January 19, 2012

Are You Really Part of Your Church?

Dear Friends, A couple of weeks ago, I was at a share group when one of the other women made, what she thought, was an innocent remark. She recalled a couple of former pastors (in a good way) and remarked how pastors just come and go in the life of the church. The important people were the laity, who where there through it all--good times and bad.

I can't tell you how this made me feel. Because she wasn't taking aim at either me or my spouse. She was just making an observation. Who could argue with that? But her comments underscored the fact that she also thought pastor's families just "come and go" as well. We are merely transients or place holders for the next clergy family. True, I might be reading more into this that she meant, even so, it hurt my feelings. It make me feel like an outsider.

How odd because so many church people think clergy families are the consummate insiders. If they only knew. While I am active in the church and have been a member longer than the couple of hundred folks who have joined since, some people will always think of clergy families as "different." When the church is a sick, unhealthy place, that is OK with me. But when the church prides itself on being a loving family, being on the outside feels like rejection.

I haven't decided if I'm going to say anything to her or not yet. Actually, I probably won't. But how do you feel? Do you feel like a part of your church? Do you want to? How do you see yourself related to your church?

Grace, Kathy


  1. I totally agree with the comment made by this woman. It's true in many situations. In my professional life, I was a teacher. Principals came and went, but the teachers stayed. It sounds to me as if the woman was just making an observation.

  2. I have another thought on this matter....sometimes we expect from humans what only God can do or be. If we can claim and hold fast to the concept "we belong to God", being recognized and honored as belonging to something temporal has incidental meaning.

  3. I think the most unfortunate part of what that church member said would be if she thought ONLY the laity were important. Clergy families are important too but in a different way. I do not feel as much a part of everyday things as the minister's wife as I did at my own church before I married but I know I am important to the church in a different way. I do struggle with that sometimes though. I wonder if clergy spouses should have the option to be members of the conference like their minister spouses instead of being members of the local church because it ISN'T the same for us. I think I personally would be more comfortable with that.

  4. I think the itineracy system encourages this way of thinking, since it basically says just what she said--that pastors come and go while laity stay through it all. In denominations with longer tenures, and new churches planted by the current pastor, I imagine the pastor's family feels much more ownership and belongingness.

    I felt very much a transient and an outsider in our previous church. But it may just depend on the church. I don't WANT to be a transient in our current church, and I fit in a little better, so I don't feel so much like an outsider from another culture/planet.

  5. There are 3 certainties in this world: One is death, the second is taxes and the third is that United Methodist Ministers will move to another church. Does knowing this make it any easier? Of course not! But I have always believed and even have told parishioners this: the time of a minister in a church is but a bat of an eye in the entire life of the church.

    But to think we won't be remembered is a downright falsehood. Of course the services, meals, holidays, weddings, funerals and small groups that we share with others will be remain in the minds of those parishioners! Not to mention the relationships we build with others! We may not be in daily touch with those loved ones once we move to another church, but we will be remembered for our sincerity, friendship, prayers, presence and laughter. To think otherwise is just delusional!