Moving to a new city is a challenge for anyone. As a pastor’s wife, besides the fact that it’s possible you will move a number of times throughout your lifetime as God calls your husband to new ministry situations, there are special considerations for you and your family as you come into new church situations. Here are some of the considerations, resources, and top moving tips for pastor’s wives.
We’ve been in ministry for almost 20 years and have moved to 3 different churches – Indiana, Colorado, and New York, plus moved to seminary and vicarage. We have 5 children currently ranging in age from 8 to 20 years old, so I understand the complexities of moving as a pastor’s family. Allow me to share with you tips I’ve learned along the way from my own experiences and also those I’ve learned from other pastor’s wives.
Top Moving Tips for Pastor’s Wives
Will you use a moving company, moving trucks, or PODS for you move? We’ve used all these methods or a combination. (Our last move, from Colorado to New York, was done in stages since my husband moved first and I came later after the kids finished school.)
Moving trucks, like U-Haul, are the cheapest and typically you can find church members to help. We have found that church members often take better care of your stuff than some professionals! The downside is that this is the most labor intensive.
Consider a combo deal like using a U-Haul but hiring movers to pack the boxes and furniture into the truck on moving day. Two – three strong young men can get so much done in a couple hours, and many companies will also include stretch-wrapping your furniture if you request it.
Moving companies are by far the most expensive way to go but the nicest for you. They will do everything if requested, including packing your boxes. Keep in mind professionals do not care about your stuff and items will get damaged or broken. Also if you need to move in gradually (a temporary apartment and stuff in storage, for example), this might not be the best option.
PODS are a newer option to consider. PODS are cool because all your stuff goes into the POD and it can be brought right to the door of your new house. The downside to PODS is that we discovered that while moving PODS is comparable in price to a moving truck, the storage cost for PODS is high. U-HAUL has a new version of PODS that is cheaper.
Be sure your husband talks realistically with your new congregation about the costs of a move. Do they understand how much it costs to move? Our current church had not had a new pastor in 30 years. They might not have any idea the thousands of dollars involved, plus the incidental costs you will have, like food expenses, hotel, costs for new items for children, uniforms at a new school, sports fees, medical care costs, housewares, and other weird expenses that just happen as part of a moving process, like when you unpack your boxes and discover you have 4 of the 5 needed parts to your blender. (true and annoying story)
Your new church should pay your moving expenses, but some churches simply cannot afford this or can only pay a portion.
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Saying goodbye to the church where you have previously done ministry is tough. Our church family becomes our family as we do ministry with these dear people we love in Christ.
While it’s possible to accept a new call during a time that ministry is going amazingly well, more often a pastor accepts a call because it is time to move on from current ministry. So often those of us in ministry are the walking wounded. We leave a previous call in pain from hurtful words spoken and difficult ministry situations. Allow yourself the time and the work of the Holy Spirit for healing to take place.
Facebook makes saying goodbye more complex. We get to keep in touch with friends and congregation members, yet there is also a continual visual reminder of what we left behind. Our new congregation sees the close connection we had to our previous church. We see ministry that continues to take place after we are gone, which is both encouraging and sad.
When we left our church in Colorado where we had done ministry for 16 years, this is the presentation we offered to our congregation: 10 Lessons Learned From 15 years of Ministry in Colorado
Lawrence W. Farris has written a super-helpful book, Ten Commandments for Pastors Leaving a Congregation. It’s written for pastors but I read my husband’s copy and got so much out of it as a pastor’s wife. It’s a quick read. Here are the chapters to give you an idea of what is in the book:
Ten Commandments for Pastors Leaving a Congregation by Lawrence W. Farris
Thou Shalt Know When It is Time To Go
Thou Shalt Explain Thyself
Thou Shalt Not Steal Away
Thou Shalt Affirm Thy Congregation’s Ministry
Thou Shalt Try to Mend Fences
Thou Shalt Help Thy Successor Have a Good Beginning
Thou Shalt Be Gentle with Thyself
Thou Shalt Attend to Thy Family
Thou Shalt (Usually) Stay Away Once Thou Has Left
Thou Shalt Grieve
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Coming into a New Church
While saying goodbye to a church is hard, coming into a new congregation is also a challenge. It takes time to find your new place in the congregation — your pew, your role, and your new ministry areas.
A word of caution. Beware of people in the church who want to be your new best friend. Do they have a hidden agenda or do they see you as a way to get to the new pastor? Take your time in forming new relationships.
