted in our first poll, asking readers their role in relation to the church. We wanted to get an idea of who is dropping by SpouseConnect, and--as we suspected--most readers are women married to male pastors. A few are men married to female pastors, and just a couple visitors have been the pastors themselves or curious layfolk.

68% of respondents are pastors' wives
21% are pastors
5% are pastor's husbands
5% are laypersons
(yes, that totals 99%--there are fractions in there somewhere!)

Since we're well into Advent now, tell us: What sorts of gatherings and greetings are you participating in with your congregation? Do you host a party? "Make the rounds" to a bunch of Sunday school or small group parties? Send Christmas cards? You can select as many options as apply!

Also, if you have found a creative way to celebrate with your church members at Christmas or to protect your family-time during the holidays, leave a comment and tell us all about it!

Laugh out Loud Funny

Dear Friends, Need a good laugh? Check these out from YouTube. A couple were played at our Spouse lunch at Annual Conference.

In fun, Kathy

Kathy is an editor at a religous publishing house.

December 12, 2009

I Am A Role

When I was a youth, I was very involved in church, and I have a vague memory of people appreciating my eagerness to grow spiritually. Then I went to college, and I got really involved in campus ministries. And again, everyone was enthusiastic about my participation. Next I went to seminary, where I met my husband. When we went to church, people were just tickled that we, so young, were around and actively involved.

Then my husband started being appointed at churches as pastor. And one of the most striking things to me about becoming a pastor's wife was the difference in how our presence was perceived. I remember walking into the first PPR meeting with my husband to meet the first church, and a man looked my husband over with an expression on his face like, "This kid is going to be our pastor?" That man turned into a very dear friend, and things went very well at that church. But it struck me right away how very, very, very different it is to be received into a church as a pastor's family as opposed to being anyone else.

At the church we are at right now, there is, of course, a United Methodist Women's group. I would very much love to be involved in the UMW, but it is difficult with a clingy new baby and an active three year old and no family in the area to leave the kids with. And so I have not been a regular attender. Now, if I were merely myself and not the pastor's wife, the UMW at this church would be thrilled that a young adult woman such as myself shows up sometimes at all. The ladies regularly lament that younger women have not gotten involved.

But I do not count as a young woman. I am the pastor's wife, and it is my absence, not my presence, that is most acutely notice. The very first time I went, I heard one lady whisper to another, "The pastor's wife is here!" And I noted that I am not just myself to them. I am a role. A role with preconceived expectations and conditions. Everything I do and say, it is for them "the pastor's wife" that is doing and saying those things, and it is by the role that these things are measured.

All things considered, I am okay with filling the role. My husband is called to be a pastor, and, just as God brought us together into the covenant of marriage, I learn more and more every year that God also equipped me to handle all that goes with this. But I do wish that there was a way for people in the church to become aware of just how different the experience of church is for a pastor's spouse than it is for any of them.

Kristin is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton Seminary and a pastor's wife in New Jersey

December 11, 2009

Friday Prayers

Every Friday on SpouseConnect, we will post prayer concerns for the ministry spouse community (and other visitors to the site) to pray for. To share a concern, please e-mail at any time throughout the week, or just add a comment to this post.

This week, let's remember in prayer:
  • all those traveling for the holidays
  • pastors and their families, that they relax and enjoy this special time of year, and not get stretched too thin by all the hustle and bustle
  • that we ministry spouses might not feel so disconnected, that we be real with one another
  • Alden M., 13 year old girl in Texas battling leukemia, had a rough week
  • our spouses, that we may love and support them in their important and challenging work

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. --Romans 12:11-13

December 10, 2009

Staff Christmas Gifts, Christmas Parties, Gifts for the Pastor

I love the Christmas season and all the parties. I've often joked about "being on the party circuit" during December. It's really nice to be invited to all the Sunday School parties; we've even hosted an open house at the parsonage. This all well and good, as long as it doesn't get out of hand. But what do you do about getting gifts for your staff--paid or volunteer? Do you give gifts to your church leaders? If so, what works best?

Lately, we've found a wonderful woman who makes hand-painted Ukrainian eggs with rich Christian symbolism. These make great ornaments and I use mine at Easter too. But I admit, finding gifts can be difficult.

It seems that many churches don't give a Christmas gift to the pastor. True, some parishioners sometimes give individually, but not the church as a whole. I've always found this odd; given that where ever I've worked in the secular world, the company has always given at least some token. Perhaps church folks just don't think about it. I remember at one church, the choir gave the director several hundred dollars (I was in the choir and gave too.) And my spouse got nothing.

