WHEN A NEW FAMILY WALKS IN THE DOOR

You’re standing there, waiting for the service to start when a new family walks in the door.

Oh, what do I say? I’m the PW, I gotta say something. But I don’t know what!  Help.

1. Hi. Welcome to our church.

2. My name is Linda (well, unless your name is something else), I don’t think I’ve met you?  (This works if you think the family might be the Smith’s daughter and her husband that moved to Detroit – and actually she’s attended the church longer than you. By saying “I don’t think I’ve met you,” I’m not saying they’re new, just that I haven’t met them.)

3. Wow, the weather is certainly rainy (hot, snowy, beautiful, breezy) this morning, isn’t it?

4. Can I show you where the auditorium is?

5. Can I get you a bulletin?

6. Would you like your children to go to our kids’ classes? I can take you to the rooms.

7. Can I show you where to hang your coats?

8. I think I’ve seen you before – doesn’t your daughter attend Jefferson School? (Don’t you work at the bank? Are you a mechanic down at the auto body shop?)  

When we talk about greeting first time visitors in my workshop, I suggest that people think of themselves as the church belonging to them as their house belongs to them. When a new family walks in the door, think of them as being guests in your house – and do what comes naturally. You wouldn’t leave your house guests standing at the door – in the same way, don’t let your church guests stand at the door.

WHAT TO SAY WEEK

Question: I’m shy and have difficulty knowing what to say to people. I think up questions beforehand, but then forget them when I’m in the situation. What can I do?

 I received this question on Saturday and decided it would be a good topic for the week. I am starting “What Do You Say”Wednesdays, but this week will be ALL “What do you say? posts.  (Except for Fun Friday, of course – which will be a cooking presentation by the Munchkin Cooking Crew  – stay tuned.)

 This question resonated with me because I was an extremely shy young, pastor’s wife.

 

If you read my ABOUT profile (look under About in the sidebar), you know I decided to be a pastor’s wife when I was a preschooler. But my mom remembers me waiting for her after a Sunday service (I was in my teens at this time) and listening to her talk with some church people. Later, I said, “Mom, I don’t think I can be a pastor’s wife, because I don’t know what to say to strangers.” My mom gave me a lot of encouragement – she had overcome shyness in her own life. (She was voted shyest student in her senior class.)

 And, I credit the people at our Michigan church for pulling me out it – somewhat. They were so warm and accepting and I felt so at ease, that I gained a lot of confidence.

I don’t think I could call myself shy anymore, but I’m still reserved. I don’t mind speaking to an entire group of people, but sometimes – like this PW asked in her question: “What do you say to someone you don’t know well?”

 This is also a subject I talk about in one of the workshops I do at Awana conferences – “How to Be Friends with Parents.”  The workshop is geared toward leaders who want to chat with the unchurched (and maybe churched) parents who bring their kids to club, but the leaders aren’t sure how to start a conversation.

 But before we start in on WHAT to say – I think we can gain courage and comfort from the bio of Moses.

 Think about his life. Born to a Hebrew dad and mom at a time when Pharaoh wanted all Hebrew baby boys killed – Moses was put in a basket (lovingly made waterproof by his mom) and placed in the Nile River. His sister Miriam watched over him. (We don’t know that she was told to be security guard by her parents or this simply showed an older sister’s love for a younger brother.) Did you ever wonder what Jochebed EXPECTED to happen to her son?  I mean, how long could a baby float in the Nile River without being attacked by animals or … Well, it seems as if she had a plan. Did she put him near the palace on purpose? After all, why was he so close to where the princess bathed? The Nile is a LONG river.

 Miriam (yea for the quick-thinking big sisters of the world) arranged for Jochebed to nurse Moses as a young child. So, not only did Moses learn Hebrew history, but he was schooled (by the princess) in the ways of the Egyptians. God’s plan in action.

 Of course, we all know he got angry when an Egyptian master beat a Hebrew slave.  Moses killed the man and then fled to Midian. Now, even though Moses was smart and probably knew his way around people – both rich and poor. He was destined to spend the next 40 years taking care of sheep.

 You don’t learn how to talk too well, taking care of sheep. Just not a lot of conversation going on. Yet, even in this quiet part of Moses’ life, God had a plan. Moses learned how to take care of himself in the desert – preparation for the big EXODUS in his future.

