April 29, 2010

Preparing Children for Moving

As we drove out our driveway for the last time and rounded the corner past the grocery store, my six year-old asked, "Well, can we at least keep the same Krogers?"

That question just about broke my heart. We were leaving a church we'd been at for nine years
-- the only one my daughter had ever known-- and were headed to our new house. This house would actually be ours, because our new appointment didn't have a parsonage, so I was happy about the move. But to my child, moving meant leaving her friends, her school, her church--most everything and everyone she knew. So being able to still go to the same grocery was a pretty big deal, and we did keep shopping there for a long time.

And, of course, she made new friends and was able to maintain a connection with a couple of her friends, still to this day, over 15 years later.

So this particular story has a happy ending, but other stories have different endings.

How do you prepare your kids for moving? What do you do to keep security and stability in their lives?


April 26, 2010

Two for the Price of One? (New Poll)

Long gone are the days (in most churches, at least) where the congregation got "two leaders for the price of one"--the pastor they paid and the unpaid secretary the pastor was married to.

These days, most clergy spouses work outside the home (59% of wives and 87% of husbands, a 2009 survey of UM clergy spouses found). The leadership roles they do play in the congregation are generally unpaid and more or less equivalent to what any active layperson might do. There is a lot of talk about expectations placed on clergy spouses to teach Sunday school, sing in the choir, play the organ, or lead the UMW--but how much do we actually do?

I teach classes occasionally (a short-term Bible study or filling in for an absent Sunday school teacher) and sometimes help my husband serve communion (something we both enjoy and find meaningful) but overall, I don't do much. I try not to cave to pressures to even attend every event, much less lead them. I often say that my husband needs a secretary, but it's stressful enough on our marriage when I try to organize his personal life, much less his professional life!

What about you? Take the poll in the sidebar at right--the serious one and the more lighthearted one below it--and let everyone know what roles you play in your congregation. (Leave your "others" in the comments below!)

April 23, 2010

Your Guaranteed Appointment or Maybe Not!

Not sure how well known this is, but there is a movement in our United Methodist Church to eliminate the guaranteed appointment.

First, did you know this? And second, how do you feel about it?

From my view, if church work totally depended on the spirituality of the pastor and if pastors were totally responsible for the well-being of churches, I could see...maybe.

Just seems to me that the Bible gives a solid witness about prophets being stoned and Jesus crucified by religious leaders. This makes me worry that not having the support offered by a guaranteed appointment would enable churches, especially toxic ones, to stomp out pastors' prophetic voice. And I worry that pastors who are women and ethnic folks would be further marginalized.

What is happening where you are?

Grace, Kathy

April 21, 2010

Research Project Needs Help

HealingChoice Ministries is looking for Protestant Clergy and spouses who have been forced to resign or were terminated from their job to participate in our newest research project.

If you know of anyone who is interested in participating, go to http://healingchoice.org.
In Christ,

John M. Crowe, D.Min.

April 19, 2010

Meet our minister's spouse, he will...

Easter Sunday, like Christmas Eve, always brings people who do not attend church during the rest of the year. On Easter, as I was talking to a few friends in the hall, still running late getting to my Sunday school class, --I'm the teacher--all of a sudden, someone grabbed my arm, "Jacquie, here are some new people. They want to go to Sunday school, but I don't know where to send them."Then, turning to the couple, he quickly added, "This is our minister's wife, she will take you to a class."

"I will?" I thought. But I smiled, introduced myself, etc., etc. I led them around, realizing that some of the classes were meeting and some were not -- and finally said, "The class I feel is best for you isn't meeting today, just come with me to mine. I'll look for you next week and get you connected."

Ahhh!!!!!! I was late to my class but realized that this couple's impression of the church would be partially based on my responsiveness. So I did the best I could to care for them and hoped they would come back again.

Doesn't matter if a church is large or small or medium (I've been part of all three), the minister's spouse is often a designated vessel of God's love and presence.

How do you respond when someone approaches you saying, "This is______ our minister's wife/husband-- he/she will _______________________?

Jacquie Reed Fishers, Indiana.

April 15, 2010

Every year, Mike, my husband, as an evaluation from the staff/parish committee. Evaluation is part of every job, but sometimes I get defensive when I hear some of the comments Mike receives. Last year was difficult. Giving was down because of the economy. There was a decrease in attendance. Mike always replies to my comments, "The buck stops here." meaning that he is not surprised for being blamed for these changes. I say to him, "But if these people realized how much you cared for each one of them and how much time you spend with individuals and their concerns, how can they point a finger at you for issues over which you really have no control?" (I add thankfully, however, that now giving is back to the 'normal' level and attendance has also increased.)

