May2MonMay 2, 2016
I frequently describe myself as a walking disaster. I feel like every day I am barely keeping it together. But this description is not just about me, there is a Thing 1 and Thing 2 that define my life right now. Their names are Callen (4) and Evalynne (about to be a big panty-wearing 3 year old and how did that happen!). By some miracle I cannot comprehend, God has placed them in our home and in our care… and we feel totally inadequate to the task of raising them!
Mornings are crazy in our home every day of the week, but Sundays bring out a special brand of hysteria. My husband and I are both pastors. For three (wonderful!) years we co-pastored a (wonderful!) church. Tim and I have been amazed and perplexed when other ministry couples have reached out to us for advice on how to handle the chaos of pastoring and parenting on Sunday mornings - and this has happened a lot over the last several years – because we don’t know!
But we have realized that there are so many couples out there partnering in ministry in one way or another – co-pastoring, Sunday School teaching, ministry leading, worship banding, church planting and so on – who are struggling to live in the blessedness of resurrection day when it feels like the demands of church and family life are crucifying you!
If that’s you let me just say, you are not alone!
And yes, it’s HARD!
I reached out to several other ministry parents who were gracious to share their stories, tips, wisdom and heart.
Let me introduce you to some new friends you didn’t know you had! Listen to the way these ministry parents describe Sunday mornings in their home. It might sounds familiar!
Sunday Morning Snapshots
“Every Sunday is a wrestling match. It is a rush to get everything ready and set. Add into the chaos a fifteen month old ballof energy running through the pews pulling out Bibles and tithe envelopes and redecorating the sanctuary, you’rejust about ready to call in the National Guard to deal with the situation. As small church co-pastors, you and your spouse are playing hot potato with your child and the mountain of tasks to accomplish. Sunday should be a time of rest and worship. But, by the time everyone shows up, you feel like you’ve run a full marathon in thin air.” – Levi Jones, co-pastor with wife Rebecca at Cornerstone Community Church of the Nazarene.
“Gone are the days when I can calmly re-read and highlight my sermon with a hot cup of coffee before leaving the house on Sunday morning. These days, the coffee is long-since cold, the sermon is shoved hastily in my bag, and I am hustling through the house half-dressed making sure my daughter’s outfit is ready, there is food for breakfast, and the newborn has been fed. Such is the Preacher-Parent life. My husband and I are constantly trying to more effectively navigate the potentially treacherous waters of the Sunday morning rush.” – Stephanie Lobdell, co-pastor with husband Tommy at Mountain Home Church of the Nazarene
“One of the biggest challenges of our ministry has been figuring out how to be parents who are both at work at the same time and have to bring our three small children with us (because: a) they need to be in church and b) who can you get to babysit on Sunday morning!). Ashley and I have always been on staff together at the two churches where we’ve served. Ashley leads worship and I preach. So, she has to leave the house at 7:30 or so on Sundays while I get to stay home and get the kids ready to come to church so we can show up just before the service starts.” – Erik Gernand, Pastor at Real Life Community Church married to Ashley Gernand, worship leader.
“Ford was only 5 months old when the church baptistery needed to be cleaned. I remember having scrubbing bubbles, brushes and having to leap out of the baptistery into the choir loft to feed Ford. We just took him with us—absolutely everywhere. As Ford grew older he was in our ministry and on my hip. I was so arrogant then! I thought that being a working mom was a cinch.
Cooper came along two and half years later and was born with a projectile spit-up problem. No one wanted to hold him or snuggle him. I had two black suit jackets in my office and went through both some Sundays. I didn’t have enough hands to bring the babies with me and there was this constant level of chaos. Getting to church took an act of the Lord coupled with sheer will and 6 large bags filled with stuff. We were still trying to do everything together and then we started dividing and conquering. When Cooper was 8 months old, I found out Tucker was coming. Now we are completely outnumbered!” – Aimee Mulder, co-pastor with husband Devon at Breakwater Church of the Nazarene
“Sure, there are those Sunday Mornings when I am trying to get the boys (we have two wild toddlers) ready for church after Tara Beth has already left that I wish she were home, but I have never once doubted her (no our) call. I am not aware of many examples where God’s plan was predictable and easy.” – Jeff Leach, pastor’s husband, married to Tara Beth Leach, pastor of Pasadena First Church of the Nazarene
“One of the best things we’ve learned to do is to try and only wear one hat at a time. For me, I came to realize it was endlessly frustrating to be prepping to preach while making breakfast, changing diapers and managing clothing meltdowns. So, I get up very early on Sundays, drink my coffee, pray, do my final sermon prep (with noise cancelling headphones on). During this time, Ashley stays upstairs with the kids and gets ready (while they watch TV – another tip). At 7:30, we switch. She leaves the house. I take my pastor hat off and put my dad hat on. This has been enormously helpful in reducing stress because I’m not trying to do two things at the same time (poorly). Then at church we try and have times when each of us is taking responsibility for the kids so the other can attend to ministry.” – Erik
“We have a rule that helps us cope. We tell the boys that we have a sentence: “Mom, I need to talk to you in your office.” After that sentence it is my time to take off my pastor hat and put on my mommy hat. I just keep praying for the Holy Spirit to guide us through every moment!” – Aimee
“I wish I had great wisdom for making Sunday a little less stressful and chaotic… But, honestly, I’m learning to give myself permission to be a father and pastor to my child, recognizing that her needs are just as important as the church’s needs.” – Levi
Tips for Sunday Survival
Pastoring your Children
“Pastoring and parenting is a difficult balance at times. But, Becca and I have the joy and responsibility of raising Hannah in the Church. She is learning, even if we are not fully aware, the rhythms and grace-filled movements of life as part of the Body of Christ. If that means a little more stress on our part, I’m happy to endure it with patience (with grace for us and for her) as our daughter (and youngest congregant) learns to dance the dance of faith.” – Levi
“Our boys are our most important disciples. We are intentional about them being a part of our ministry and taking their places in leadership at our church. We don’t protect them from our people and try to use any issue for who they are becoming in the Lord.” – Aimee
“I must remember that my son and daughter are my first parishioners. If they associate Sundays and corporate worship as a time of stress, rejection, and irritability, my husband and I will have failed in our first task of embodying the Jesus way to our children.” – Stephanie
“While it can lead to some interesting situations (like having our 2 yr old yell “MOMMY” right during the sermon), it definitely places me in a unique situation to really see God’s plan in action. Though I didn’t know all that I was getting myself into, I wouldn’t even think about trading it. It is our calling” – Jeff
Not one of us feels like we have it all figured out. And this is never more apparent than Sunday mornings! But aren’t Sundays the days we stand before congregations and tell them things like, “God doesn’t call the equipped, God equips the called” or lead the people of God in singing, “come just as you are” or disciple the new Christians with encouragement like, “you don’t have to have it all figured out to follow Jesus!”
Well guess what, parenting is a calling because children – as crazy as they are – are a gift from God! And we are equipped with nothing but grace! So come just as you are, tired and weary ministry parents, because you don’t have to have it all figured out to follow Jesus or to be a pastor or to be a parent. And that just might be the best news some of us have heard today!