Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Treatise on Being a Pastor's Wife-Part 2

Okay, so everyone was apparently pretty bored by yesterday's post, and like I said, I know I was weird. But that's my story and I sticking with it.

I would like to clarify for the record that I do in fact have chemistry with my husband. (eyerolling). I think anyone who knew us back then witnessed that it wasn't the pastoral thing that had me all over him, but that wasn't the point of this particular story (ok, honey?)


So here's the next part of it all...

It's not his ministry, it's our ministry....
aka....Two for One


So I mentioned to Hannah that I noticed that I don't identify myself as a pastor's wife here on my blog. I know a lot of people have wondered about how I identify myself in relationship to Robb's job and a lot of other ministry wives wonder about their identity too.

When Robb and I were engaged, our mentor Dr. Carter asked his wife to formally mentor me as a pastors wife. It's a little surprising that a Bible college never takes any opportunity to cover this, but it would be too much of a joke, I guess, to offer a class for a bunch of hopefuls, huh? She told me that the seminary used to provide this through a group called "Sheperdess" but it had grown into a "social time" instead, (she said with disdain). Anyway, she and I met for a four week session where I read some books on the topic and she shared her recommendations. This was a great thing for me...I read a very antiquated book by Carolyn Blackburn on the role of pastors wife as well as one by Lorna Dobson (wife of Ed Dobson, Rob Bell's mentor)...which was my favorite one, by the way. She also had loads of article clippings from magazines, typed handouts on topics like hospitality and what kinds of things to keep on hand in the pantry for entertaining on the fly. I believe Mrs. Carter kept a notebook, too, that detailed the preferences of her guests (which were many...including myself, my parents, and grandparents!) That's why my favorite cran-raspberry drink was always on hand when I visited. Of course, I still have all of this info in a file.

The biggest lesson I took from this teaching time was "it's not his ministry, it is our ministry." I am a co-owner of this life. Robb and I took this to heart and have never looked back. My life is completely entwined in the life of our church....for example, today I'll be watching a little boy who's family just started coming a few months ago...tonight I'll go and paint at the music hall and maybe practice with the band...tomorrow I'll go to coffee with the girls from bookclub... This is my life. Like caulk, I fill in the cracks, do what I am able to do, and even start new opportunities. I am fully invested in the philosophy and personality of our church (past and present...which means I have changed quite a bit over the years).

This of course raises a little question...Isn't that like a two for one deal for the church? Well, yes, it is. So shouldn't you get paid too? My answer to this is...for me...no. As long as the church doesn't take advantage of me, I don't have a problem being the support staff. And whether or not they take advantage of me depends mostly on... me. I really believe in Dr. Phil's lesson that you teach people how to treat you by the way you act. So I take full responsibility for setting expectations. For the most part, if Robb is being treated well and paid fairly and adequately for his work, my contribution is whole-hearted and freely given. If they are opposing my husband's leadership and/or using money as a weapon at church, my contributions become bigger sacrifices. It is at these times that I look to God and recall who I really work for...and it's not cranky church people.

We did actually serve at a church where they said at our interview, (and candidating will be my next topic) "We want you to know we don't expect a two for one deal. We don't expect Vanessa to be a part of all you do, Robb." They were trying to be nice, I suppose. But that was the stupidest thing I've heard in a long time. Far better to have said, "We are gonna work your husband like a dog and question him on everything he does. If you choose to work with him just so you can see him, that's your business..but again...we aren't gonna pay you for that." I won't say which church that was, but uh...we were doing youth ministry. Yeah, I'm gonna have my husband work with hot, cute teenage girls while I sit at home fat and pregnant, poor and doudy. Great plan. But I'm not bitter (much).

Every pastor's wife's contribution is going to be different...we have different skill sets and interests, and congregations need to be understanding that pastor's wives, like First Ladies, have no set job description. So be thankful for her for whoever she is.

Trying to decide on priorities between the life of family and church is a little like trying to take all the O's out of your alphabet soup. It can be done, but it's really tedious. Far better to have a blanket philosophy that can sometimes be moved based on individual circumstances...my blanket philosophy is that our church activities better be good for our family. If they pull us apart, make our kids resentful, exhaust us for relating to one another...there is something really wrong. But on the other hand, Robb and I were a family before they ever joined us. The kids are not the center of our life together. Jesus is. So they are part of the team, and we all revolve around Him. If my kids ever voiced resentment for this, I would really listen to them and take their feelings into account, much the same as I would listen to another adult who was burnt out on ministry stuff. I know that this water will get muddier when they are teens, but I'll post on that when I know what that is like. For now, if my babies are sick, I stay home with them...no matter what I'm supposed to do that morning.