Anyway, one of the questions Mike was asked by a couple of people at his evaluation was, "When are you going to retire?"When Mike told me that, I said, "Is that a backhanded way of saying they want a new pastor?" Mike chuckled and replied, "I don't know." Mike, who is 62, has pastored the current church for fourteen years. He still has a lot of passion and energy for all aspects of ministry. We have discussed retirement, but not until he reaches 65.

How do you respond to comments about your spouse's 'on the job' performance?

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

April 12, 2010

UMW and You

Recently heard of a young spouse who was being pressured into going to her UMW meetings. It seems that young children were not welcome, but no child care was offered either, making the spouse's ability to attend minimal.

While I've found that UMW (United Methodist Women) is a good place to meet the women leaders of the church, I also have little patience for meetings generally. Currently I go to a circle that meets monthly for dinner. The fellowship is great and the business minimal. With my work schedule, I can't meet during the day. But I also don't have to worry about child care any more.

I do know a lot of clergy wives how hold offices in the UMW, but to make it a natural assumption that a spouse will necessarily want to attend seems a little unfair. And I doubt there is little pressure on a male spouse to attend the UMM (United Methodist Men).

I also happen to know the head of UMW, Harriett Olson. She is a former colleague and member of one of our former churches. UMW does truly great things across the world, but I'm not sure why many of the units/circles seem stuck in the 50's. Although I do have a hunch.

Do you attend the UMW in your church? What is the expectation of you to attend? Do you belong to other civic organizations in your community?


April 9, 2010

Moving and Packing Tips

With moves around the corner for many, it might be helpful to share moving and packing tips. It might also be helpful if you have specific recommendations about movers, both to use and not to use.

I can't say, I've ever had a flawless move, but I have learned that you have to watch the movers. Nobody will care for your stuff like you. I used to feel bad about standing over the movers, but after they left my dining room table out in the rain, I don't any more.

One tip I'd suggest is this: each year, even when we're not moving, I clean out my closets. And I've found that using modular containers, boxes, or bins in the closets make packing much easier when we do move.

Another tip is that, over the years, we've kept our family doctors and dentists in Nashville, which is geographically the center of our conference. We do this for consistency and continuity.

I realize different conferences have different rules, but in our conference, the church does not pay for packing only moving. Even so, I have the movers pack my fine china and other valuables, because they only insure what they pack. And I'd rather pay more, because I can't afford to replace these things.

I'm sure there's a lot of wisdom and experience out there. Please feel free to share.

Grace, Kathy

April 5, 2010

Ready to move a lot? (New Poll!)

"Ready to move a lot?"

That's the question an old professor of mine asked when she heard I was dating a man preparing for ministry in the United Methodist Church.

I didn't take her reference to the UMC's itinerant, circuit-riding pastor tradition seriously at the time. Three years into our marriage and first full-time appointment, I now understand that this is a major concern for many clergy families in the UMC. Some pastors retire with tenures at ten or more churches under their belt, and despite the common knowledge that long pastoral tenures are key to long-term growth and vitality in a congregation, there's still a whole lot of moving going on each year (in many cases, because the pastor has requested it).

I would ask how many churches your spouse has served or how many times you have moved, but that number really doesn't say much unless you know how long he or she has been in ministry. (Three churches in five years means something very different from three churches in a lifetime!) So, I'll phrase the question in a different way:

What is the average length of your tenure at each church you or your spouse have served?

Share your answer in the poll in the sidebar at right. (If you are reading this in a reader, you'll need to click over to the SpouseConnect site.) If you want to elaborate on your answer or this question in general, leave a comment!

Would you recommend ministry in the UMC?

Last week, I got an e-mail from a senior at my undergrad alma mater, Furman University. The alumni office had given her my name as an alum working in the career field in which she is interested. She asked me questions about the skills required for my job, how I got into the field, and the best and worst things about the job. Over dinner that night, I asked my husband the same questions, most pointedly, "If a college senior were considering ministry and asked you whether he or she should pursue ordained ministry in the UMC, what would you say?"

I don't remember his exact words, but the reply wasn't quite what an eager young graduate would want to hear!

A lot of the clergy spouses reading this blog are in the United Methodist Church, and as we've seen through some of our more popular and most commented-on posts, issues like itineracy, guaranteed appointments, and the ordination process are often frustrating to those in ministry in the UMC. Every denomination has its issues (so my husband frequently reminds me!) but there are problems peculiar to the UMC that fuel ongoing debates about the church's future vitality and effectiveness.

There seems to be no shortage of opinions on what the church should do to stem decline, grow vibrant churches, change the world, and nurture effective ministers. One UM leader who hasn't said much publicly on the subject before wants to know your opinion, so I wanted to make you (and your spouses) all aware of this conversation.

