Before my husband and I began pastoring churches, we had a simple formula for when and how we would get jobs. We would take turns. One of us would receive a call first, the other would receive the next one. Back-and-forth, we would go.
That neat, orderly plan was screwed up from the start. Brian had a lovely, big church in Florida waiting for his graduation from seminary. There was one problem, though. When he said, “My wife’s in seminary too. Do you know if there’s any job possibilities in this area for her?”
The response was, “Well… there’s a Wal-Mart about a mile away.”
Which was not the answer we were hoping for. He began to bring up the question more, not because they were responsible for getting me a job, but because he got a strange vibe from them whenever he mentioned that his wife was going to be a pastor. As he explored it more with them, they kept giving him the wrong answers, until he was pretty sure, they wanted a pastor’s wife. Like… one that might have a part-time retail job, but on Sunday, she teaches Sunday school, sits in the second pew, with her perfect children, looking up at her perfect husband.
In short, they didn’t want me.
Lewie Donelson, our good seminary professor has recently explained to us what we negotiated–it was the economy of the family. In the end, we decided to take two churches in South Louisiana. It wasn’t monetarily better for us, but we both got ordained.
From the beginning, as a clergy couple, we have negotiated the economy of the family in the call process. And when we haven’t, we’ve regretted it. In other words, we might negotiate salaries with our churches, but we also had to think about the entire family, and we quickly discovered that many things trump money. Here are some of the factors that come up when we’re looking for churches, as a family.
Opportunity–This seems to be the most important and the most difficult to figure out. We need to be in a place where there is the possibility for both of us to be employed. Neither one of us would make a good long-term house-spouse, especially now that our child has entered elementary school.
Education–We’re not the sort of parents who are worried about how to get our kid into Harvard now that’s she’s seven. But we’ve served in urban and rural areas where the school systems are some of the worst in the nation, and in those contexts, education becomes important.
Support systems–This has meant different things at different phases in our lives. At times, we needed to be near family. Other times, we needed to be closer to friends. For us, being a part of a vibrant and diverse arts community is extremely important. We’ve just learned that there are things that feed our souls. Things that can’t be found in every place.
Environment–We had to leave Louisiana because the environmental degradation was hurting our infant’s health (they still burn the sugar cane fields, so there are months when smoke and ash fill the air). And there have been other environment factors: I feel more at home closer to water, and my husband used to miss the seasons. Since I practice walking meditation, I need to live near a place where I can walk in nature. Again, our needs shift and change, but I’ve learned to listen to those urges for certain earth.
What about you? What would you add? What things are important to you and your family?
photo’s by Paint Monkey