I know we are not in ministry for the money, but simple acts of kindness often just go undone. It's significant too that, in our experience, the smaller churches are the most generous.

What do you think? Should churches give pastors Christmas gifts? Should the pastor give gifts to the staff and church leaders? What make the most meaningful gifts for you and your family?


Kathy is a book editor at a religious publishing house

December 8, 2009

Taking Days Off

My pastor spouse loves his job. In fact, when we first started in ministry, he worked all the time
--100 hours a week at least. Needless to say, he was never home. Even though I was newly married with no experience of being a pastor's spouse, I knew something was not right. So it wasn't long before I issued an ultimatum: Take some time off or else. I wasn't sure what the "or else" meant, but I was pretty angry. So my repentant spouse said he would take one day off a week. And guess what, he found that he got more accomplished the other 6 days. Later when we had kids, he went to 2 days off a week. And although he occasionally backslides, he has remained faithful to his promise. This is not to say that he doesn't work from 7 am to 10 pm every other day and talk on the phone, or do weddings, funerals, hospital visits, emergency counseling, or think about his sermon on his days off.

Statistics show that an average work-week for a pastor is about 50-60 hours. But the sicker the church, the more the pastor works. In my experience, this is true. With so many toxic and dying churches, some of our spouses are literally working themselves to death, others deal with stress in equally unhealthy ways (over-eating, other compulsive behaviors, addictions, depression, etc.) Wonder why our health insurance costs so much? The only profession that has higher stress is air traffic control.

Do you want your spouse to be healthier? Do you want your health insurance to cost less? (In a conference I know, the family health insurance is going to $30,000 a year. Yes.) We need to encourage our spouses to take time away from the church. Even Jesus did not work all the time. Even he got tired and had to get away.


December 7, 2009

From Those Who Have Come Before Us

Recently I have been really encouraged by reading the stories and prayers of the earliest women in the Methodist movement. I thought I might share some of it. The following is from the diary of one of the first Methodist pastors' wives in England. Her name was Mary Entwisle:

"July 26, 1795 - Since I wrote last we have removed from Leeds to Colne, from Goshen to the wilderness. Yet I have proved God is here. I met with a very severe trial here. Mr. Harrison's had left a child in the house sick of the small pox. My dear John [her baby] had not had the small pox and was obliged to be prepared and inoculated immediately. He was severely handled, his life endangered. I, in a strange place, my dear husband, true partner of my weal or woe, at a great distance when the child was at the worst My trials were great, yet praised be the Lord, strength was proportioned to my day. I believed the Lord would spare my child. He did and raised him up again in a few weeks after I was delivered of another fine boy [Marmaduke, born Sept 1774]. And the Lord was with me in the trying hour. He brought e safely through after hard lingering labor. I was enabled in patience to possess my soul. I felt much of the divine presence during my confinement and resolved if the Lord raised me up again to lead a new life, but alas! I have broken my resolutions and I do not yet feel my heart established with grace. I feel my soul humbled before the Lord. I have now spent a year at Colne and I think I have neither been doing nor getting good. My dear partner is now gone to conference. I felt concerned on account of the disputes which agitate our Connection. The Lord pour upon your ministers teh spirit of wisdom to know what steps to take, and love to submit one to another. O Lord if it be your blessed will grant that liberty of conscience may be granted us with respect to our commemorating your dying love, and that all strife for power or superiority may be done away, and give peace and prosperity to your church. [John Wesley had died not too long before this was written, and the connection was figuring out how to move forward].

July 1796 - The Lord has in the course of his providence brought us to this place where we are comfortably situated among a kind and affectionate people, some of them, I think, deeply pious, and where we have every outward comfort which we can desire. I trust I feel a thankful heart and a determination to give myself afresh to God in my new situation. I have ben favored with some refreshing seasons both in public and private since I came and, in general, have felt earnest desires to be more deeply devoted to God."

From: Paul W. Chilcote, Early Methodist Spirituality: Selected Women's Writings, Abingdon Press, 2007, pp. 128-129.

Kristin is a doctoral candidate in Old Testament at Princeton Seminary and a pastor's wife in New Jersey.

December 4, 2009

Prayers and Polls

We want to introduce a couple of regular features to SpouseConnect that will enhance our interaction and build our community as fellow ministry spouses and children of God.

First, Prayer Concerns. Please e-mail us at anytime with prayer concerns you would like to lift up in the SpouseConnect community. We will not include your name or your church's name unless you request it. We will compile all the concerns received each week to share in one post for this purpose each Friday.

