To the New pastor’s wife
By Holly Scheer
Finishing seminary and getting ready to move the your husband’s first church is an exciting and sometimes scary time.
You might end up in a setting that is near family and friends and familiar… or in a place that is totally unfamiliar and new, where you know no one and the culture is different than yours.
Since our marriage my husband has gone from field work at a church in Ft Wayne, to a vicarage a short drive from Chicago, to far northern and rural Minnesota, now to Wyoming.
Each of these churches has been wildly different in location and size. And each has been a very different experience for our family.
In no particular order I have some advice from myself and some other veteran pastor’s wives as you approach placement interviews and then prepare to move for that first Call.
- Yes, schooling preferences is a big one. If you plan on homeschooling having a church with a school may present issues. Or if you’d like a Lutheran school close mention that as well. Otherwise I think having an open and accepting/adventurous heart will go the farthest in finding a good match. They placed us perfectly. If I’d been super nit picky we never would have come here and I can’t imagine a better fit for us. Laura Henry
- We also added that we did NOT want to be in a rural parish (really, for my sake). Honestly though, I’m with Laura. Tell them your preferences but try to be open about what the outcome will be. I think that sole pastor and reasonable distance to family are two really good ones. Some people just know they wouldn’t do well in associate pastor positions (Kyle definitely knew that about himself) and you know you’re heading off a bad circumstance if you say that right off the bat. Also, it’s really nice to be a reasonable distance from at least one side of your family!!! (We’re 3.5 hours away from Kyle’s family.) Call night is bound to throw you for a loop somehow and there are so many emotions that go with it (up and down). We had two loops – he was called to a super rural area (Whaaat?!) and he was called to a dual parish (whaattttt??!?!!). lol!!!But, honestly, just like Laura said, after being here for 2.5 years, I can’t believe the openness and contentment God has worked in me during that time. Sure, there’s always parts about life that are rough or that I wish was another way but then I feel guilty because there are SO MANY WONDERFUL THINGS that God has worked for us here. I don’t think there is ever any “absolute perfect” situation. No matter what, even our “perfect situation” would be broken by sin. Grace Verage
- Don’t forget what type of community you want to be in–and if you are comfortable with somewhere small, how far from a “big city”? There’s a big difference between small town rural and small town “isolated” rural. What size of congregation? Open to associate positions or no? Say anything and everything, but seriously. You just never know–God will take you where you need to be at the time. Also: I would seriously consider whether you are open to a dual/multi parish or not. There seem to be more and more of them every year, and I imagine it will only increase in this direction in the coming years. Steph Traphagan
- Great suggestions mentioned. I think it’s important to prioritize your preferences. As in what are the top 2-3 things you’d consider most important (location, distance from family, church size, education opportunities, dual-tri-sole parish, community, healthcare, etc.) The placements are carefully thought through and few pastors get their dream call right out of Seminary, but they do listen to your preferences. However, if you’re giving 6-10 “must haves” they’re going to have to pick and choose for you instead of looking at your highest priorities and then trying to do their best to fit the others. Andrea McKinley
- Don’t just say what you think he wants to hear. Now’s not the time for the “we could do anything” speech. He really wants to know what’s important to you. Mackenzie Ross
- Whether you get a call that looks great on paper or one that you’re sure is everything you didn’t want, leaving the seminary bubble is hard.Once you’re no longer surrounded by like-minded people who can relate to you and your family on almost every level, there’s a mourning of sorts. Plus, the coop! It’s hard to enter “the real world”–unlike vicarage where you know it’s temporary, you’re now in this place that could be home for the next 3-30 years. No matter your placement, that can be a hard reality, but let me tell you that even my friends who are in calls that seem impossible have been blessed by the generosity and love of their members. God truly will provide for your family, sometimes in the most unexpected ways. Andrea McKinley
- If I were to do it over again, I’d ask for nothing at all and let my husband handle any of those questions. Laura Vandercook
- One of the things we found out when we got here is that my husband was a great fit for the congregation, even though the congregation, on paper, was not a great fit for us.
We requested metro area, we are rural. We requested nearby universities to further our educations, we are so far from those I’m not sure where the nearest one is…maybe Lake Superior State in the Upper Peninsula? He preferred a team ministry, he is sole. We got nothing we asked for, but everything we needed. Stefani Ketelsen
- The only thing I think you can do is be totally open minded. We are 10.5 hours away from our family who we use to see all the time. God’s flock needs to hear the Law and Gospel from our husbands, and there are so many places that I wish we could have been, but we aren’t. We are in the absolute best place for us. That’s another thing you have to remember. God isn’t going to place you somewhere where you can’t handle it. There will be times definitely that things are strenuous, but we get through it. I’m sure you know everything I just said, but just pray. That’s what we did. We were so nervous. Open minded will keep you less stressed and less sad if you’re really wanting to go somewhere specific. Hugs and prayers for you! I would also like to add that this ‘job’ isn’t at all about us. The pastor family life is about our church families. It’s a very selfless place to be in, and there will be times that the littles (in my case my 5 yr old at the moment, thank you advent!) will cry for their daddy. But we have to remind them that God needs daddy’s help to help those who need to hear His word. Once you can open your heart and mind to the fact that your husband and your family are going to bless some congregation or in our case congregations and they will, in turn, return their love to you and your family. It’s a beautiful thing. And, as a wife of a dual parish pastor, two is not that crazy of a thing to have in your life. Once your husband acquires a schedule (I had to help mine! Lol) it becomes so natural.
