THE ANATOMY OF A FRIENDSHIP – PART 2

Every Christmas the church ladies congregated in the kitchen and gym and made Christmas candy. (A recipe I plan to share – come this holiday season.) We’d all bring sugar and corn syrup and flavoring (found only behind the counter at the pharmacist which kind of made you wonder what was in it).

And then two ladies would cook the candy and then pour it out on sugared, cookie sheets where we would wait for it to harden and then cut it. At the end of the long evening, we all had jars and jars of candy to take home.

Barb and I always offered to do the kitchen part. (The cutting part gives you blisters – truly. I’ve had them.)

So, this one year we got the brilliant idea of mixing up the colors and the flavors. We made the orange-flavored candy green, the cherry-flavored candy yellow.  We did not have happy cutters. (Actually, it was a fairly interesting scientific experiment – how color affects our taste.) OK. It was kind of fun being a rebellious pastor’s wife for the evening, although I think some of the ladies thought I had committed the unpardonable sin. They were INTO their candy.

And then on the Sunday her oldest son graduated from high school, Ken resigned. (She never let Ken forget that.)

We had only lived in the same town for four years. She had only been out of the state of Michigan once, so to continue the friendship seemed futile. Our friendship didn’t have all THAT much of a base and the thought of traveling to Wisconsin was … well … not something she had thought much about before.

But we were willing to try.

More than 26 years later, we’re still close friends. We talk on the phone, we e-mail, we visit. No matter how long between contact – we start where we left off.  Ken went back to marry her daughter (perform the ceremony that is), she and her husband – and daughter came to Kelli’s wedding.

When she heard Ken’s diagnosis, she called and wanted to know if I needed her to come over immediately. She and her husband and her daughter all made it to Ken’s memorial service.

This year when I said – “Well, my birthday is coming up and not sure what I’m going to do.” 

“I’ll come,” she said and she did and we had a great time as always. (I was able to show her the Mississippi River for the first time – that was fun.)

God gave us the gift of friendship and what a valuable gift it is.

Yes, as pastors’ wives we need to treat those friendships with a delicacy we wouldn’t need to think about if we were the plumber’s or insurance man’s wife – but they’re worth having – and they’re worth keeping.

And remember, once you’re at another church – you’re no longer the pastor’s wife at the first church – so then you can … just be a friend.

ANATOMY OF A FRIENDSHIP

I met her on a Sunday morning. I can tell you exactly where I was standing when she walked by.

“Oh, Linda,” Ken said, “I want you to meet Barb. She’s the one who wrote the letter to us.”

This was my first Sunday at Tuscola, but Ken’s second. He had been to Tusocola by himself to pulpit supply – but because we had two little kids, I had stayed home. But now he was back to candidate and we had all come to Michigan to see the church and meet the people. As church clerk, Barb was the one who had sent us the needed info.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” she said back.

I remember her calling me a few weeks after we moved in. “The kids up at the Vassar schools have a parade on Halloween,” she told me.” I thought maybe your kids would like to see it.”  And so we went.

I don’t exactly remember when we started the bike rides – but that’s what we did. That’s what our friendship was all about. Every day during the warm springs, during the hot summers, during the cool falls – we rode between five and ten miles down the windy, hilly country roads. (I remember one early December day, riding down Ormes Road and a car stopped and the driver asked for directions to the school. We were a little concerned – it was Santa.)

Oh, we laughed together, but we were serious, too. We discussed everything from discipline to doctrine to daisys. And we welcomed anyone who wanted to come with us to come, but no one was quite as excited as we were to take endless bike rides.

I remember the year we were decorating for the Ladies Spring Banquet and someone had the not-so-bright ideas to bring in dead branches and wrap them in crepe paper, but then everyone had to go home and it was just the two of us and we looked at the dead branches and started laughing so hard, we were rolling on the floor, crying – because what we had was just that – a room full of dead branches, wrapped in crepe paper and it all looked rather horrible.