 Yet, when God approached Moses about leading the Israelites out of Egypt –

 Moses said, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  (Exodus 4:10)

 1. Some Bible scholars feel he had a speech impediment that he later overcame.

2. Some Bible scholars feel he had a difficult time expressing himself, but was able to do so with God’s power.

3. Some Bible scholars feel this was a language difficulty – he was away from the Egyptian language for 40 years, or that he didn’t feel he knew enough Hebrews.

 Whatever the circumstance, God reminded him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?

Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:11-12)

 Moses still asked for help and God reminded hi that Moses” brother Aaron was a good speaker. But Moses himself eventually was the spokesman for Israel.  Later, in the New Testament, Luke writes: Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. (Acts 7:22)

 No, we won’t suddenly have the miraculous ability to say the exactly right words in the exactly right situation.  (That would be nice, wouldn’t it?)

 Yet, just as God was with Moses, He is with us and has a plan for us  — and  is ready to give us the courage to reach out to other people.

 Tomorrow, I’ll talk about some good conversation starters.


FUN FRIDAY – A PASTOR’S APPRECIATION TURNABOUT

Pastor’s Appreciation Sunday is a great idea and our church did some cool things for us.

But one fall, Ken and I started thinking about appreciation and how there isn’t Plumber Appreciation Week or Electricians Appeciation Week or Pet-Store-Cage-Cleaner Appreciation Week.

And even though the gift cards and dinners and trips were very much appreciated, we decided to do a turnabout and make Pastor’s Appreciation be us (the pastor) appeciating the congreation. So we had a high-level, confidential meeting with the other two pastors and their wives and we were on our way.

On Pastor’s Appreciation Sunday we invited all the people to come to an after-Sunday-night-church ice cream social. The three couples (pastors and us wives) bought gallons of every kind of ice cream and every kind of strawberry, chocolate, gooey topping imaginable. We had whipped cream and cherries and nuts and we had a party.

A couple of the pastors gave a speech about how much we appreciated the people

And we had fun.

The whole thing was easy to do and not all that fancy, but I think the people appreciated that we made the effort to appreciate them. That year we were the givers rather than the givees.

WEDNESDAYS AND FRIDAYS


I have a plan.

Wednesdays will be “What do I say ….” days.

For instance: What do I say when someone says something totally in appropriate (I have a great example of this one).

What do I say when someone asks me a personal question?

What do I say when …  

(You can e-mail me some “what do I say …”  questions. Not sure I can answer them all, but we’ll see what we can do.)

Then we’ll have Fun Fridays.

These will be fun pastors’ wives hints – like recipes (which I plan to get from some of you), ice breakers, just fun, entertainment-type ideas.

What do you think?

So, tomorrow will be our first FUN FRIDAY.

THE ANATOMY OF A FRIENDSHIP – PART 2

Every Christmas the church ladies congregated in the kitchen and gym and made Christmas candy. (A recipe I plan to share – come this holiday season.) We’d all bring sugar and corn syrup and flavoring (found only behind the counter at the pharmacist which kind of made you wonder what was in it).

And then two ladies would cook the candy and then pour it out on sugared, cookie sheets where we would wait for it to harden and then cut it. At the end of the long evening, we all had jars and jars of candy to take home.

Barb and I always offered to do the kitchen part. (The cutting part gives you blisters – truly. I’ve had them.)

So, this one year we got the brilliant idea of mixing up the colors and the flavors. We made the orange-flavored candy green, the cherry-flavored candy yellow.  We did not have happy cutters. (Actually, it was a fairly interesting scientific experiment – how color affects our taste.) OK. It was kind of fun being a rebellious pastor’s wife for the evening, although I think some of the ladies thought I had committed the unpardonable sin. They were INTO their candy.

And then on the Sunday her oldest son graduated from high school, Ken resigned. (She never let Ken forget that.)

We had only lived in the same town for four years. She had only been out of the state of Michigan once, so to continue the friendship seemed futile. Our friendship didn’t have all THAT much of a base and the thought of traveling to Wisconsin was … well … not something she had thought much about before.

But we were willing to try.

More than 26 years later, we’re still close friends. We talk on the phone, we e-mail, we visit. No matter how long between contact – we start where we left off.  Ken went back to marry her daughter (perform the ceremony that is), she and her husband – and daughter came to Kelli’s wedding.

When she heard Ken’s diagnosis, she called and wanted to know if I needed her to come over immediately. She and her husband and her daughter all made it to Ken’s memorial service.

This year when I said – “Well, my birthday is coming up and not sure what I’m going to do.” 

“I’ll come,” she said and she did and we had a great time as always. (I was able to show her the Mississippi River for the first time – that was fun.)

