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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Prayer for Those in Ministry Transitions

We moved in February to a new place of service, leaving our small West Texas town for a bustling Houston suburb. We still have boxes to unpack and names to learn, but it's starting to feel like home.

I know I'm not the only one in the midst of a transition. Some of you are starting to feel the holy discontent that signals God may have something different in store. Some are hurting and looking for an exit plan. Others love where you serve but can't escape the quiet certainty that it's time to move on. And you may be at different places in your transition journey. Like us, maybe you are dealing with unpacking boxes and finding your way around your new home. Maybe you're in the midst of packing and garage sales. Or maybe you're still in the middle of sending out resumes and talking with search committees, trying not to be discouraged by one more no.

Wherever you are in your transition process, I want to pray a prayer of blessing over you:

For those who are hurting from a painful season of ministry, may God be the great healer of your hearts. He stores your tears in his bottle; he records them in his book. Your sorrow will not be wasted. May God turn your mourning into dancing; your weeping into shouts of joy. May he bring to you to a place of healing and freedom where you can serve him in joy.

For those who are grieving the loss of friends and family, of favorite hangouts and familiar roads, may God establish you in a new family of faith. Change always brings its own sense of loss--the way the sunlight slanted through your window in the morning; the way your favorite hymn sounded with familiar voices. May God comfort you in your sorrow and surround you with heart-friends. May God open your eyes to the blessings around you so you can greet the future with open hands.

For those on the road, living out of suitcases and boxes, one foot in the old and one in the new, may God bless you with laughter today. May he be real to you in the present moment--not a memory and not an item at the bottom of your to-do list. May he keep you safe as you travel and birth in your heart a vision for what lies ahead.

For those joyfully serving and yet sensing it is time to move on, may God bless you with good goodbyes and open doors. May every moment count. As you have shepherded people through your season with them, may you continue to shepherd them well as this season draws to a close. May you end well, faithfully loving both your people and your God. May God give you anticipation and joy for what lies ahead.

For all living in the in-between and the unknown, may God help you face the future without fear. May his peace ride sentry duty around your heart, assuring you God is already preparing you and your family for what is to come. May God set before you open doors; may he give you clarity and confidence in each decision you face. For God is not waiting around the next bend; he is with you guiding every step. May you rest beneath the shelter of his wings.

How has God been with you in times of transition and change?

About the author:
Leigh Powers is a pastor's wife, Bible study and devotional author, freelance editor, and mother of three from Houston, Texas. She is passionate about helping women find hope and healing by meeting God in his word. You can connect with Leigh on FacebookTwitter, or follow her at her blog My Life. His Story (www.leighpowers.com).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

When the Offense Isn't Against You.

One of the challenges ministry wives face is that when things are going badly for our husbands at church, often we can’t directly respond. We see the toll it takes when he drags in after another difficult board meeting; we encourage him when he gets blindsided by another petty critic. And as Karl Vaters recently wrote for Christianity today, those snapshots our husband bring home can be harder on us than on them. Where our husbands can be proactive in handling conflict, we can only react. And while they get to walk through the process of reconciliation, we only hear about it secondhand. How can we respond when the offense is against our husbands, not ourselves?

  • Acknowledge your own hurt. It may not be your job on the line, but challenges to your husband’s leadership still feel personal. Sometimes we try to dismiss secondary pain, saying things like, “It wasn’t about me, so I should just let it go.” But stuffing feelings into a closet doesn’t make them go away. In times of church conflict, we need to identify what  we feel and why we feel it. “I feel threatened and insecure because I’m afraid my husband is going to lose his job.” “I feel angry because it upsets me to see my husband hurt unfairly.” “I feel betrayed that people can be nice to my face, then gossip and complain about my husband behind his back." Acknowledging our hurts brings them into the light so we can examine them, work through them, and heal.
  • Walk through the process of forgiveness. We may not get the chance to be on the forefront of reconciliation, but we can still walk through our own process of forgiveness. Forgiveness is an essential tool for ministry longevity. I’ve written more about the process of forgiveness at my blog, but the heart of forgiveness is accepting Christ’s payment as sufficient for the offenses committed against us and trusting him to heal our hurts. We don’t have to demand payment or retribution when Christ has already paid it all.
  • Choose blessing over bitterness. One of the great dangers ministry wives face is the temptation to give in to bitterness and cynicism. Satan wants us bitter—focusing only on the bad and viewing the church through skeptical, untrusting eyes. But there’s a way of escape: blessing is the antidote to bitterness. As God brings healing to our souls, we can choose to be channels of blessing. We follow Christ’s example in offering grace and mercy—even to those who have hurt us, wounded us, and betrayed us. We keep loving--not putting ourselves in jeopardy, but offering kindness and choosing to do good. Bitterness closes us off. Blessing opens us up so we can continue to experience God’s mercy and grace as we pass them on to others.
When the offense isn't against us, we don't always get to personally experience the reconciliation process. But we can still look to Christ for healing, grace, and the courage to keep loving well. Be blessed.