And then there was the year we messed up the Christmas candy …

(Tomorrow – part 2)

BUT BE CAREFUL …

SOME FRIENDSHIP CONSIDERATIONS

1. You’ll probably feel closest to ladies who teach and work in the nursery and create beautiful peonies out of tin foil for the Ladies Spring Tea. You’ll probably feel close to the ladies whose children are the same age as your children. You’ll probably feel close to people who invite you over to their houses all the time. And if there’s a lady who teaches and works in the nursery and creates beautiful peonies AND has children the same age as your children AND is a good hostess, you probably have a friend. 

Just because ladies who do things at church are AT church and you see them a lot and talk to them a lot. Also, you have a common interest – the church.

Ladies who arrive two minutes before Sunday morning church starts and can’t get out of church fast enough when church is over, will probably not be around long enough for you to be her friend.

2. But that doesn’t mean you CAN’T be a friend to the lady who isn’t involved. Maybe your friendship is just what she needs to feel more welcomed in the congregation.

3. You do have to be careful inviting the same people to YOUR house all the time, but a lot of time it’s the other family inviting you to their house. That’s fine. Go. (And I have some ideas for inviting people to your house, too – but we’ll talk about that on another day.) I remember, as a little girl, always going over to the same people’s house on Sunday night after church. Sometimes other people would be there, other times they wouldn’t. But they invited us and we went and my parents became good friends with them. In our Racine church we always went to the same family’s house on the Fourth of July and another family’s house on New Year’s Eve. They were traditions. But if someone else had invited us to their house first, we would’ve gone.

4. Sure, it’s ok to be friends, but if you’re in a situation where some of those not-too-often-at-church ladies are in attendance, you need to be friendly to them and make sure they’re feeling comfortable. Don’t ignore them and talk ONLY to the ladies who make you feel comfortable.

5. Yes, there are restrictions on your friendship. You can’t ever, ever, EVER talk about other people in the church. Seriously. NEVER.  (But wait a minute, like gossiping is ok in a non-pastor’s wife friendship? I don’t think so.)  You just must watch what you say. Sometimes it’s so tempting: “I am sooooo tired, my husband didn’t get home until five this morning. He was called over to Harold and Ernestine’s at midnight.”  As if the lady you’re talking to can’t figure out that Harold and Ernestine are having marital problems again.  Or, “Well, my husband had to go to the jail this afternoon.”  As if the lady won’t wonder WHY he was at the jail.

Still – there’s a lot you can talk about. Trust me.

What do you think? What experiences have you had being friends with people in your church?

THE FRIENDSHIP FACTOR

What about friendships with our congregation? I’ve heard it’s not good for pastors and pastors wives to get close to the people.

Not sure what anti-social person thought up this urban legend, but it’s been floating around since Martin Luther.

I mean, we KNOW people weren’t saying this back in Bible times, because LOOK at the Bible.

Do you know how many verses there are about friendship? Well, actually, I don’t either, but there are a lot of them. Proverbs is a complete “how-to” book on friendship – and look at how Christ Himself described His death.

Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends. (John 15:13).

Peter begins his letters Dear Friends and the Apostle Paul also writes to his dear friends. So, THEY weren’t worried about the friendship factor.

But somewhere along the line, no friends became a parsonage rule.

This is one of the good things about being the pastor’s wife – you  can be friends with EVERYONE in the church, whether it’s the four-year-old waiting at the top of the steps each Sunday and greeting you with a loud, “I love you,” or the sweet, ninety-year-old who crochets you a doily EVERY, SINGLE week.

As pastor’s wife,  you have the privilege of sharing in births, engagements, marriages, deaths and major moments in between – in a way that others don’t.  You’re included in family gatherings – the only outsiders. You’re the first to hear big news and you’re the first to hear sad news. Being part of those moments make the friendships be all that more enduring.

But some hold on to the idea that you can’t have friends in the church.

I remember some pastors telling Ken they had missed him at a recent pastors’ retreat. One of the pastors said, “We’re concerned you aren’t getting enough fellowship.”

Ken assured him he was getting a lot of fellowship with the people at his church.

“Oh, no!” They were stunned. “We mean fellowship with REAL MEN.”

