April 30, 2013

Top Secret News

One of the hardest things about moving from one church to another is keeping the secret that a move is in the works. It’s uncomfortable ─ that period of time when you and your spouse are discerning a call to a new congregation, or for United Methodists, when you’ve been informed that you’re moving but your church hasn’t yet heard. It seems like every move results in some type of awkward interaction with members of our congregation during that secret time. During one of these times I had a sweet, elderly lady some up to me after church on Sunday and take my hand. She patted it and said, “I hope you don’t ever move, I just love you husband’s preaching.” How do you respond to that?

I know that keeping the news under wraps is important until decisions have been finalized and announcements have been made, but I often find myself feeling a bit dishonest. I suppose that is because we try our best to always be authentic and honest with our church family, and it feels foreign to keep something under wraps that is going to change their lives. Or, for others, it maybe that you’ve been wanting to move for a long time. Trying to hide the feelings of relief that it’s finally going to happen can feel uncomfortable, phony, and self-conscious.

Whatever the reason you might feel uncomfortable about keeping your upcoming move a secret, those of us in ministry have to learn to accept and deal with this awkward time as an occasional part of our lives. I tend to deal with it by reducing my contact with the congregation in the hopes of avoiding difficult conversations. It also helps to have somebody who you trust to keep confidences who you can talk to about your moving process. If you can get your anxieties out with a “safe” person, you’re less likely to have it spill out at inopportune times. That said, you can’t plan ahead for all the possible scenarios and conversations that come up. Sometimes you just have to wing it – like when you avoid responding to a little old lady by diverting the conversation into how blessed you are to be part of the church family for as long as the bishop allows you to be appointed there. But hopefully you will find ways to gracefully (and as honestly as possible) get through those few weeks.


April 15, 2013

Is It Every OK to Ask a Person not to be a Part of Your Church?

While we believe that all people are children of God, can some stir up so much trouble and conflict that we might ask ourselves if they shouldn't be a part of our church? This is a difficult question; because, as Christians, we believe that we should love and accept everyone, no matter what. But what if accepting some people promises to damage the church community itself.

Here I'm not talking about differences of opinion, theological perspective, or lifestyle. I'm talking about people who are so toxic that they kill every church they become a part of. While there will always be people we don't like and who don't like the pastor and/or the parsonage family, that's not the point. The people I'm talking about are totally insistent on their own way or are so power hungry that they bully others. So if we love the church and want peace of mind for our spouse, what, if anything, should we do?

We might like to think that these toxic people are sick (spiritually or mentally) but sometimes these people are simply so unhappy that they can't stand when other people are happy. Or they are so controlling and insecure that they can't share--their time, gifts, talents, presence, or witness. Or perhaps they have simply turned away from God and the joy of salvation. True, they may need God in a mighty way, but...

But we are also not the pastor. We spouses are laypeople of the church, so any action or inaction we might take will be complicated by our ambiguous role in the church.

Sadly, most of us know people like this in our churches, if not this church, a previous church. My stance is to be civil to these folks, so as not to add fuel to the fire, but I don't invite them into my home and I don't pretend that we are friends. And I pray for them. But I also don't allow anyone to bully another person in my presence. In these situations, humor works best. So if one of these people complains, I typically say, "You're joking, right?" That comment usually knocks them off balance enough that other people have some space to say what they think as well.

The church is a hospital for sinners, but it can't be an emergency room for only a select few.

Your thoughts?

Grace, Kathy

April 12, 2013

Global Impact through Your Estate

Statistics show that as many as 70% of adults do not have a will. The time invested in will and estate planning will reap many benefits, both for your family and the church, making sure your money goes where you want it to go. An estate gift to The Permanent Fund for the United Methodist Church truly does change the world for generations. Naming The Permanent Fund as a beneficiary in your will ensures that the Church is equipped for effective ministry to God's people everywhere.

