NOTES FOR “NEW” CLERGY SPOUSES

by Lisa Hicks


This is meant to mentor/encourage new spouses
What constitutes new?
New appointees
New marriages
Out of seminary
Bivocational/first appointments



What does itineracy mean??
Accountability is important/personal contact via notes, calls, text, e-mail
“Used” to have monthly district meetings; fewer spouses worked outside the home; easier then to get to know , have support, be in fellowship
Communication is very important – b/w spouses and b/w pastor and church
This came out of my conviction (along with others) that good marriages will help improve the “marriage” between the pastor and the church


We realize the configuration has changed – there are more clergy couples, more second career pastors, more folks who weren’t raised in the church or as United Methodist, more (almost all) clergy spouses work outside the home
Ethics training for pastors, important info for spouses also.  Stress confidentiality.

I/We have been dreaming about mentoring/orientation/etc for many years.
Realize that I am who I am and you don’t have to be/should not be me.
Stages of a pastoral move –  you experience the grief process in a move.
Leaving well and preparing the way
Entry into a new setting
The emotional dimensions of transitions

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Helping  to improve communication/good marriages will help improve marriage b/w clergy and church
Whatever “we” (the conference) can do to help young/new clergy folks by listening/encouraging/liason/keep in touch
Can’t always do it like we used to
e-mail/note/prayer/phone/visit – lots of ways to connect


Taking care of self – Sabbath time; self-care; preserve family time; protect privacy; clarify expectations; establish support system; seek help as necessary (EAP) AND encouraging your spouse to take care of him/her self.  Also consider a spiritual director. Contact the Center for Ministry at Millsaps for the names of spiritual directors in your area.


We do live in a fish bowl: accept who you are (Psalm 139:1-8)
Accept food to survive (don’t say I can do this on my own)
Practice spiritual discipline
Spend time with spouse (date night, move, eat together)
Encourage your spouse
Laugh
Choose your friends carefully

 


From other clergy spouses:
Remember that it will be OK (personal example)
Give it time (at least 6 months/1 yr)
What are your spiritual gifts? You don’t have to be/should  not be the last clergy spouse
Try to be there for your spouse
Bite your tongue until it bleeds!  (But don’t be abused;  there is a fine line.)
Smile!!

 


Lovett Weems: Key concerns of spouses:
The spouse’s concern for the moving pastor’s schedule
(The pace; meetings night after night…..)
Housing issues
Leaving a job; especially if finding a comparable position  is unlikely
Resentment about having little to say in the move

 

 


Leaving a familiar place and close relationships (we aren’t  the only ones who do this)
Finding a place in the new church/community
Remember that transitions can be stressful times for relationships
Stay closely connected during this time
(Use ducks!!)
Communication is key
The stress may trigger negative feelings from previous  difficulties
Do not let your own grief hinder your help for others
Spouse/family unhappiness puts additional stress on the  clergy during entry period
Try to limit the “negative spillover” from church struggles
Survey results show that clergy spouses tend to feel that  pastoral support services for clergy couples are either not  available or, if available, should not be utilized for fear of  career repercussions, despite clear confidentiality  guidelines

 

 


BEWARE OF FAMILY DYNAMICS
Be attentive to your feelings
Remember that people grieve differently
Don’t underestimate the hurt that other family members  are experiencing
Acknowledge losses with understanding
Remember that children and youth deal with change in  their own ways
Involve family members to the maximum extent of their  comfort in the transition
Provide ways for children and youth to say goodbye in  ways that matter to them
Continue family events throughout the transition
Find ways to mark the endings and beginnings as a family
Seek professional counseling if necessary

Lewis Center surveyed young clergy (under 35)
Crisis in young clergy
We need to work with different kinds of generations;  there will be some tension among the generations; there   will be tension about/around appointments
Provide opportunities for young clergy to be together  (Not Ready For Prime Time Preachers group)
Every church/community is different.
Len Sweet – TGIF – Twitter/text; Google; Internet/I-phone;  Facebook – social networking is important,  BUT be  careful with social networking  and confidentiality!



(The Lewis Center notes are from Right Start from the Lewis Center for Leadership.)
SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE CLERGY SPOUSE:
(adapted from Dr Paula Dobbs-Wiggins)
1. Sabbath time
2. Self-care
3. Preserve family time
4. Protect Privacy
5. Clarify expectations
6. Establish Support System
7. Seek Help as Necessary


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