Q&A FOR MINISTRY WIVES
By Gabriele Rienas
Q: Pastoral ministry has meant several moves for our family over the last twenty years. Normally, I feel ready for the transition and even look forward to a new opportunity for ministry. Now a ministry opportunity has arisen in another state, and I agree with my husband that it is God’s direction for our lives. However, this time I am devastated by the thought of moving again. I don’t want to leave our community, home, and present ministry. To make things harder, our two daughters are well connected and thriving in high school. After we move, our older daughter will start her senior year in a school where she knows no one except her younger sister. I feel so sad for her and worry about how this will affect her.
A: I strongly identify with your struggle. In this case, your concern is not only about your personal desire to stay put (which is enough in itself) but also your children’s well-being. This is one of those poignant moments in which the desire to obey God’s call to ministry interrupts the ability to control the course of your life.
After twenty years of ministry, you recognize the value of a positive pastoral setting. It is a blessing to live in surroundings that work for you and your family. As you move from the comfortable known to the unknown, there is room for disharmony and discomfort. The unknown can bring fear as your heart rehearses all the negative possibilities.
In addition, your daughters will face challenges. Senior year is a much-anticipated cultural rite of passage. It will be vastly different for your older daughter than previously envisioned.
Yes, this move will be difficult, but take courage. It does not have to be devastating. Do not let fear rob you of the new thing God is doing in your lives. This is an opportunity to strengthen your trust in God’s sovereign and loving plan for you and your family. This does not mean you should not feel any negative emotions. Because you are human, you and your family can expect to face a wide range of emotions. It is normal to deal with grief, a sense of vulnerability, and tension.
It can be difficult to release the sufficient present to grab hold of the unknown future. However, sometimes God asks us to let go of one thing to experience another. This is one of those times. Great courage and trust are needed in the moment between letting go and grabbing hold of the new. Trust that there is something to hold onto and that the new is part of God’s plan.
Then be proactive about making the transition as smooth as possible. Help the family understand that encouraging one another and pulling together will make it easier for everyone. Together you can find creative ways to explore the positive side of your new community and ministry opportunity. Find things that will help you look forward to the new experience. When it comes to your daughters, be flexible on things that are negotiable.
Acknowledge your eldest daughter’s feelings about how the move will affect her senior year. Listen to what she has to say, and help her find solutions. Beware of the extremes of either joining with her in a drama-filled protest or minimizing her experience and invalidating her feelings.
Recognize and overcome feelings of parental guilt and fear. Resist the urge to overcompensate for your daughter’s loss. Realistically, she will not be irreparably damaged by transition during her senior year. While difficult, the experience can actually make her a stronger, wiser person.
Be the adult in the mix. This means being a compassionate motivator. Be a good listener while gently encouraging your children to overcome their challenges. Validate their feelings, but reinforce your belief in their ability to deal with change. At the same time, expect them to cooperate and be respectful. Set firm boundaries when necessary.
Finally, help your eldest daughter reframe her vision for her senior year. It is not what she expected, and she will certainly grieve that loss. Help her form expectations that realistically align with the new opportunity. The year will look different, but it also holds possibilities for impact and fulfillment.
Few things in life are more important or compelling than the bond and love of family. Keep reminding your family of that bond and the power that comes from moving through difficult times together. Redirect their attention to the bigger picture. When your family’s story is written, this move will be one brief moment in a multitude of moments. There are many more experiences to be had, joys to be shared, and adventures to be explored. There is much to anticipate.
Above all, have courage and remember Who you serve. Let Joshua 1:9 encourage you: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (NIV).