THE FRIENDSHIP FACTOR

What about friendships with our congregation? I’ve heard it’s not good for pastors and pastors wives to get close to the people.

Not sure what anti-social person thought up this urban legend, but it’s been floating around since Martin Luther.

I mean, we KNOW people weren’t saying this back in Bible times, because LOOK at the Bible.

Do you know how many verses there are about friendship? Well, actually, I don’t either, but there are a lot of them. Proverbs is a complete “how-to” book on friendship – and look at how Christ Himself described His death.

Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends. (John 15:13).

Peter begins his letters Dear Friends and the Apostle Paul also writes to his dear friends. So, THEY weren’t worried about the friendship factor.

But somewhere along the line, no friends became a parsonage rule.

This is one of the good things about being the pastor’s wife – you  can be friends with EVERYONE in the church, whether it’s the four-year-old waiting at the top of the steps each Sunday and greeting you with a loud, “I love you,” or the sweet, ninety-year-old who crochets you a doily EVERY, SINGLE week.

As pastor’s wife,  you have the privilege of sharing in births, engagements, marriages, deaths and major moments in between – in a way that others don’t.  You’re included in family gatherings – the only outsiders. You’re the first to hear big news and you’re the first to hear sad news. Being part of those moments make the friendships be all that more enduring.

But some hold on to the idea that you can’t have friends in the church.

I remember some pastors telling Ken they had missed him at a recent pastors’ retreat. One of the pastors said, “We’re concerned you aren’t getting enough fellowship.”

Ken assured him he was getting a lot of fellowship with the people at his church.

“Oh, no!” They were stunned. “We mean fellowship with REAL MEN.”

Ken always laughed about that conversation (as did our church when he related it the next Sunday). But these other pastors couldn’t figure out how Ken could consider his friendships within the congregation REAL FELLOWSHIP with REAL MEN.

And pastors’ wives can have REAL FELLOWSHIP with REAL LADIES, too.

Seriously, look up the word friend in the Bible – you just might be surprised.

 

Tomorrow – how these friendships happen …

NOT PRESIDENT OF WHAT?

Hey, everyone. Great job with the questions – and keep them coming. I won’t be able to do this if we don’t have questions.

I am obviously posting today – a Saturday – but I want to do a great job helping you, so I won’t usually post on weekends. That will give me a couple days each week to formulate my thoughts, look up backup Scripture and plan out what to post during the week.

After I wrote the “no president of anything” comment the other day, I was asked (in a post comment) how far I carried that – because I obviously did lead some things – like Sparks (which if you aren’t familiar with Awana language) is the Awana club for kindergarten – second graders.) Actually Sparks is a good example of my “philosophy.”

But to start at the beginning about president – 

I refuse to run for president of the United States. (Who would ever want that job? Talk about living in a fishbowl!)

All right, seriously, I stayed away from being the president of any ladies’ group. Part of my feeling on this was passed down from my parents. My mother stayed away from leading the ladies’ groups and my dad felt strongly about that. Sometimes if you put yourself in the position of leading or controlling or making decisions about what the church ladies do, what happens seeps over into whether or not people like the pastor. Or if two ladies get upset with each other (oh my, like THAT would ever happen), it then becomes something that affects the pulpit ministry because YOU’RE involved. If you’re on the sidelines, then the problem isn’t personally affecting the pastor’s family and the problem then becomes easier for the pastor to solve.

Not everyone would agree with that and right now I attend a church of several thousand and the pastor’s wife is in charge of the Womens’ Ministry and I guess that’s fine. I haven’t been there long enough or gotten to know the ladies well enough to know if people are ok with that or not. Does she get paid? I have no idea. So, I’m not saying it doesn’t work. I just chose not to do it. 

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses (2 Corinthians 6:3-4)

The thing is – we’re servants. Servants serve (otherwise we’d be called something else.) Servants do the job that needs to be done. If there’s absolutely, no one else who can do the job – then step into the position and do what you do well.  But give someone else the opportunity to be in charge. Give someone else the opportunity to shine. Then help and support that person by serving. 

