By Dana Barber, Communications and Member Care
New math? I’m better with old math. Really, really, old math; 5 loaves 2 fish kind of math.
This may sound silly, but it is relatable to many CBOQ pastors who have spent the past year learning how to full-time parent while full-time pastoring, during a time when pivoting is essential. Recently I asked several pastors with young children ranging in ages from 6 months to 13 years old, a series of questions from ‘what has it really been like?’ to ‘how can your church members, support you with both these important jobs?’. Here is some of what they shared:
Full-time pastoring and parenting will always be a challenge. Sunday services, business meetings; weekday prayer meetings; evening committee meetings; study time, etc. These do not go away just because they take on a new look during a pandemic.
Rev. Melissa Memmott put it this way: “The pandemic has blurred the lines of time and space: prioritizing the important, letting things go, capturing the moment.”
This season has brought on many huge emotions like grief, frustration, and anxiety in many people, but especially in children. For the first time in some of their young lives, children are experiencing these feelings and parents are faced with having to find healthy ways to help their children work though such heaviness. All this, while learning new skills like getting church online, being peacemakers, learning new math, and teaching little ones to read. Time is now split between work tasks and online school.
Distractions at home create challenges that being in the office or being at school used to eliminate. Answering an email can take days if your attention is required elsewhere. “There is always something to work through, think about, or adjust to.” says Rev. Ryan Lawrence. In reference to raising children, we have all heard the expression “it takes a village”, but now there are days that seem longer because we cannot be with our ‘village.’
All is not lost. There have been unexpected joys too.
Each pastor reflected that time with their children has been a blessing. Rev. Tina Rae mentioned eating a good meal together each day and “no more packed lunches.” Can I get a witness!? Other joys noted were walking in the sunshine, watching them discover, being around when a 4-year-old asks, “how do we know God is real?”, and witnessing first steps. Challenge laced with endless opportunities to grow.
There are many ways we can support our parent-pastors, but here is a brief list of ideas given to us by them:
- Encourage church staff to have open conversations about what this season is really like for them and their family
- Check-in. A quick call to show someone in the church family cares
- Understand that some things will fall through the cracks
- Recognize that parent-pastors are not bored! They have added time requirements and responsibilities
- Allow pastors space to rest their minds even for a short while
Rev. Tina Rae’s statement, “Listening, prayer, and understanding, go a long way!” was echoed by her peers.
Like each of us, as we adapt and change, this group has learned some valuable lessons. They are summed up nicely by Rev. Eleanor Emmott, “My church and my children matter. Both need my time, my attention, my love, and my ministry… I am a stronger pastor when I am a loving, engaged parent.”