What do you think? What would you do? What does your church do? Bill Yaccino is onto something here.
Jennifer, a woman I had never talked to before, called me and said, “Pastor Bill? My fiancé and I need help. Will you help us?”
I’m not sure how you respond to questions like that, but as a pastor, most likely you would not hang up or tell them to buzz off. Unless you are depraved beyond what Calvin says we all are at birth, most of us would say something like, “Well, I’ll try. How can I help?” That’s what I said.
Jennifer replied, “My fiancé, Mike and I consider ourselves spiritual but not religious. We are getting married in a few months and we kind of think it is one of the most important days of our lives. We’ve called seven churches, talked to six receptionists and one minister, and all have told us they can’t help us.”
“How so”, I asked?
I’ll never forget the rejection in Jennifer’s voice. “Some asked if we were members of the church – I guess we gave the wrong answer. Some asked if we were living together – again, wrong answer. Others asked if we were previously married. Still others required we go through a 10-week counseling session. I guess we just had the wrong answers to some of the questions. Honestly, it made us feel pretty sh#%@y!”
Here was a couple looking for spiritual guidance. Christian pastors were nowhere to be found. “How did you get my name”, I asked?
Jennifer informed me their caterer gave them my name. The caterer told them that I was a great guy that seemed pretty “normal”. I’m not kidding, she said that! Jennifer continues, “We took a look at your website and thought you seemed like the type of minister we wanted at our wedding. Can you help us? Oh, and what do we call you? Reverend? Father? What?”
To be honest, a few years ago, I was one of those “wrong answer” pastors. I was sure that by being selective about who I married, I was saving the institute of marriage. I was being righteously selective, as if marriage was only valid for Christians. I wonder how many couples I made feel terrible about themselves?
After this encounter, I went through my own personal “Dan Puhl” (A New Kind of Christian, Brian McLaren) type of experience, and I began hanging around people who did not attend church regularly – many spiritual but not religious. You know, the type of people we all read about, but never meet because we are so busy being pastors! Long story short, I was invited to officiate several weddings for these “unchurched” people. They liked the way I lived out my faith and how they felt free to question and reconsider theirs. So I performed a few weddings. I loved it! And guess what? They loved it too! So did their families, their friends, even the secular wedding professionals with whom I partnered.
And here’s another really cool thing – they paid me well! Not like the cheapo weddings I had done for the previous 12 years in the church. But most importantly, for the first time in a dozen years, I felt Missional, authentic, and empowered to serve these couples without an agenda. I echo Rob Bell when he says, “I am learning that the church is at its best when it gives itself away” (Velvet Elvis, p. 165).
Just two weeks ago, I sat in Starbucks and talked with N and N about their wedding. Amy is a young, attractive professional raised in a Greek Orthodox family. N is a young, well-educated man born in Lebanon to a Muslim family. While their families are not overly devoted to their religious heritage, they are also not super pleased that their children are marrying outside of their cultural beliefs. Both N and N are respectfully and culturally connected to their faith backgrounds, but neither lives out or embraces their faith actively. They are, however, in their own words “spiritual”, and very interested in living out life the way it is “supposed to be”. Isn’t it interesting how human nature takes a look around and notices that things are not they way God intended them to be! Anyway, at the end of an incredibly interactive discussion, N said, “You know, I’ve always been curious and intrigued with the teachings of Jesus. But the whole Muslim/Christian thing never allowed me to go there.” Wow! N and N called me, a Christian pastor, to help them celebrate on one of the most important days of their lives. I can represent my faith in Jesus best by serving them best.
Over the past three years, this accident has fueled and re-ignited my passion to be a missional pastor! Three years ago I met and married 27 couples – all outside the church. Two years ago I met and married 48 couples – all but two outside the church. Last year I met and married 56 couples. This year I will serve over 60 couples, often performing two or more ceremonies on any given Saturday.
Here is what really makes me smile:
¸ They call me and ask for my help.
¸ They are genuinely interested in building a marriage that lasts, and are open to hearing way that lead to a lasting and intimate relationship.
¸ They are happy to pay me well for serving them on their special day ($350-$600).
¸ Many couples decide to go through pre-marital coaching with my wife and me (about 1 in 4 couples).
¸ I keep in touch with every couple via email and personal invitations to dinner, church, special events, and some I even ask to baby-sit my kids!
Here is my dream for you, my fellow Emergent Pastors. Will you reach out to couples in your area looking for help? Will you help them even if they might be “wrong answer” people? Isn’t this what it means to be ‘Missional’? George Barna says in his new book, Revolution, that people will increasingly look outside the church for any type of spiritual connection or interest. That is exactly what I have experienced!
I’ve put together a website that will connect Emergent Pastors with couples looking for a minister to perform their wedding ceremony. If you are in the Emergent stream, there is a good chance this is for you – and you would be the type of pastor the world needs to meet. Let’s be Missional together!
There is an annual fee to cover the advertising costs of this service to engaged couples. Couples need to be able to find us in order to ask us for help! None of us can muster up enough advertising dollars on our own. But together we can be effective and reach millions of coupes through aggressive Google Adwords, Bridal Magazines, and through other wedding professionals. Together we can make ourselves available to thousands of couples. Think of the difference that can be made if these couples were served by Christian pastors instead of judges or secular humanists.
Sign up today and help us get this network off the ground. We are in the start up phase and hope to have 250 pastors in major US cities by June 30, 2006. To help you make the decision to become a pioneer member, you will receive 6 months free membership tacked onto the end of your annual membership when you send in your application and fee before June 30. You will have active membership in the WeddingPastorsUSA network until the end of 2007. The site will go live on July 1, 2006.
Begin your Missional adventure today!
Pastor Bill Yaccino