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Changing Locations: by PW

posted by Scot McKnight

This is an ongoing series by a pastor’s spouse about pastoral life from that angle. In this post we are asked to converse about the implications of pastoral geographical relocations.

By PW: How have ministry relocations affected your ministry “home base”? Has this affected
your family adversely? Or has it enriched your family’s experiences?
How about the pastor(s) of your local church?  How important is it to
your congregation that they put down roots and be a long-term part of
your community?

A number of years ago, I met someone for the first time and as we gained acquaintance, we each exchanged some of our story. I don’t often blurt out that I am a ministry spouse in the first 5 minutes of meeting someone. I like to get to know them and allow them to get to know me. This one person, Kara, was casually chatting with me at a school function and she tossed into the conversation that her family has “relocated a number of times.” She was concerned about her children and their adjustment to the new school, etc.

This has happened to our ministry family as well–I thought we had moved A LOT. So I listened and asked a few friendly questions. Kara disclosed that they had moved over 20 times since she and her husband married.
 
Now, my mind is creative and the possibilities that occurred to me were many. I thought: oh, well! Maybe they are military (usually they move as often as ministry families)…maybe fugitives…maybe corporate… In fact, her spouse was in education and had been working up the ranks of K-12 education. I was empathetic to her concerns for her family.

I have had to help our family adjust to several moves. Thankfully, they have been fairly reasonable when you think about it.

What about you? How many times have you moved? How has it affected your family and you and your ministry?
 



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Carrie G

posted May 4, 2009 at 5:26 am


My husband is a pastor. In 29 years of marriage, we have moved 16 times and lived in 8 different states. He’s more of a fix it type guy, you know, get in there, work on some major overhauling that needs to be done, then move on to the next place.
Our children have done great! Most of them are adults now and some have told me they admire our adventurous spirit. They have eyes to see people who are in the sidelines and bring them in. I see lots of benefits in moving for our children, but I really haven’t seen any detriments.
One the other hand, I feel traumatized. I feel desperate for connections with people that I do not lose. I long to see children grow up, be confirmed, graduate, go off to school get married… you know the cycle of life up close, not part of it up close, then from a distance. I long for roots. I long to stay in the familiar. I long to know people for longer than a couple of years. I long to go through the ups and down with friends over a long period of time. I long to not have to find a new doctor, dentist, grocery store, hair dresser, etc.. every couple of years.
I’m not moving again.



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AS

posted May 4, 2009 at 6:29 am


I am a Pastor’s Kid. I moved a number of times as a child but stayed in the same location from 7th to 12th grades. I think that moving affected me but not that much. However my Mother, who was a pastor’s kid that move much more than we did was affected by the moves a lot. She went to 12 different schools before graduating from high school. She stayed in the same school for her last 2.5 years. She met my father and they decided to get married the week after she graduated from High School because her family was moving again (the next day after she got married.)
Even now has difficult making and maintaining friends. Outside of her immediate family I don’t think she really has anyone that would be considered a strong friend.
But she is one of five girls in her family and the other four have had a variety of experiences as well.
In general I do not think it is healthy for either the church or the pastor and his family to move all that often. I understand job changes. In my family, we moved a lot as my Father was finishing up school. I lived in 7 homes before I turned 6. But I don’t really remember those. When we became old enough to remember we stayed a minimum of four years at each church.



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RJS

posted May 4, 2009 at 6:33 am


How common is the frequent move? I think it depends on personality and situation in many cases. I’ve been involved in churches all my life where the average tenure for the pastor was around 10 years (some much more) in the same church. Even staff stability for the associates is 5 years or so – often more.
My brother-in-law is a pastor (20 years) and they have moved twice. Once was intentionally a move – to a “sending church” preparing them to start a new church plant.
Is the profession really any more mobile than many other professions in our current rather transitory society?



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Angie Ward

posted May 4, 2009 at 8:15 am


We have moved twice, but for three churches. First, from seminary to our first church; second, from that church to a church in our current area; third, from that church, which closed, to our current church. That last “move” did not require a change in address or doctors or hairdressers or even some friends, but it was the most painful. Sometimes I wished for a new start, instead of a reminder of a painful experience in this same town. But two years into our current church, I find that the transition was messier, but also richer.
We do not know whether God will move us ten times, or keep us here for ten more years. We do feel like we are nomadic in that we do not view any place as permanent. It’s not that we want to move every few years, but we do want to be willing to God’s movement in our lives, even if that means a physical move to another location.
Even though we are located in the U.S. and have family nearby, we feel like we are missionaries and need to be intentional about finding emotional support outside of (and in addition to) our church community. Our children are ages 10 and 8. This has been the only town they remember, but they have experienced two churches. We try to impress on them that we must follow God’s call, even when we don’t know much about the destination.



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PW

posted May 4, 2009 at 9:43 am


RJS, not too long ago (5 years?) the average tenure for a pastor in the USA was said to be about 3.5 years. Given the rarity that a pastor “move up” or “shift jobs” in a single church, moving or changing churches is a norm. I think there is a large variance in between denominations or when you compare rural to urban/suburban. But generally speaking, military kids and ministry kids have often been compared for some of the same issues.



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Jim Marks

posted May 4, 2009 at 10:46 am


My wife is an academic. Neither of us are or aspire to be pastors. We’ve about to move for the third time in four years (and will need to move again in another six, give or take) in order for her to pursue her career.
This is brutal for having any sense of a home church or a fellowship with other believers.
You all have my empathy.



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Jim Martin

posted May 4, 2009 at 9:51 pm


Since seminary, we have moved three times. Each move too much energy but was also energizing as well. The major challenge in a couple of these moves was how far we would be from our families.
Overall, I think our family handled these moves well. We took the attitude that this was going to be a wonderful adventure. We told our children and that everything was going to be all right and that we were going to enjoy our new place. Charlotte and I felt like we set the tone for whatever the kids experienced. If we communicated anxiety, fear, etc. then that would probably rub off on our children. However, if we communicated calmness, confidence, and a positive outlook, that would probably impact them as well. We attempted to have the latter attitude.
Great question.



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