‘Tis the (moving) season


‘Tis the season for moving in the United Methodist church. Even if this isn’t a move year for you personally, you are probably not immune to the associated stresses of appointment changes; from friends and lectionary group members to accountability partners and trusted mentors, there’s likely someone in your life who is gearing up for a move right now.  moving truckConsider these move-related statistics:

  • Individuals move an approximate 11.7 times during their life. (US Census Bureau)
  • In 2012, 12% of the US population, or 36.5 million people, moved residences.  64% of these people moved within the same county; of those people who moved to a different county, most of them still only moved less than 50 miles away. (US Census Bureau)
  • In North Carolina, approximately 14% of UMC pastors move each year, with elders moving more frequently than local pastors. (WNCC and NCC data)
  • Moving is the third most stressful life event, coming just behind the death of a loved one or divorce. (Employee Relocation Council)

That last statistic is pretty compelling.  Moving is stressful for anyone, and pastors have the added pressures of preparing final sermons, uprooting your spouse and children, packing up a house in record time, submitting conference paperwork, and making good first impressions with the new congregation.  And what about those moves that occur unexpectedly or against your wishes?

Whether you are in the midst of packing (literally and metaphorically) or whether you’re supporting others in this transition, we hope you’ll make time for some self-care in this busy and stressful season:

  • Schedule a massage or pedicure.
  • Write a letter of gratitude to the lectionary or accountability group you’ll be leaving behind.
  • tea and readingWhen the going gets tough, take a coffee or tea break, or read a pleasure book for a few minutes.
  • Keep to your normal routine and regular self-care habits (exercise, good nutrition, prayer time, journaling, Sabbath, etc.) as much as possible.
  • Grab lunch with a neighbor whom you’ll miss.
  • Stop by your favorite restaurant or park one last time. Take pictures of places and people that have been meaningful to you in this town. Do this with a sense of gratitude for these experiences, rather than of loss.
  • Take time to jot down highlights of the current appointment — ways you’ve grown, and ways you’ve been challenged.
  • Embrace your emotions and live in the moment; don’t try to power through this stressful time just by focusing on logistics.  Check in with your spouse and kids to see how they’re feeling about the move, too. Read more here about the emotional side of moving.

I leave you with these words of encouragement from an old standby, Isaiah 40:31–

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

-Katie Huffman

(Top photo by Flickr user ishootreno, lower photo by Flickr user Anna Saarinen, both via Creative Commons)

‘Tis the season…


For some, faithfulness to God’s call to ministry includes the very humbling journey toward ordination.  Many of you following that path have written and submitted the requisite papers, along with the Bible study lesson plans and the video-recorded sermons. Now it is time to go before the Board of Ordained Ministry for provisional or continuation interviews.

Let us take a few moments to pray Psalm 111. May God bless the candidates, the board, and everyone who has provided support along this journey.

Psalm 111

Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful. He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant. He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.  The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.

– Angela MacDonald
(images courtesy of www.nervousspeaker.com and www.klove.com)


A ‘Thrival Kit’ for Clergy Families


Being part of a clergy family comes with a unique set of joys and challenges.

While we’ve heard that many clergy spouses feel a unity of purpose with their husband or wife, identify with their spouse’s work, and experience their own calling from God, they also face feelings of isolation, high expectations from congregants, a lack of barriers and sacredness of family time, and ambiguity of their role and identity.

Being a preacher’s kid isn’t easy either. They too are under a great deal of pressure to be “perfect” and must learn to accept the long and often hectic hours that their parent works.

That’s all a lot to manage, and resources on how to do it well are scarce.  But one that is particularly well done is the Florida Conference’s Thrival Kit.

The Thrival Kit is a kind of survival guide on how to thrive as a pastor (single or married), clergy spouse, or family in the United Methodist Church. It offers a wealth of useful resources, information, and commentary on topics such as:

  • The appointment system
  • Family dynamics and the ministry
  • Moving
  • Wellness and wholeness
  • Where to turn for help
  • Finances
  • Pensions and benefits
  • Where to find other useful resources

One aspect of the Thrival Kit that I find to be unique and especially helpful is the inclusion of stories and insightful advice from actual pastors and spouses.  For example, on her list of “Survival Tips from Our House,” one pastor writes, “We are not supposed to save the world—Jesus already did that. Pray, rest, play, and enjoy each other. Ministry is an important part of your life and your identity—but it is not everything.”

A common theme in the Thrival Kit is an emphasis on the importance of self-care and balance, both personally and professionally.

In the section on wellness and wholeness, the authors write that balancing our spiritual, emotional, and physical health, “offers an opportunity for us to receive and experience all the goodness, which our Lord wants for us.”

They offer suggestions on ways for readers to pursue this delicate balance by providing information on resources that can help: low-cost vacation and retreat options for individuals, families, children, or couples (some of which are in or near North Carolina); continuing education; counseling for children, clergy, spouses, or couples who plan to divorce; health initiatives; and more.

While the Thrival Kit was put together by the Florida Conference, most of its content is relevant and helpful for all clergy families regardless of their denomination or location. I strongly recommend taking even a few minutes to skim through the pages of this guide. I think you will find it a pleasurable and enlightening read. Enjoy!