Check out Ten Commandments for Pastors New to a Congregation by Lawrence W Farris for helpful tips when you start ministry at a new church. One of our favorite tips from the book is to be a cultural historian. My husband hosted “story sharing” times when we moved to our current church. He had 6-8 questions prepared such as “Tell me about what Christmas is like here.” and “What’s one of your favorite memories at this church?” and “If there’s something you could change about our church, what would it be?” It was a wonderful way for us to get to know the church, and also a great chance for members of the congregation to be heard.
Ten Commandments for Pastors New to a Congregation by Lawrence W Farris
Thou Shalt Be a Cultural Historian
Thou Shalt Spend Thy Blue Chips for Change on Changes that Matter
Thou Shalt Attend to Thy Preaching
Thou Shalt Be Certain the Church’s Financial House is in Order
Thou Shalt Not Create Expectations Which Cannot Be Met in the Long Term
Thou Shalt Take Care of Thyself from Day One
Thou Shalt Be Aware of the Chronics
Thou Shalt Limit Thy Activities beyond the Congregation That Has Called You
Thou Shalt Remember What They Job Is
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery
When we moved from Indiana to Colorado, I was incredibly lonely. I remember sitting on the kitchen floor (we didn’t have any furniture yet) eating french fries with my two little toddler girls. Mike was busy getting adjusted to his new church ministry. I distinctly remember how lonely I felt and how much I wanted to return to Indiana, my old house and all my friends.
Sixteen years later when we moved from Colorado to Buffalo, the move was even crazier. We moved into a tiny apartment and once again I left behind my friends and all that I knew. Yet I wasn’t as lonely. Adjustments haven’t been easy, but I feel a sense of peace knowing God will provide all I need in His time.
One of the best books to read about moving is After the Boxes are Unpacked: Moving on After Moving In by Sue Miller. Also check out Just Moved Ministries website and Facebook page. Sue has a wonderful ministry and it makes a great Bible study to lead for women who are new to the area.
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Helping Kids Adjust to a Move
Perhaps one of the hardest things about moving for any parent is knowing we are going to uproot our children from the life they know. We worry about how this will affect their development, friendships, and sense of safety.
As pastor’s families, we have the added concern that if our children struggle with the move, we worry that they will blame the church or God.
Please recognize that families move all the time, and your children will be able to handle this situation and in fact can grow to be stronger for it. Your attitude and encouragement will go so far in how your children are impacted by the experience. Moving might not be easy for them, but you can each grow through this experience both individually and as a family.
After parenting for many years, foster parenting, and parenting children with intense special needs, I have found this parenting advice to be true across many circumstances:
Don’t try to fix it. Be there for your kids.
Be compassionate and understanding as your children face the difficulties that a move to a new city presents.
Try not to set up a situation where you are “selling” the benefits of a new city as your kids complain or long for for the old one. Remember, your old location wasn’t perfect either. Talk about the good and bad aspects of both locations.
Remember, you are all on the same team.
Wonder together, “I wonder why God brought us to this new place?”
Moving Tips for Young Children
- Make the move visual – use a calendar to cross off the days or maps that show old and new cities.
- Make a poster of things that DON’T change.
- Plan ways to keep in touch with friends BEFORE you leave.
- Visit fun places in your new location. (Be adventurers in your new city.)
- Ask your kids what they are worried about. It might not be what you think! Our son Zack was worried that his special blankets would have to stay behind in Colorado. Once we knew what his worries were, it was easy to reassure him, and we made a special moving box just for his blankets.
Moving Tips for School Age Children
- Knowing one friend can make a huge positive difference. Try finding a neighborhood or church friend.
- A middle of the school year change can work. Sometimes living in separate states has more negative impact on kids than starting a new school mid-year.
- Practice how to meet people and how to have “get to know you” conversations. These are awesome skills that will serve him or her well throughout life.
- Give your kids downtime. Recognize how hard and emotionally depleting it is simply to get through the day. (Especially if your child is an introvert.)
Moving Tips for High School Students
- Give kids ownership in the process. We took our high schoolers house shopping with us and visiting school districts. Allow kids to help choose school classes and which bedroom. (We as parents have ultimate decision making power.)
- Keep an eye on technology. It can be useful for keeping in touch with far-away friends but can become all-consuming. (Click here for a family technology agreement.)
- Keep busy. Don’t allow isolation.
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Are you a pastor’s wife who is adjusting to a new move? What have you found helpful?