Next month, I will be facilitating a group of clergy spouses at the annual "Making A Good Move" event. Last year over twenty spouses came. What surprised me was that out of the spouses present, there was only one whose spouse had just finished seminary immediately after college. Everyone else was married to a second career pastor. And several spouses were not relocating because of job seniority or responsibility to a family home or children in high school.
But because we all want a move to go as smoothly as possible, here are some tips that might help you.
1. Intentionally continue whatever you do to stay connected to God. Even if you cut short the time you spend reading the Bible or in prayer. Staying grounded in God is a reminder that God is with you always and available for whatever you need.
2. Keep a routine as much as possible, especially if you have children. A routine can offer structure when boxes, empty or full, are constant reminders that change is ahead.
3. Recognize that moving involves grief. There will be breaks in meaningful attachments. Anger, sadness, disappointment, fear, and other emotions are often present. Realize that these responses are normal and give yourself some grace.
4. Give children an opportunity to choose to do a favorite activity -- one more time -- in the town where you live. Our children took lots of pictures of our house, their bedrooms, their schools, friends, and of their favorite places. Making a scrapbook gave us something to do in those early days of relocation, when we still felt sad leaving one church family as we were trying to carve a new life.
5. Be patient with yourself and celebrate the small steps. Adjustments take time, particularly if you are moving from a small town and church to a larger church or town. Learning such things as: how to navigate streets, how to get to church, making connections for yourself and your children, locating a doctor, dentist, a school, a job, a grocery store, and the library, cannot be accomplished overnight.
6. Share feelings about the move with your spouse and children so that you can support each other.
7. Stay in touch with persons in the congregation or community with whom you feel close, but be smart about it. You don't want to sabotage the next family.
8. Invite old friends to your new church, house/parsonage, and community. Seeing familiar faces after a move can be uplifting. Give your children opportunities to reconnect with their friends and make new friends. (See caution in #7.)
9. Clean the parsonage thoroughly before leaving. As a family, say a pray of thanksgiving for your ministry there and offer a blessing for the next family.
10. Be selective about your involvement in the new church. Talk as a family about how you can do things better this time.
11. Do everything you can to take care of yourself. Packing, moving, unpacking, adjusting to a new town/congregation/parsonage/house, finding a job, helping children find friends/school, require a lot of energy -- physical, spiritual and emotional. Light a candle to remember that God is present in these new surroundings. Ask for God's peace/strength/comfort/patience or whatever you need to dwell in your heart as you make your new appointment feel like home.
12. Exercise regularly. Finding a YMCA or fitness center with various classes can provide fun ways to manage the stress of a move as well as a place to meet new people. If finances prohibit joining these places, take a walk around the neighborhood and meet your new neighbors, which you might want to do anyway.
13. Establish a routine as soon as you can to add familiarity and structure to new surroundings.
14. Find ways to connect with other clergy spouses in the area. The Indiana Conference has a confidential Facebook site for clergy spouses to ask questions or share comments.
15. For those of us not moving, I always try to contact a new clergy spouse in our area a week or two after the move. A phone call or a quick visit can be helpful to the new spouse and offers an opportunity for the spouse to ask questions or just talk.
God thank you for giving us opportunities to see a broader vision of your body in each new church we serve. Keep us aware of your presence as we make these changes in your name. Amen.