Ken always laughed about that conversation (as did our church when he related it the next Sunday). But these other pastors couldn’t figure out how Ken could consider his friendships within the congregation REAL FELLOWSHIP with REAL MEN.

And pastors’ wives can have REAL FELLOWSHIP with REAL LADIES, too.

Seriously, look up the word friend in the Bible – you just might be surprised.

 

Tomorrow – how these friendships happen …

NOT PRESIDENT OF WHAT?

Hey, everyone. Great job with the questions – and keep them coming. I won’t be able to do this if we don’t have questions.

I am obviously posting today – a Saturday – but I want to do a great job helping you, so I won’t usually post on weekends. That will give me a couple days each week to formulate my thoughts, look up backup Scripture and plan out what to post during the week.

After I wrote the “no president of anything” comment the other day, I was asked (in a post comment) how far I carried that – because I obviously did lead some things – like Sparks (which if you aren’t familiar with Awana language) is the Awana club for kindergarten – second graders.) Actually Sparks is a good example of my “philosophy.”

But to start at the beginning about president – 

I refuse to run for president of the United States. (Who would ever want that job? Talk about living in a fishbowl!)

All right, seriously, I stayed away from being the president of any ladies’ group. Part of my feeling on this was passed down from my parents. My mother stayed away from leading the ladies’ groups and my dad felt strongly about that. Sometimes if you put yourself in the position of leading or controlling or making decisions about what the church ladies do, what happens seeps over into whether or not people like the pastor. Or if two ladies get upset with each other (oh my, like THAT would ever happen), it then becomes something that affects the pulpit ministry because YOU’RE involved. If you’re on the sidelines, then the problem isn’t personally affecting the pastor’s family and the problem then becomes easier for the pastor to solve.

Not everyone would agree with that and right now I attend a church of several thousand and the pastor’s wife is in charge of the Womens’ Ministry and I guess that’s fine. I haven’t been there long enough or gotten to know the ladies well enough to know if people are ok with that or not. Does she get paid? I have no idea. So, I’m not saying it doesn’t work. I just chose not to do it. 

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses (2 Corinthians 6:3-4)

The thing is – we’re servants. Servants serve (otherwise we’d be called something else.) Servants do the job that needs to be done. If there’s absolutely, no one else who can do the job – then step into the position and do what you do well.  But give someone else the opportunity to be in charge. Give someone else the opportunity to shine. Then help and support that person by serving. 

Our first church was in a tiny, Michigan town. The church (though well established) hadn’t had a kids’ program like Awana.  When we started Awana, the entire church was supportive and many, many of the adults participated. Because Ken and I were the ones who KNEW the program, being involved was natural – since I was the one who understood things like beanbags and handbook time. So, for me to become director wasn’t a problem. No one resented me stepping into that role.

Now, fast forward to our last church. Not only was the church well established, but Awana was also well established – they had had Awana since Eisenhower was president. And me? A double whammy. Not only was I the new pastor’s wife but I WORKED at Awana and had actually written some of the programs they were using!. Looking around at the church’s Awana program, I saw some areas that were well run and some that were scary! 

Oh, how easy for me to go to the leaders and say, “Ummm … you’ve got it all wrong. Do it this way!” But I didn’t say a word. If someone had a question, I answered it. That’s all. I got plugged in to one of the groups and I quietly did my job. I didn’t make a suggestion. I didn’t correct anything.  I concentrated on doing what I did well.  

Later I moved to the middle school group and worked there 8 years or so. Again, I wasn’t director – just did my job.

So after 11 years, the Sparks directorship opened up and I stepped in. By this time, people knew me and it was fine – but it wouldn’t have been fine if I had walked into the church and said, LOOK, THIS IS THE WAY YOU DO STUFF IN AWANA – even though I knew what I was talking about. 

And actually – after many years, I did lead some women’s events (not the overall program, though). When, after several weeks of asking, no one stepped up to plan the Christmas tea, I agreed to do it – along with two other ladies. We became a team and did it for five years. This worked because I had been at the church for awhile and people trusted me. And, because the ladies who “always” did it, had “retired” and they needed someone.