I recall from Carolyn Blackburn's antiquated tome just one idea: The congregation wants to be proud of their pastor's wife. I don't know if this true or not, but I act like it is. So I work in a way that makes me respectable, even if they don't like me. I get the fact that people will be observing me as wife and mother and I encourage them at every opportunity to have a realistic view of our life. I recall a ladies meeting which I was called upon to lead, consisting of about 45 gray-haired women. They expected me to give a teaching devotional, but I found teaching these older women anything new pretty ridiculous. I turned the tables and made it a discussion of the greatest books they had read to aid their Christian walk, favorite passages of scripture and their hardest spiritual lessons. Keep it real. That's my mantra.

Of course our current situation couldn't be more different in many of these considerations...here at Vintage, I am just one of the many people who are whole-heartedly committed to the mission and leadership of this church. I have friends in the congregation (which you can't always do in older, established churches) and we all retain our commitment to forswear church politics. The only way I am different (well, me and Jaye T) is that I have sex with one of the pastors.

Okay, so maybe there is a little more to it. So why don't I automatically identify myself as pastor's wife here on my blog? I guess it's just such a pervasive thing in my life, like being human or female, I don't even think about needing to identify myself that way. It's a mantle I wear pretty lightly for the most part. I know that my philosophy is pretty different from many pastor's wives, but this is what works for me, for us, and for our church.

7 comments:

Heidi said...

I don't have enough time to read the whole post, but I'll be back...I can vouch for the chemistry thing though. I know A can too = )

courtney said...

Sometimes I equate the desire to be a pastor's wife up with wanting to be the First Lady or a famous actress--not everybody wants it and not everybody should try it. :) I also don't think it's weird that you don't refer to yourself as a pastor's wife here on your blog because it's kind of like saying that everybody else should identify themselves like that too..."Hi, it's me, Courtney the pastry chef/mom/lawyer's wife..." everything hyphenated as a title. It also lends itself to a hush falling over the crowd as you speak your "especially wise" words. Why do we do that to each other? I set you up on a pedastel and you do your darndest to balance there...what crap.
Having a pastor/pastor's wife for a brother-in-law and sister is kind of like having a priest for a brother--you grew up together so you've got all the dirt on them and they on you so you can't ever worship in their congregation :)

Is Robb still moping?

Sara said...

Okay, I have to say that your post are definitely not boring. I bet that there are just people out there like me that just don't know what to say to posts like this.

I can't say "Well, i hear you there" because i don't know what it's like to be a Pastor's wife, i don't know what it's like to want to even marry a pastor. The things that i dreamed of doing in ministry when i was younger really didn't include a husband because, well, i didn't think that i would ever get married.

Now, here I am not in any full time ministry about to marry not a Pastor but a wonderful hardworking man...who isn't even sure if God would have him be a pastor.

Right now we both know that we are going to work really hard at paying off our college loans, and saving up some money for him to go to a seminary, someday...but that day could be a long ways off yet.

For now, i know what its like to be young, single, and about to be married, living in a new part of the country waiting for one adventure to end and another begin...

So, with that being where i am at in life, i don't always know what to say to you, older and wiser women whom have already 'been there and done that.'

akr said...

Yep..I can vouch for the chemistry thing too!!

I think you have some great insights. I love being an part of it with Kevin...it was the part we really missed when we lived in Cortland and were serving in different ministries.

With family...that's why I love ministry is because it was our family's ministry and we were a part of it...were there times I was tired of it? Heck yeah but I wouldn't trade it for the world and it taught me so many valuable lessons.

I totally understand the whole bible study for older woman thing too...I am going to start helping lead a women's class and looking forward to more facilitating than anything else...I love to get them talking and learn from them.

The pedestal, example thing is hard but I don't think it's necessarily wrong...any leadership position has that in or out of ministry. I don't always enjoy it and it's really intimidating at times but it's also inevitable.

Amy said...

I read your post yesterday but I'm with Sara in that I didn't know what to say yet...I was waiting on Part 2.

Definitely not boring. I'm fascinated with how different pastor's wives see their roles and I find it's not usually how "we" see your roles or how "we" think you see your role, as wife.

I agree with AKR in that every leadership position has a pedestal on which one is to stand...with their whole family; I do think, however, that "ministry pedestals" are MUCH higher, MUCH narrower and have a rounded bottom. If or when you decide to step off the pedestal or decide not to even get on, it can be very painful.

The "first lady" thing struck me funny b/c someone today teasingly called me the "First Lady of the School" and I smiled b/c it was silly, of course, but I don't really know what to think of it yet.

I should write a post on this and I probably am right here...I feel so immature still in my role, as I just discovered for myself not long ago that I'm different in the eyes of alot of people. I never saw myself as "special" and I don't want to be, really. I'm just a regular gal, whose hubby happens to run the school. I don't want people to act different around me or think they can or cannot say things in front of me b/c of my hubby. Part of that is my getting to know everybody and letting them know what I'm about. That's hard for me b/c I'm a total introvert. This is part of that "leaving my comfort zone" that I've had to confront time and time again that past year.

More later. This is about you, not me and its pickup time at school.

Thanks, Ness!

Amy said...

Are you central or eastern time zone?

ness said...

hey Amy, the quick answer is central time. I think we have a lot we could talk about !!!

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