Either way, this role as a pastor’s wife had been a true blessing. Sarah Seymour
- Just as you husband trusted the seminary professors to teach him about theology and being a pastor– trust them to know him and what kind of church he will serve well. God works through other people. Honestly, it’s a lot of fretting over something that you have no control over, and really, you’re going to go where they pick for you, right? Once you’re there, your husband is going to serve faithfully, you’re going to support him, and your family will thrive. Holly Scheer
- So much good advice here! I helped my husband fill out the SET and we discussed what was most important to us, what we should ask for, etc. Then I let him do most of the talking during the interview. We tried to be very flexible–if you say you only want to live in a certain state, for example, there probably won’t be many (if any) calls there that fulfill your other requests. So we had a whole list of states that we were willing to live in, a wide range of town sizes, etc. Even then, we ended up at a call that was the exact opposite of everything we had requested (except for the parsonage, because we said we would be fine with or without one). So I think one of the most important parts of the interview (for you and your sanity, at least) is the time afterward, when you will be hearing all sorts of rumors and hints and other information about where you might be headed. We thought we knew where we were going, and it was changed at the last minute and we were totally stunned (and not pleasantly so) on call night. But these ladies are right–no matter where you go, Christ will be with you, and you will find people who love and care for you. Audrey Daenzer
- I agree with so many of the comments here, I almost don’t feel like I need to say anything, but here I go. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned — make sure you and your husband are 100% on the same page with your answers (or If you disagree, let the interviewer know).On paper, our call is pretty much what I asked for. It is not at all what I had imagined, but it checks all the boxes on my list. smile emoticon In some ways that is good (I got what I wanted!), but in other ways, like when things are stressful or we are feeling homesick, I feel like it is my fault because I got what I wanted. As other ladies have mentioned, it is important to remember that this process is different from other careers. This isn’t a job interview. Our husbands do not receive calls because their wife charmed (or didn’t) the interviewer. So be prepared to end up *anywhere* – even if it totally doesn’t match your ideal. Do share your preferences, but don’t get so attached to them that you will be crushed on call night if you don’t end up with what you want.
Personally we put far more emphasis on wanting a good match with the congregation than on location, especially distance from family. We would have liked to be close to family, but in the day to day it is your church family that makes the difference. I would rather have our everyday lives be better and be 1000 miles from family than be in an awkward or bad situation with church but have mom and dad an hour away. DoRena Wirgau
- So much good advice from these lovely and wise women! We were very open in our interview and asked for just one thing – that we be within an hour of a major city so we could meet some medical needs of our family. We ended up an hour away from our family which has been amazing. Be honest about what is important to you, but open to the ways that God can bless you. As many of these ladies know, our situation has been hard at times. My husband is an associate and that is always going to bring some issues. Despite the challenges, God has been so good to us here. We have been well loved and cared for in ways I never would have imagined. Be open minded about that. No matter where you go there will be many challenges, but also many blessings. And, very important, no matter where you go, establish a group of pastor wife friends that you can talk to, cry with, vent, and share your joys. They will get you in a way that others won’t. Tamara Ockree
- We’re currently going through the call process also. I remembered wives in the past asking for particular things for their town, such as walkable and close to a target. I used that advice in our meeting. We also brought up our desire to homeschool our kids and would love to live in a community that supports that.We will see soon what God has in store for us. We’ve also prepped our family for the “unknown” as best we can.We also brought up the desire not to have a dual/ multi parish situation because of vicarage.Pulse helps a lot during your interview. I love his concern and care for us, his guidance helps so much with this unknown. Prayers for your meeting today and for where God intends your husband to serve! Anonymous
- Well- apparently my husband assumed he wouldn’t get a dual perish and so he decided not to indicate such preference and lo and behold, here he is. BWAHAHA. That being said- he is built for a dual parish (even if he can’t see it) and this Call is wonderful.
Bottom line- ain’t no big thang. Anonymous.
A bishop’s advice once was:
There is the where, when & what of first call.
You can pick two of the three.
You’ve got to be flexible on one.
You can really mention “distance from family”?
What happened to the CTS maxim: “12 driving hours (or more) from anyone you could be remotely related to”, as my son’s first call? (Truthfully, it was a two day trip all too seldom made).
My grandson has it better; he has an uncle to host the family for an overnite, halfway “home”.
Last Christmas all my immediate family, children, spouses, grandchildren, great grandchildren were actually in the same place for the first time since my children were in college!
This Christmas… I have the photos of last Christmas.
You can ask– but it doesn’t mean it will be granted. We are a two day car drive to either side of our family, and this Christmas, like most Christmases, we won’t have extended family near.
It is painful.
I am sorry that your family is so far apart! Do you have a church family that can ease the pain a little?