These can be specific prayers for your family and your congregation, or any other needs you are aware of. Bearing one another's burdens is a huge part of why this site exists, and we can all use a good reminder to go to God in prayer for the concerns that spouses may or may not lift up in the larger congregational setting.

The second regular feature will be a poll, posted on the upper right side of the blog. This may not be as frequent or regular a feature as our weekly prayer concerns, but watch for new polls every so often so that we can express our opinions on various issues in a simple, statistical way. (If you subscribe in a Reader, click on over to the site in order to see and respond to the poll. A new post will announce when a new poll is up!)

Since we are a brand new site, let's see who else is here! Our first poll just asks whether you are a ministry wife, ministry husband, PK, etc. Just click on the appropriate circle and click "VOTE!"

Living in the Light

Dear Friends,

Jessica's gracious observations remind me about the importance of being kind and compassionate even in the face of thoughtless, or worse, malicious folks in the congregation. There have been times when I've been so broken, hurt, angry, self-righteous, etc. that I did not want to go to church at all. But I went anyway; although sometimes I had to be prodded. But with God's help, I will never let anyone snuff out my candle. People can, and have, said all kinds of things. I may be injured, but I will never be defeated. Is this because I've got some kind of super faith? No, but it is because I have a devoted spouse, a strong family, and empathic friends.

There has been some conversation about whether this is a safe place for spouses. "Somebody" might it worse for our spouses if they see something they don't like. Admittedly, this is a very real possibility. But we all know that evil loves the darkness and gossip breeds in the dark. The very best we can do is live in the light and be a positive force. It's all about power. Be careful what you say, but don't let some nameless "somebody" take away your voice.

We all know that as spouses, we see the very worst of people. But in my experience these are the people who hurt the most; they strike out because of their own pain and guilt. But we also see the very best; and that thought is what gets me through. It's Miss Esther's heart-felt prayers; it's Glen's steadfast devotion to mission; it's Paris Cotton working with my husband until midnight so that he'd get that cradle finished.

So when my spouse, or I, or even my kids become the object of someone's sin, I arm myself with these verses, "With God nothing is impossible" and "Nothing can separate us from the love of God." Because in the end, no one can defeat gracious, ever-seeking love of God.


December 3, 2009

Coping with Christmas

Christmas is the time of the year when Christians celebrate God’s greatest gift to humankind. Ironically, it is also an extremely stressful time for pastors and their families. There are additional worship services, musical celebrations, children’s and youth programs, parties held by Sunday School classes, choirs, and other organizations, and end of the year business meetings that consume large amounts of time from November to January. Add to this hectic schedule the pressures of school, dual careers, family events and out-of-town guests, and it is no surprise that pastors and their families begin the New Year exhausted.
This year, be intentional about preserving your family’s sanity and celebration with these strategies for maintaining a sense of joy, peace, and worship amid a time of chaotic activity.

1. Create Moments of Rest
The Psalmist said, “My soul finds rest in God alone.” (Psalm 62:1 NIV) Moments of rest are intentional; they do not just happen. Turning off the distractions of the home (telephones, televisions, computers, and video games), taking a walk or some quiet time alone can restore a sense of calm. Attending to one’s own spiritual needs through practices of Sabbath keeping, prayer and spiritual reading help keep the mind uncluttered and focused on God.

2. Evaluate Expectations
As a therapist, I often recommend that my clients take stock of self-imposed expectations as a first step in reducing stress. Personal expectations tend to be harsher and more rigid than the expectations of others. Congregants are often more understanding than we expect them to be. They, too, are under added pressures during this busy season, and will understand if you or your family can’t make an appearance at every event.

3. Plan Ahead
To maintain sanity and good humor during December, it is helpful to have mapped out ahead of time a schedule that includes time for relaxation and family in addition to church events. If conflicting invitations arise (and they will), the pastor has the option of honestly and graciously declining, citing the prior engagement. Whereas a congregant may have one Sunday school party to attend, the minister may be invited to ten different parties. The minister who tries to attend all of these events will have a weary and miserable Advent and Christmas.

4. Put the Children First
Families with young children face particular challenges. Babysitting costs make attending multiple adult gatherings cost prohibitive and limit the number of events that can be reasonably scheduled. Be sensitive to not just your wallet, but to your children’s perceptions of the church’s claim on your time. Children’s future attitudes toward the church are often forged by these early experiences. If they perceive church activities as taking precedence over family time, it is unlikely that they will embrace the church as a nurturing community when they are older.