Mark Beeson, pastor of Granger Community Church (third largest in the UMC), is somewhat of a controversial figure in the UMC because, frankly, he is pretty different from most UM pastors--or at least his church is pretty different from most UM churches. With the look and feel of a non-denominational, evangelical megachurch, and no cross and flame in sight, many accuse him of hiding the UM "brand." But he is--perhaps surprisingly--very committed to the UMC and passionately wants to revitalize it. He is starting a series on his blog called "Methodist Mondays" to gather insights and spark conversation with others in the denomination.

You can check out the first post here, where he asks the question I posed to my husband the other day: "If someone called to ministry asked you whether they should pursue that calling in the UMC, what would you say?"

Your answer might differ from your spouse's, but our answers to this and the other questions to be asked in the series are quite telling when it comes to the future of ministry in the UMC.

Called or Sent?

I'll never forget how surprised I was when I first learned that some churches call their pastor, rather than accepting the one sent. True, I was just out of school, a newly-wed, serving in the role of pastor's spouse at our first appointment. My husband had a master's degree and we lived with very little. True, we didn't have food stamps but we really looked forward to those fellowship suppers. While we loved the people, the parsonage had a crack in the wall next to the fireplace, such that you could sit in the living room and look across the street. While this may sound quaint, it got cold in the winter. Frankly, I had never known anyone who lived like this. But I sucked it up and reconciled the situation thinking that perhaps my childhood wish to be a missionary had come true. Perhaps you would have been shocked too, given the circumstances.

When appointment time call around, I learned that there were several churches in our conference who had the power and prestige to call whoever they wanted as pastor. To me at the time, it seemed that our church played by the rules and others didn't. Not only that, my spouse had given his word that he would itinerate, but others didn't take their vow as seriously. I also learned that there were wide differences in living standards. Still, this was our first church and our ministry was fruitful. People later told me that they all took a collective sigh of relief when we left because the church had not been so active or taken in so many new members for a long time.

But our time there left its mark.

I made several promises to myself when we left three years later, the first being that I would never let a church treat my family like that again. It was our first church and we didn't know that ground rules about what we could ask for, but clearly there were different sets of ground rules for different sets of churches. To be fair, over time the church did make needed repairs, but, to my knowledge we were on our own. There was no help from anywhere beyond the local church.

Since then, I've lived in some lovely parsonages. Now, can I say living like we did at our first church was worth it? I'm still divided on the issue.

What about you? Is it worth it for you?


April 1, 2010

Where are you in this story?

Those who shouted "hosanna" later turned against Jesus and shouted "crucify him. " But is this really true, or does this thought simple betray our own assumptions about crowd psychology?

People did seem to expect Jesus to ride into Jerusalem and then gather an army and overthrow Rome. But instead, he cleared the temple and called the Jewish leaders "wicked tenants." He told them to render unto Caesar what was Caesar's. Perhaps Jesus just angered and disappointed too many of the wrong people.

But perhaps the "hosanna" crowd and the "crucify him" crowd were different people. Because we see how the leaders were afraid of the crowd's reaction time after time. When the Pharisees questioned Jesus about his authority, Luke, Mark, and Matthew tell us that these leaders were afraid of the crowd. And Jesus continued teaching in the temple, presumably to many believers, Luke 21:37-38. This crowd's open embrace of Jesus seemed to be increasing. Perhaps, for a while, it served as his protection from the growing crowd of plotters.

Luke 22:1-2 tells us that the chief priests and elders gathered in stealth--secret--to plot against to kill Jesus. Why stealth? Because they feared his followers--the "hosanna" crowd.

So maybe the "hosanna" crowd really wasn't the same as the "crucify him" crowd after all.

Where are you in this story? In which crowd to you find yourself? While we'd all prefer to cheer "Hosanna," sometimes our actions suggest otherwise. Do you praise him or crucify him with your daily living (Hebrews 6:6)?

Do you sometimes succumb to political pressure and fail to proclaim Christ faithfully? Do you claim holiness, but harbor racism or other sin in your heart? Do you scapegoat and mistreat others,--your co-workers, neighbors, spouse, even your children?

Let us confess. For just as Jesus faithfully died on the cross for you, he is faithful and just and will cleanse you from all unrighteousness.

John Marshall Crowe

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

I am curious what Jesus did between Palm Sunday and Easter.

Did he spend time in prayer, gathering courage and strength for the suffering ahead? Did he arrange one last visit with Mary? Did he take the disciples on a retreat?

I looked in each gospel and Jesus was very busy during this last week of life. He continued through the marketplace, going to the temple, teaching, healing, telling parables -- typical days, keeping the normal routine. Jesus never lost focus about the purpose of his life even as his suffering approached.

How do you respond to suffering -- however you define it? How can you stay focused on God even when you are challenged? Are there persons you know or about whom you have read, who are able to remain strong in God despite the suffering they are experiencing?

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana