Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Preacher's Wife, Church, and the Priority List: A Rant Just to Clarify

God, The Husband, and The Fam all at once.
An Open Letter to The Preacher's Wife from The Preacher's Wife:

Newsflash: In ministry, it is impossible to please anyone much less everyone. And if you actually are stupid enough to try to please everyone, let me clue you in: It's a lose/lose. You will be miserable, your family will be miserable, and some people still won't like you.

So, I always try to focus on what God wants from me and let the rest roll right off. It helped that we established a clear series of family priorities very early on in ministry. Here it is for anyone interested: 

1. God
2. My spouse
3. Our children
4. My extended family
5. My close friends
6. My personal ministry
7. Church
8. Everything else

Preacher's Wife: This seriously makes ministry/family decisions super easy if you follow it.
Wonder Twins putting on 'make up' to go to church. Yes, I let them go just like this. Don't judge me or my kids. They were so excited to be 'just like Mommy' and their Memaw gave it to them. (See List No. 3 and No. 4.)  Did they look ridiculous? Yes. Are they the example? No. They are kids. Nothing more and nothing less. Just children.

Example: My five-year-old child needs to be in bed by 8:00 p.m. Church goes until 8:30.
Decision: Children before church. I am going home to put the child in bed and not attending night church. (And I didn't attend night services until the kids were able to stay awake until 9:00 p.m., because there is no kind of nightmare like when a kid gets a thirty minute pew nap before going home to be put to bed. Yeah, you might be stupid enough to do that but I, madam, am not.)
Want me at a function? Better check the ball schedule.

Example: Sunday school party is at the same time as my child's opening volleyball game.
Decision: Children before church. Volleyball it is. (Because we will have five thousand other opportunities to fellowship with you at church, but my child is only playing volleyball four years if that. Yes, I choose her. Every time. Don't be obtuse.)

Example: My anniversary is on the same day as a large church event.
Decision: Spouse before church. Ask the Husband if he wants to celebrate on the actual date or the day before. Whatever he says is what we do.  (He'd pick the church and I'd go with him, because I love him more than the church.)

Example: Basketball game is at the same time as a budget committee meeting.
Decision: Children before church. Basketball game. Duh. (Again, how can the budget of our church be anything close to as important as encouraging my child? If you picked 'go to the meeting", I know what your relationship with your kids looks like even from this distance.)

See? Easy. On paper. But it's harder to actually stick to it, because in ministry, particularly if you are the preacher's wife, you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings on purpose. I still, as a wife and mother, have to put things in their proper place in order to honor God through my actions.

  • God is first, because I owe everything to Him. 
  • The Husband is second, because he picked me, and I picked him (well before his call to preach) to build this life together.
  • The Shorties are third, because they are the physical manifestation of our love for one another and our commitment should always first be to our family over any other people. 
  • My extended family is fourth, because without them I wouldn't even be here (and honor thy mother and father is sort of important to God).
  • My close friends are fifth, because they are a layer of my family that I got to choose.
  • My personal ministry is sixth, because that is the thing that God has called and tasked me personally with attending to in His Kingdom work. At this moment in my life that calling is to teach, serve, and work with youth in my church and at CCA where God has placed me to influence an entire generation of young people with the message of Jesus Christ. 
  • And last on that list is church, simply because I wasn't called into the pastorate. My husband was. I was called to my husband, and I will support him in every possible way, but I do not work for the church. I go to church because I love the Lord and wish to worship Him in a body of believers, but I don't work there and am not obligated by anything other than the Love of God to go there.
    Please God. He'll work the rest of it out.
I have been called by God to be obedient and faithful. Right now that obedience is being manifested in working with youth. (When He calls me to something else, I will jump directly into it.) That means that I have been told to work with youth in many different ministries and capacities. I teach youth at church. I teach youth in school as an English teacher.

But don't get confused. I do not in any way believe that I have job requirements placed on me by a church. God has done the calling, not the body of believers. And I will always do what God asks of me. I've been following Him 24 years now. I can hear Him all of the time and know from experience it's much easier when I obey immediately.