5. Make Your Own Traditions
Another schedule trap that can be avoided is maintaining traditions begun by previous pastors. It is not necessary to host an event like an open house or staff party when the demands are already overwhelming. Pastors who are determined to open their homes during the holidays can lessen the stress by accepting the congregation’s offers to help, closing doors to messy rooms, and keeping the food simple or welcoming pot luck meals. But better yet, let the pastor’s family model for the church the alternative ways of celebrating and giving during this sacred season.

Even with intentionality and planning, the season has a way of growing larger than life itself. The Psalmist said, “Return to your rest, my soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 115:7). Pastors who learn to preserve time for God, family, and relaxation during the flurry of activity inherent in the Advent/Christmas season will find themselves blessed.

Kathryn Edwards is a school psychologist and a therapist with a private practice working with adults and families. Her husband, Ken, is an elder in the Tennessee Conference. They have 3 sons and many happy Christmas memories.

This article originally appeared in Circuit Rider, Nov/Dec/Jan 2008-09. Reprinted with permission.

Love Me, Love My Daddy

As many pastors’ families are well aware, the negative emotions of the congregation can often be (mis)directed at the pastor. As my husband likes to say, “Being a leader means everything is your fault.”

Some frustration and conflict in our church flared up recently, and (naturally?) blame and nastiness got heaped on my husband. There was a flurry of unpleasant phone calls, e-mails, and he-said-she-said conversations flying about. It was a very stressful week for my husband, and—by extension—for me.

As I readied myself and our infant daughter for church the next Sunday, I thought about the enthusiastic cooing and cuddling that awaited my ever-adorable baby girl and I, and my teeth clenched up.

"How dare they?" I thought, (admittedly unfairly universalizing my frustration to not just the handful of individuals involved, but the congregation in general). How dare they fawn all over my baby and I, while inflicting such misery on my husband? Don’t they understand that we’re on my husband’s “side”? That what they say to him hurts us too?

I wanted to get her a bib that says “Love me, love my daddy.” Could they then imagine my little girl sitting by and jutting out her bottom lip, furrowing her brow, maybe starting to cry when they conspire against her beloved Daddy?

I am fairly new to the clergy-spouse thing, and definitely new to the church conflict thing, so I wonder: how do I respond when people treat me and my child as ornaments for their enjoyment, while treating my husband as a whipping boy? I wouldn’t wish to be treated equally badly, but smiling and acting like I know nothing of the conflict doesn’t work for me! Should I just avoid the offending parties, skirting through the pews the way I would dodge a long-winded person en route to the bathroom? (That sure beats the stink-eye I am tempted to give!) Tell me, fellow clergy spouses: what would you do?

Jessica Miller Kelley blogs about parenthood, books, and faith at The Parsonage Family.

December 2, 2009

Healing Touch by Faith
Some of you have experienced the healing touch of Faith. Check out her website for more information.

December 1, 2009

Welcome to SpouseConnect!

If your spouse is a pastor, this is a space for you to be you. Feel free to share your hope and vent your anger. Feel free to share an opinion or favorite coping strategy. It is our hope that you will connect here to find the support, information, and camaraderie that you need.

SpouseConnect was started because pastors’ spouses too often feel lonely, disconnected, and frustrated, and have no one they can openly, honestly share these feelings with.

Not long ago, I (Kathy) was at a gathering of other ministry spouses. Because we have known each other for years, the conversation quickly deepened beyond the usual, “Hi, where does your spouse serve?” One friend, in particular, shared how lonely being a minister’s spouse had been for her. Sadly, the rest of us agreed. But we also shared how there had been other spouses who mentored us and introduced us around. Mine was Mary Morris. But we felt that much of the mentoring was now lacking.

When I got home, frankly I got a little angry. Why does it have to be that way?

Well, you know, it doesn’t. So I started thinking about what to do about it. When I got to work on Monday, I approached my colleague, Jessica, also a pastor’s spouse, who is so much more computer savvy than me. Amazingly, she had similar thoughts. The end result is this blog.

We hope you will find some inspiration in the writings of other ministry spouses, and find people you connect with here. Feel free to join in on the conversation by commenting on posts that strike a chord.

Can I remain anonymous? Sure. We hope this will be a safe space for you to be yourself. If you feel safer commenting anonymously, that’s fine! Just click “Anonymous” when commenting.

Are there any rules here? Yes. No personal attacks. No inappropriate language. Be kind. This is the Internet, after all, so use good judgment.

What if I have questions? Contact the general SpouseConnect e-mail address at

As people intimately connected to the Church, we see the very best and the very worst of people. The purpose of this blog is to help bring out the very best as we live faith, shout hope, and love one another.