WARNING, STEPPING UP ON SOAP BOX:
I am currently in year five of my current appointment. I am now tied with two other pastors for the longest tenure at this church. Now that I am finishing up the first quarter of my fifth year I have been getting lots of questions about whether or not we will be moving. It has not simply come from parishioners, most of them have not asked. It is outsiders who do most the asking.
My wife came home from getting her hair cut and during the small talk she told her hair dresser that I was a United Methodist minister in Thomasville. The hair dresser asked how long we have been here and then if we were moving this year. I have been asked by other random people as well and it finally hit me why I get frustrated when people ask that question.
Whether a clergy family is moving or not is such a deeply personal question. Yes it affects the local congregation and it is public knowledge that we Methodists move, so it is a natural question that can be asked. Yet I don’t think people understand what they are asking. First three people have to decide it is time to move, the church, the pastor and the cabinet. None of which are even thinking about this in the fall of the year.
Plus, the question itself is loaded. Are you going to move? = Do you feel your time at your current appointment is over? Have you done everything you can to work with that congregation to move deeper into their calling as a church? Can they afford you any longer? Do they not like you over there? Do you not like them? Are you ready to uproot your family and move away from the only place your kids know as home? Do you feel like you are will be represented well enough on the cabinet that your gifts and graces will be considered over your current salary level? Is it a good move year? Are there still things hanging that need to be dealt with at your current church before you feel you could move? Is your congregation healthy enough to endure a move this year? Is your spouse happy with the life s/he created at this appointment and wanting or willing to ‘start all over again’? Will your children be hurt tragically to leave the only friends they have every known? Are you scared your next parsonage won’t hold a candle to your current one? Are you emotionally ready to move? Are you spiritually ready to move? Are you, as the pastor, ready to start all over with new faces, new demographics, new family dynamics, new sources of power, new staff, new town, new life? I could go on but I’ll stop there.
There is so much that goes into a clergy person’s decision to move that to flippantly ask about it in a random conversations is almost rude. It is like asking someone, “How much do you make in a year?” It really isn’t any of your business. But hey, for ministers anything goes right?
I can tolerate the question when my family asks it. I dodge the question when fellow clergy ask it. I duck and swallow hard every time a parishioner asks it. It rocks my nerves when random people ask it. They of all people don’t understand the spiritual, personal, political, and did I mention personal realities that resides in the true answer.