God gave us the gift of friendship and what a valuable gift it is.

Yes, as pastors’ wives we need to treat those friendships with a delicacy we wouldn’t need to think about if we were the plumber’s or insurance man’s wife – but they’re worth having – and they’re worth keeping.

And remember, once you’re at another church – you’re no longer the pastor’s wife at the first church – so then you can … just be a friend.

ANATOMY OF A FRIENDSHIP

I met her on a Sunday morning. I can tell you exactly where I was standing when she walked by.

“Oh, Linda,” Ken said, “I want you to meet Barb. She’s the one who wrote the letter to us.”

This was my first Sunday at Tuscola, but Ken’s second. He had been to Tusocola by himself to pulpit supply – but because we had two little kids, I had stayed home. But now he was back to candidate and we had all come to Michigan to see the church and meet the people. As church clerk, Barb was the one who had sent us the needed info.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” she said back.

I remember her calling me a few weeks after we moved in. “The kids up at the Vassar schools have a parade on Halloween,” she told me.” I thought maybe your kids would like to see it.”  And so we went.

I don’t exactly remember when we started the bike rides – but that’s what we did. That’s what our friendship was all about. Every day during the warm springs, during the hot summers, during the cool falls – we rode between five and ten miles down the windy, hilly country roads. (I remember one early December day, riding down Ormes Road and a car stopped and the driver asked for directions to the school. We were a little concerned – it was Santa.)

Oh, we laughed together, but we were serious, too. We discussed everything from discipline to doctrine to daisys. And we welcomed anyone who wanted to come with us to come, but no one was quite as excited as we were to take endless bike rides.

I remember the year we were decorating for the Ladies Spring Banquet and someone had the not-so-bright ideas to bring in dead branches and wrap them in crepe paper, but then everyone had to go home and it was just the two of us and we looked at the dead branches and started laughing so hard, we were rolling on the floor, crying – because what we had was just that – a room full of dead branches, wrapped in crepe paper and it all looked rather horrible.

And then there was the year we messed up the Christmas candy …

(Tomorrow – part 2)

BUT BE CAREFUL …

SOME FRIENDSHIP CONSIDERATIONS

1. You’ll probably feel closest to ladies who teach and work in the nursery and create beautiful peonies out of tin foil for the Ladies Spring Tea. You’ll probably feel close to the ladies whose children are the same age as your children. You’ll probably feel close to people who invite you over to their houses all the time. And if there’s a lady who teaches and works in the nursery and creates beautiful peonies AND has children the same age as your children AND is a good hostess, you probably have a friend. 

Just because ladies who do things at church are AT church and you see them a lot and talk to them a lot. Also, you have a common interest – the church.

Ladies who arrive two minutes before Sunday morning church starts and can’t get out of church fast enough when church is over, will probably not be around long enough for you to be her friend.

2. But that doesn’t mean you CAN’T be a friend to the lady who isn’t involved. Maybe your friendship is just what she needs to feel more welcomed in the congregation.

3. You do have to be careful inviting the same people to YOUR house all the time, but a lot of time it’s the other family inviting you to their house. That’s fine. Go. (And I have some ideas for inviting people to your house, too – but we’ll talk about that on another day.) I remember, as a little girl, always going over to the same people’s house on Sunday night after church. Sometimes other people would be there, other times they wouldn’t. But they invited us and we went and my parents became good friends with them. In our Racine church we always went to the same family’s house on the Fourth of July and another family’s house on New Year’s Eve. They were traditions. But if someone else had invited us to their house first, we would’ve gone.

4. Sure, it’s ok to be friends, but if you’re in a situation where some of those not-too-often-at-church ladies are in attendance, you need to be friendly to them and make sure they’re feeling comfortable. Don’t ignore them and talk ONLY to the ladies who make you feel comfortable.

5. Yes, there are restrictions on your friendship. You can’t ever, ever, EVER talk about other people in the church. Seriously. NEVER.  (But wait a minute, like gossiping is ok in a non-pastor’s wife friendship? I don’t think so.)  You just must watch what you say. Sometimes it’s so tempting: “I am sooooo tired, my husband didn’t get home until five this morning. He was called over to Harold and Ernestine’s at midnight.”  As if the lady you’re talking to can’t figure out that Harold and Ernestine are having marital problems again.  Or, “Well, my husband had to go to the jail this afternoon.”  As if the lady won’t wonder WHY he was at the jail.

Still – there’s a lot you can talk about. Trust me.

What do you think? What experiences have you had being friends with people in your church?