About the author:
Leigh Powers is a pastor's wife, Bible study and devotional author, freelance editor, and mother of three from small-town West Texas. She is passionate about helping women find hope and healing by meeting God in his word. You can connect with Leigh on Facebook or Twitter, or follow her at her blog: My Life. His Story (www.leighpowers.com).

Monday, March 6, 2017

Raising Healthy PK's

"Some of the worst kids in the church are PKs".  I couldn't believe my ears as my girlfriend cavalierly vented those words.
I glanced down at my latte as she continued to drone on and on about her church's children church - and the PKs that were making her life miserable every single Sunday.   I was hoping the subject would change, but it didn't.
Looking me straight in my eye, she shook her head and said, "Teri, I just don't understand why pastor's kids are always so ...so...bad".
Waiting for her to read my facial expression and remember my kids are “pastors' children" too, I looked away. She never quite caught on to what I was feeling and I didn't say anything.  Do you want to know why? It was because I sort of agreed with her and nodded my head in agreement; a gesture that felt like betrayal to all the pastors' wives in the universe.
I, too, often wonder why so many pastors’ kids are so “bad”. When you think about it, it really doesn't make sense, does it? Those little buggers actually live with the pastor and his wife, right? They have access to the church's undershepherd 24 hours a day. How could so many of them be such hellions?  Seems some holiness would rub off just by association, right?
Wrong. Wouldn’t it be nice if life were that simple?

What’s with me?
This is oddly personal for me.  Aside from being a mom who happens to be married to a senior pastor, I'm not sure why I take this topic incredibly personal. It's bothered me for years that so many “PKs” struggle with their faith.  I just could never quite understand it. Growing up, I remember being almost jealous of my pastor's children.
"Man", I would think to myself: "I sure wish Elder Cofield was my dad".
My own father was a remarkable parent, but he couldn't preach, tell great jokes and wear a robe on Sundays the way Elder Cofield did. 
The mind of a child, huh?

My theory about PKs.
As you know, our children’s first “love” is us - their parents, right? Even before they can verbalize it, they yearn for us. They crave our attention, praise and time.
With that in mind, what if both parents are consistently consumed by ministry work? What do you think happens? Well, it’s only logical the children would resent the very thing that pulls their parents away.
That family structure (a child's primary nucleus) becomes unreliable and unstable when we don’t nurture personal connections and meaningful relationships with our children.

In my work for a national youth development organization, I’ve learned children tend to “act up” when their core developmental needs are not met. 

How does that relate to us as ministry parents and our children?
If love isn’t provided for kids at home, they seek it in other ways. They may elect to trust someone [completely opposite] of their parents to supply the love they don’t' perceive they are getting from home.
If a sense of belonging isn’t provided for them; they search for it outside the home. The crowd they create to satisfy this need may not be a safe or healthy one.
Finally, if they are not getting the attention they need, be sure of this: they will find outside ways to get it. Young people will ensure their needs are met - either by us, their peer group or from other adults. When we "drop the ball", they find ways to pick it up again. These are not always healthy or desirable ways.

In all fairness, I know each child must, at some point in his life, choose for himself whom he/she will serve - the God of their parents or the world. Please do not think I’m asserting kids choose wrong paths exclusively based on parents' performance. No way!
Still, allow me to be harsh and assert: emotional neglect is neglect -whether it's for the church or not.  Children need stability and attention- plain and simple.  It's our responsibility to supply it. They can never feel that the most important people in their lives don't love and esteem them above all else, right? That means we have to esteem them above the church body’s needs. That means, we must delegate and equip others in the church to meet the needs of the church. It can’t all fall on our shoulders all of the time. We cheat our children when we carry that burden.
Sure, we should serve in the church, but...
I'm not advocating for us to avoid serving in the church. However, "works" should never usurp family commitment to its detriment.
In the end, God will hold us accountable for how we handled these little human beings.  After all, they didn’t ask to be born and definitely didn’t ask to be ministry children. We have to give them the grace we give others and keep their needs paramount.
You know, I honestly believe I will stand before God and be judged - not so much for my work at the church, or for my efforts in the community but for my ministry to my family. Sure, I think He’ll judge me on those other things. However,  I believe how I cared for those closest to me will carry a much heavier weight.  What do you think?  May I never allow the care of others to take preeminence over them. That would make me nothing better than an infidel.
I always say my church will never get a “no” when I’m able to serve.  That means, if I’m needed, I will always do my level best to "show up" and serve the Body of Christ. It also means I'll need to creatively find ways to serve that don't require copious amounts of time away from my children.  It may mean I take a vacation day from work to serve.  It may mean I use my lunch hour for a hospital or nursing home visit.
In the end, I want my children to know they are our priority and that we will supply their needs for love, safety and affirmation. They needn’t look anywhere else.
The next time I hear anyone else slam PKs, I hope to introduce a different perspective and remind them how difficult it can be for children whose parents carry the burdens of souls.