To learn more about estate planning and the UMC Global Impact campaign, check out this FREE download of Your Legacy: A Christian Guide to Planning Your Will and Trust (which includes helpful basic steps to will planning as well as detailed worksheets for interested families).

April 11, 2013

Help and Tips for Moving to a New Church

As some of us get ready to move to new churches, perhaps you'll share some helpful tips about moving into a new home by leaving comments below this post.

While many churches still have parsonages, a growing number just give a housing allowance for the pastor's family to buy a home. We had the good fortune to be able to buy a house and live in it for about 9 years. Then when we moved to another church that has a parsonage, we rented out our home. I will say that renting has its drawbacks, but overall, it's been a good thing for us. And having our own house makes me feel much more secure if something were to happen to my spouse.

Here are some helpful moving tips:

1. Clean your house and clean out the clutter before you move. You really don't want to move the clutter with you, especially if you are moving into a smaller house.
2. Have a yard sale. Moving can be a great way to get rid of stuff and organize what you have left.
3. Just accept the fact up front that some of what you have won't fit, match, or be usable in your new house.
4. Pack so that you will have a place to stack the boxes. I've found it helpful to pack one room at a time, leaving things we need everyday for last. This means that I pack the dining room first and then stack boxes in there.
5. As you pack, mark and number the box! Show where it came from, what's inside, and where it goes.
6. Keep a list on a sheet of paper with those box numbers and what's inside. I know this sounds like a royal pain; but it really helps, especially if you have to tell the movers where to put the boxes. This will also help keep you from losing things.
7. Let the kids help as much as you can, but when you unpack, try to set up their rooms as much the same as before. And take those special bears, blankets, toys or whatever with you in the car if you can.
8. If you have professional movers, keep an eye on them and make sure that they don't damage your things. We had one mover want to leave my dining room table outside because the weather turned rainy. I told them to leave it on the truck if that was the case. I know most movers work hard and are honest, but many are careless--it's not their stuff after all.
9. Let the new church folks know when you will be moving in. They'll want to know and will want to welcome you with some good food.
10. Pray for a smooth transition and for the family that is following you at your old church.

Grace, Kathy

April 9, 2013

Why Church?

Recently my Sunday School class read Not a Fan. It's a good read but comes from a different theological perspective. One thing we all noticed about the book is that there really isn't anything about the church's role in discipleship formation. According to this book, it's all just between Jesus and you. And it's totally up to you whether you remain a "fan" or become a real "follower" of Jesus. There is nothing about Christian friends or how the church can support people in their faith journey, and there certainly isn't anything about the Sacraments as a vehicle for God's grace.

This got me thinking. Why do we "do" church? For one thing, the church is the body of Christ on earth. We United Methodists, like many denominations, take being the everyday hands and feet of Christ very seriously.The church can mediate God's spiritual presence, but it is also meant to be physically present--to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and house the homeless. As Jesus said the poor may always be with us, but that doesn't mean that we don't do our part to end poverty. But we don't "do" church, because we are the church for better and worse.

Our local church really strives to be the body of Christ. It is mission orientated. This is not to say that there aren't some who just occasionally or casually attend. We have our share of pew warmers, but they are the minority. Our church also strives to be supportive of and pray for each other. Recently, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I've been touched by all the prayer support. Fortunately, it was caught very early and I'll be OK. For now, it's just a major inconvenience. But I know I can count on my church family.

And frankly, sometimes when a person is too broken or too weary to be a follower, in the church we have fellow pilgrims who will help us stay on the path. You can't be a solitary follower of Christ because following is a group/church activity.

Grace, Kathy

April 2, 2013

Sad News: Death of a Friend

Peggy died yesterday. She was a wonderful woman and also a clergy spouse. With an ever-ready smile and plate of goodies, she was a grand friend. The daughter of a UM pastor, she didn't live in her own home until she and her husband retired. She was kind and gracious.

We'll all miss the twinkle in her eyes as she told incredible stories at our spouse retreats. We loved her and hope to be as good a Christian witness.

Grace, Kathy