Case in point: I HATE Working in the children's department, but I serve in the children's church one Sunday every other month, because someone else did that for me and my kids once upon a time and I owe that as reasonable service to other moms.  I certainly don't serve in that ministry because the church expects me to. I do it for the Lord.

Need Proof? 
Want me at your event? Check the ball schedule.
Don't even think about asking me to teach a children's class on a regular. I will laugh in your face. God hasn't called me to that even in the slightest, so why on Earth would you want me to teach your children anything? I might teach them to hate coming to Sunday School, because "That evil, mean Mrs. C is always yelling at us" is going to be about all they learn from me. Seriously.

Some church folks would find that harsh or unhelpful, but it's still the truth whether you like it or not. I am NOT going to participate in ministries that I was not called to by God. Ever. I would do more harm than help. It's ridiculous to think that just because I'm married to the pastor I should be at everything and be everything to everybody. I'd lose my mind and myself trying to please several hundred people all of the time (who still wouldn't be happy because you can never do enough to please everyone).

And we don't do this to wives in any other profession. Do you demand that your surgeon's wife attend your surgery? Are you offended when your dentist's wife doesn't stand next to him while he checks your teeth? Are you bothered when your plumber's wife doesn't visit with him to make the estimate? People would think you were crazy for even talking that way. So, what makes the pastorate different?

Extended family is before all of you on the list.
I'll tell you what makes the difference--you ASSUME that both people in the couple were called into pastorate. You would be wrong. (I'm not saying He won't EQUIP both people for ministry, but The Husband was called. I was not or I'd be preaching too.)

(Personally, I'd rather that my husband chose to sell aluminum siding or install cable for his living. Then he wouldn't be on call 24/7 and have 200 people mad at him at a time and have to miss personal family stuff ON A REGULAR because of church demands.)

But I was called to be the pastor's WIFE, so I will stand with him and support him in everything he does. I will also heed God's calling in my own life and be true to that priority list He gave me.

I am not in the pastorate. I am not paid by the church. I do not work for the congregation. As a result, I don't have to do any thing at all in the church that God didn't specifically ask me to do Himself. It's incredibly freeing, if you actually apply it. But I guarantee that someone will get offended, because I was at the ballpark instead of at their first cousin's wedding shower. Sunshine, here's a newsflash: 

I don't care what you think unless you are Numbers 1-5 on that list. 

Shocking, I know. But God and I are on the same page here. If this is bothersome to you, you might want to do a serious spiritual check up on judgment, gossiping, nosing about in other people's business, criticizing the brethren, sowing discord, back biting, and harming the man of God (by harming his family). There's some pretty stout and direct scripture to deal with all of those things on your plate first before you critique your pastor and his wife.

So, before you call someone and gossip about what I did or did not do, keep in mind, I don't give a rip. I don't feel bad about it at all. I won't apologize for it. And God is listening very carefully to you. And He is remembering. I'm pretty sure He's got my back, since I'm doing what He told me to do and being what He designed me to be. The more important question is, are you?

We went to this event (after an over-night volleyball tournament on Friday/Saturday we drove two hours, ran a 5K, and danced for six hours, then drove two more hours home) that found us home by 2:00 a.m. on Saturday night/Sunday morning and we made it to church the next morning six short hours later. I want to model that nothing comes before God or worshiping Him. So, we do both--have fun at events and get to church, because I am teaching my children to make their own priority lists.

So, Church Member: Are you putting unrealistic, damaging, judgmental expectations on your preacher and his wife and family? Are you judging when they don't meet your made-up, Pharisee standards (not talking about God standards)? Do you critique their child-rearing? Do you expect their kids to be perfect and an example? (They weren't called into pastorate either.) Do you expect your preacher's wife to be at everything, to fill in for every ministry when a need arises (even if she's clearly not called to it), and to attend everything he is required to attend?

Then, I'm telling you that you are dead wrong and not in God's will. And I'm right.

Because the Love of Christ Alone Compels Me,
The Preacher's Wife

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