Our first church was in a tiny, Michigan town. The church (though well established) hadn’t had a kids’ program like Awana.  When we started Awana, the entire church was supportive and many, many of the adults participated. Because Ken and I were the ones who KNEW the program, being involved was natural – since I was the one who understood things like beanbags and handbook time. So, for me to become director wasn’t a problem. No one resented me stepping into that role.

Now, fast forward to our last church. Not only was the church well established, but Awana was also well established – they had had Awana since Eisenhower was president. And me? A double whammy. Not only was I the new pastor’s wife but I WORKED at Awana and had actually written some of the programs they were using!. Looking around at the church’s Awana program, I saw some areas that were well run and some that were scary! 

Oh, how easy for me to go to the leaders and say, “Ummm … you’ve got it all wrong. Do it this way!” But I didn’t say a word. If someone had a question, I answered it. That’s all. I got plugged in to one of the groups and I quietly did my job. I didn’t make a suggestion. I didn’t correct anything.  I concentrated on doing what I did well.  

Later I moved to the middle school group and worked there 8 years or so. Again, I wasn’t director – just did my job.

So after 11 years, the Sparks directorship opened up and I stepped in. By this time, people knew me and it was fine – but it wouldn’t have been fine if I had walked into the church and said, LOOK, THIS IS THE WAY YOU DO STUFF IN AWANA – even though I knew what I was talking about. 

And actually – after many years, I did lead some women’s events (not the overall program, though). When, after several weeks of asking, no one stepped up to plan the Christmas tea, I agreed to do it – along with two other ladies. We became a team and did it for five years. This worked because I had been at the church for awhile and people trusted me. And, because the ladies who “always” did it, had “retired” and they needed someone.

So, my final thought would be – it’s not so much WHAT you do, as to HOW you do it. Is there a perception that you are doing what someone else is capable and willing to do? 

Be a servant – that’s biblical (and it keeps you out of trouble).

**********

Next week, I’ll talk about friendship.

SAD

 

Some sad statistics that are floating around cyperspace.

80% of pastors’ wives think their husband is overworked.

80% of pastors’ wives wish their husband had another career.

Most pastors’ wife think that the worse event in their family was the day their husband entered the ministry.

 

Ladies, I promise you. You don’t have to be one of the statistics. 

You can do this – and yes, there will be moments that are discouraging, but there will also be a lot of rewarding moments.

 

 Let’s work on this together

WHAT TO DO

Question: It used to be that pastors’ wives did everything in the church. That’s changed. How do we handle that? How do we explain the pastor’s wife role to people who still think we should be superwoman?

A PK friend was cleaning out his dad’s study and uncovered a book called: The Perfect Pastor’s Wife. Interesting that the book was hidden under three dead moths, five books on church growth and a moldy coffee mug. Obviously no one had been reading it any time in this century.

I opened it with much trepidation ready to admit failure in my spiritual calling and turn in my bleach and disinfection (oh, wait, I don’t do the kitchen stuff, do I?) Not too worry. By the time I had skimmed through to the last chapter, I was weeping – not in guilt or anguish, but in laughter.  The book explained that the pastor’s wife must fill the pulpit whenever the pastor was sick or away. Seriously. The author was not just a pastor of any, tucked away country church, either. He was an itinerant pastor who traveled from town to town. In mile by mile detail, this pastor explained how his wife tramped through snow and slushed through rain to be a true helpmeet and share a quickly-prepared message with the waiting congregants.

We put the book back under the moths, the church-growth books and the moldy coffee cup. Let someone else unearth it 100 years from now.

I go back to the gifts.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. (Romans 12:6)

Not only can’t we do everything, we shouldn’t do everything because that’s beyond our capability. That’s not the way God made us.

Here were my rules

1. I would not be president of anything, nor would anyone have to move out of the ministry she was doing so that I could step in. 

2. I would attend any regularly-scheduled service of the church: Sunday school, Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. 

