Monday, July 13, 2009

From the archives: making a healthy transition, #4

Originally posted on August 5, 2005

You think transition is hard on you? Wait until you see the fallout for your family.

Any transition is difficult-- not just for a pastor, but for his wife, children, parents, siblings, former friends... no one is left unscathed. Some friends of mine recently felt the force of this as they moved to seminary: they were doing pretty well with it, until it finally caught up to them. Like the rest of us, they were hit with the troubles that transition brings.

I can remember how it was. Coming to seminary was difficult enough: moving all of our stuff, settling into a new home, meeting new people, looking for/starting new jobs, finding a new church, and undertaking a new degree program. While we didn't have any children at the time, I can only imagine that those who do find the difficulty to be increased exponentially. The seminary transition, as most of my readers will understand (I presume), is beastly.

Yet, it was also wonderful in its own way. The anticipation helps a lot; I can remember just as well all that I hoped for: learning new things, meeting those who will become life-long friends, interacting with professors, getting training and experience for the fulfillment of our callings...

No, wait. That's just me who would be doing all of that. Marcie would be working to put me through that. (Or working at home to raise our children.) She wouldn't really get to experience very much of that at all, would she?

Yes and no. Marcie has had a great seminary experience too.

But if you're married and in seminary (or if you were in seminary at some point), hopefully your wife has communicated to you some of the differences between what you are experiencing and what she is. Sometimes it is like night and day.

Don't forget this.

Keen awareness of this point will be essential information during the transition into pastoral ministry.

Because often, in ministry, the situation is surprisingly the same: you, the pastor, come in with great anticipation of all that will happen. You'll meet many wonderful new people who you'll call your flock and co-laborers. You'll be able to jump right into the hands-on work of ministry. You'll become familiar with the community, the town, and the places that will become your regular haunts. You'll begin to catch a vision for what the Lord may do with you there, and the excitement will be nearly overwhelming.

Meanwhile, your wife will be at home with the kids. Or starting a new job. Or looking for work. She'll be lonely, stressed-out, and tired. She'll feel the pressure to get the boxes unpacked while you're writing a sermon or visiting the home-bound. She'll be the one worrying about the family budget-- after all, she still hasn't found a job and you've already been there four weeks!-- while you're going out to lunch with an Elder.

Sunday will come, and you'll go in early, teach Sunday School, chat with the members you met earlier in the week, lead worship, preach your sermon, and accept an invitation to lunch with your new friends. What a wonderful Sabbath!

She'll wander into church uncertain of what class to attend, stand to the side and talk politely with folks she doesn't know, sit alone with the children during worship, and quietly eat her lunch while you talk and laugh, all the while worrying about getting the kids down for a nap. Was that even a Sabbath?

Brothers, as you're settling in to your new position, making new friends, and getting a vision for the ministry God has brought you to do, don't forget the co-laborer that He gave to you for life-- the one who knows you the best. Share her concerns and burdens. Pay attention to what she is struggling with. Help with the boxes. Watch the kids so that she can get coffee with an Elder's wife. Open your heart and mind to her by telling her about the vision God is giving you.

And take her out on a date very soon after the move. And regularly thereafter.

1 comment:

Ken Shomo said...

Could anything be more important for a young pastor to know than this? I'm not sure.