But, you and I, let’s be intentional about keeping our children first, ok? It’s a tough balance for us all as ministry couples; nonetheless, with God’s grace and a little creativity, we’ll manage it. 
About the Author: 

Teri Brooks is a consummate lover of people.  She refers to herself as a “forced extrovert” who loves meeting new people and reflecting God’s love and acceptance.  
She came to know the Lord in 1987 after hearing a sermon preached by her uncle.  Since that day her life has been a journey in God’s faithfulness.  
An innovator at heart, Teri inspires hundreds of women a day on her blogs GodsyGirl.Com, MarriedtoaPastor.com and TeriCBrooks.Com.  She even blogs about getting older on My40somethinglife.com.
 She is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Kansas City and enjoys working as a training manager for a national nonprofit organization.  Almost twelve years ago, she married a senior pastor of an urban ministry of about three thousand members. Her husband has pastored the church for nineteen years. They have two sons and reside in Missouri.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Chasing Today

The good old days sometimes become more an obsession than memory. When we find ourselves trying to relive the past instead of embracing the moment we're in, we are limiting what God can do in our lives. When we hear the words, "We've never done it that way before," come from our own mouths we need to step back and look at how the old ways have kept us from moving forward into new territory. This is true in most areas in our lives and especially in the church.

There was a time a child was thrilled to receive a pencil with the words Happy Birthday printed on it during Sunday school. They'd carry it to school with them the next day and everyone would know it was their birthday. They'd use it until it was a nubby lead with not much eraser left. As a child in the 1970's I would have been thrilled with a pencil. But this is not the 1970's anymore and a pencil is not groovy anymore. Neither is that word.

Why is it easier for us to let some things go than others? Slang, for instance. As a teen in the 1980's I was totally into my gnarly big hair. It was like, awesome to the max. Thankfully, my vocabulary matured as I did. If I were to talk like that now I'd get some bizarre reactions. Probably the same type of reaction I'd get if I were to perm, tease, and Aqua Net my hair to the unimaginable heights fashionable thirty years ago. 

We need to learn to keep our yearnings for the past in check. We can learn from the past but need to move forward and take new chances. What worked once may not work now. The new thing we try may not work now, but we can't stay where we are. My husband and I once pastored a church that was on a very busy road. I had the idea to get up early and make coffee to serve to the people driving by. We had cups printed with the church name on them and had signs made. We stood in the parking lot week after week offering free coffee to the passersby. I remember the day we finally had one person stop. We were elated, but after several more weeks of dumping the unused coffee down the drain we decided this plan wasn't working. Does an idea that doesn't work keep us from moving forward and trying new things? It shouldn't. Nor should it push us back into our area of comfort where we keep the same old things going because they always worked before. 

I've giggled a time or two over pictures posted online. Original family photos of children side by side with the re-enacted version twenty or thirty years later. Same people, same type of clothing, same setting, but a completely different picture. We can try to mimic the past but something will always be not quite the way it was. But this is how it is supposed to be. We are supposed to move forward and grow up. Life without change is boring. 

Instead of chasing the past, including its experiences and the way it made us feel, we should be chasing today. Today is what is in our hand, it is all we have. This moment. We can make it something extraordinary or we can let it pass as we wish for the way it once was. Embrace each moment while we have it. Time passes faster with each sunset and soon we too will be a memory. Chase today while you have it.

About the Author:

Suzanne Schaffer has been in full-time ministry with her husband Wayne since 1992, pastoring in Pennsylvania and Illinois. She has two grown children and spends most of her days either writing or reading with a cup of tea close by. She enjoys attending auctions and sometimes brings home more stuff than she knows what to do with. She believes life is too short for mediocre food and insists on having good chocolate in the house at all times. You can connect with Suzanne at her blog, www.notenoughchocolate.blogspot.com

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