Five reasons I did the church-attending thing:

     a. How could Ken expect others to show up if his own family didn’t care?

     b. We wanted to be good examples to our kids. (We always told our kids, you’re not attending church BECAUSE you’re the preacher’s kids, but BECAUSE you’re our kids.)

     c. Ken liked me to hear him preach because then he could bounce things off of me later: Did that sound ok? Did you follow me? Do you think they got it?  (Of course, I always said, “yes, yes, yes.”)

    d. I sincerely enjoyed listening to Ken preach.

    e. The Bible says we should get together to study God’s Word.

3. I would get involved in areas where I could best use my gifts of writing and teaching.

When people challenge you on what you do and why you don’t do more, don’t defend yourself.  You could smile and ask, “What do you think I should be doing?” (If you really want to know what she thinks, but you probably don’t.)

The best response is, “I believe working with the primaries is the best way I can use the gifts God has given me. My husband and I have talked this over and he agrees.” (Hopefully, you HAVE talked it over with your husband. Be open about that. This shows that you stand as a team.)

4. If there was a spontaneous need and I could help out, I would – even in the kitchen. I remember one Christmas tea when the ladies did that table-hostess-bring-your-own-china thing. After the meal, everyone went upstairs for the program and one lady was left with all the dishes (which had to be washed so the ladies could take them home). And so I helped her. I’m not sure we got the whole soap, bleach, disinfectant mixture right – but they at least looked clean – and were ready in time.

These are my rules. Write down your own – and then stick to them. 

(Then if someone asks you why you don’t do something, you can say “Sorry, it’s the rule.”)

The Lord wants to use us. He wants us to do the best job possible. We can’t do that if we’re stressed out, worn out and emotionally wrung out.

So, choose what to do and then do it well.

CLASS ACT

The question I’ve been asked more than any other question is: How do I act like a pastor’s wife?

This is my answer: DON’T!!!

When someone acts, she plays a role or personifies someone else. You can’t play a role 24/7. Acts come to an end,

I mean, seriously, if I tried to put on the pastor’s wife act, I’d be in BIG trouble!

I can’t play the piano. Well, I take that back. I can play Wonderful Words of Life and Jesus Loves Me. Let’s just say the church music ministry would quickly sink into clanging discord if I had anything to do with it. 

I don’t drink coffee. I don’t care if it’s mocha-rich, cinnamon-flavored, brewed in your own state-of-the-art coffee pot – I, who will eat almost anything, can’t handle it.  Five cups of coffee in my entire life. Three at camp one summer, when my cabin of middle schoolers kept me up all night for several nights in a row. I needed something inside of me before I was found hanging off my bunk in pure exhaustion. Two at my neighbor’s house (after she rescued me and my two kids from abandonment when we locked ourselves out of the house.) She insisted I wanted coffee and nothing I did convinced her that I didn’t. After I had choked and gagged my way through one cup, she poured me a second.

I don’t do church kitchens. Well, I will if no one else is around. Or, I might clear off the tables after a potluck dinner or dry a few dishes – but that’s all!  Don’t put me in charge. I just can’t get myself worked up enough to care if there are 327 knives in the drawer instead of the 328 knives that were there at the start of the banquet or that the sink full of dishwater must include a 1/2 cup of soap,  plus 1 tablespoon disinfectant and three tablespoons bleach or whatever the combination is. I simply can’t get motivated to remember the magic combination.

But I am glad, oh, so glad that there are people with these gifts. (Well, I’m not sure coffee-drinking is a gift, but you get what I’m saying.)

The thing is, there are things I love doing that other people don’t like doing at all. (Give me a class of high school kids or 5th graders or six-year-olds or even middle schoolers and I’m content.)

The point is – I can’t be a piano-playing, coffee-drinking, kitchen-cleaning pastor’s wife because those things aren’t ME!

And I gotta be me.

And you have to be you.

Don’t spend time wandering what a pastor’s wife acts like.

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

(You’ll hear that verse from me a lot if you keep reading this blog.)

Think about it – you are God’s workmanship.  You aren’t someone else’s workmanship.

So be yourself.

That’s the way God made you.

And you’re the lady your husband married.

By the way, tea-drinking IS my gift 🙂