So, my final thought would be – it’s not so much WHAT you do, as to HOW you do it. Is there a perception that you are doing what someone else is capable and willing to do? 

Be a servant – that’s biblical (and it keeps you out of trouble).

**********

Next week, I’ll talk about friendship.

SAD

 

Some sad statistics that are floating around cyperspace.

80% of pastors’ wives think their husband is overworked.

80% of pastors’ wives wish their husband had another career.

Most pastors’ wife think that the worse event in their family was the day their husband entered the ministry.

 

Ladies, I promise you. You don’t have to be one of the statistics. 

You can do this – and yes, there will be moments that are discouraging, but there will also be a lot of rewarding moments.

 

 Let’s work on this together

WHAT TO DO

Question: It used to be that pastors’ wives did everything in the church. That’s changed. How do we handle that? How do we explain the pastor’s wife role to people who still think we should be superwoman?

A PK friend was cleaning out his dad’s study and uncovered a book called: The Perfect Pastor’s Wife. Interesting that the book was hidden under three dead moths, five books on church growth and a moldy coffee mug. Obviously no one had been reading it any time in this century.

I opened it with much trepidation ready to admit failure in my spiritual calling and turn in my bleach and disinfection (oh, wait, I don’t do the kitchen stuff, do I?) Not too worry. By the time I had skimmed through to the last chapter, I was weeping – not in guilt or anguish, but in laughter.  The book explained that the pastor’s wife must fill the pulpit whenever the pastor was sick or away. Seriously. The author was not just a pastor of any, tucked away country church, either. He was an itinerant pastor who traveled from town to town. In mile by mile detail, this pastor explained how his wife tramped through snow and slushed through rain to be a true helpmeet and share a quickly-prepared message with the waiting congregants.

We put the book back under the moths, the church-growth books and the moldy coffee cup. Let someone else unearth it 100 years from now.

I go back to the gifts.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. (Romans 12:6)

Not only can’t we do everything, we shouldn’t do everything because that’s beyond our capability. That’s not the way God made us.

Here were my rules

1. I would not be president of anything, nor would anyone have to move out of the ministry she was doing so that I could step in. 

2. I would attend any regularly-scheduled service of the church: Sunday school, Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. 

Five reasons I did the church-attending thing:

     a. How could Ken expect others to show up if his own family didn’t care?

     b. We wanted to be good examples to our kids. (We always told our kids, you’re not attending church BECAUSE you’re the preacher’s kids, but BECAUSE you’re our kids.)

     c. Ken liked me to hear him preach because then he could bounce things off of me later: Did that sound ok? Did you follow me? Do you think they got it?  (Of course, I always said, “yes, yes, yes.”)

    d. I sincerely enjoyed listening to Ken preach.

    e. The Bible says we should get together to study God’s Word.

3. I would get involved in areas where I could best use my gifts of writing and teaching.

When people challenge you on what you do and why you don’t do more, don’t defend yourself.  You could smile and ask, “What do you think I should be doing?” (If you really want to know what she thinks, but you probably don’t.)

The best response is, “I believe working with the primaries is the best way I can use the gifts God has given me. My husband and I have talked this over and he agrees.” (Hopefully, you HAVE talked it over with your husband. Be open about that. This shows that you stand as a team.)

4. If there was a spontaneous need and I could help out, I would – even in the kitchen. I remember one Christmas tea when the ladies did that table-hostess-bring-your-own-china thing. After the meal, everyone went upstairs for the program and one lady was left with all the dishes (which had to be washed so the ladies could take them home). And so I helped her. I’m not sure we got the whole soap, bleach, disinfectant mixture right – but they at least looked clean – and were ready in time.

These are my rules. Write down your own – and then stick to them. 

(Then if someone asks you why you don’t do something, you can say “Sorry, it’s the rule.”)

The Lord wants to use us. He wants us to do the best job possible. We can’t do that if we’re stressed out, worn out and emotionally wrung out.

So, choose what to do and then do it well.