mhAMtaQThis question comes from one of our RevGal colleagues who is feeling overwhelmed by what it means for her family when God’s call means big changes: 

Dear Matriarchs:

Could I get some advice from other mama pastors?

I have been seeking a new call and doing some interviews in some distant places. Now one of those places has called me and we are set to move there this summer. While our kids knew this was a possibility, my usually easy-going 9 year old sort of completely lost it. On the other hand, the pre-teen who seems to dislike everyone is super excited. We moved here 3 years ago so for my spouse to get an advanced degree, and I remember all too well that struggle. Now I am rethinking the whole thing and feeling very selfish.

How did your kids cope with moving? How can I help make this easier for all of us?

Jennifer Burns Lewis:

My children are now adults (28 and 23) but they’ve moved twice for pastoral calls, the most significant of which was when they were 13 and 9. We have them lots of choices and included them in many decisions surrounding the move and they say that helped a lot. Moving away from family, friends and the familiar wasn’t easy, but the anticipation was harder than the move and the adjustment, if that makes sense. It was pretty awesome to move to a community, schools and a congregation who were expecting us and welcomed us with lots of warmth and support. It turned out to be a very good move indeed for almost fourteen years and is the place they still refer to as home, despite moves away to adulthood for them and one last adventure, I think, for my husband and me.

Sharon Mack Temple:

Jennifer, I love the way you included your kids in the decision-making!

More from a child’s point of view: When I was 13, my family made a long-distance move for my father’s change of career. Moving away from both sets of grandparents, leaving my friends and school, and changing cultures was overwhelmingly sad to me. At that stage in life, my body chemistry was out of my control, and every feeling was magnified. Two things helped a lot: (1) My parents finally stopped trying to convince me of all the good things about the move and acknowledged how hard it was for me. After that, I was more open to being pleasantly surprised in that new place. I wish that shift had happened before we moved instead of several months after. (2) They let me fly back to my hometown the next summer to spend time with my grandparents and see friends. That adventure — and their confidence in me — was a wonderful experience. I also realized that it was now a place to visit, but not my home anymore.

All of us Matriarchs wish this RevGal and richly rewarding moving experience with her family . May it go as smoothly as possible!

How about you, dear reader? Has a pastoral call to a new place been especially upsetting for your children? How did you handle that? Let us know in the comments below.

Are you facing a big change? Send your scenario to AskTheMatriarch (at) gmail (dot) com and we will support you through it.

Rev. Sharon M. Temple is a United Church of Christ pastor living in Austin, TX. She is a contributor to the RevGals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit and blogs erratically at Tidings of Comfort and Joy.

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2 thoughts on “Ask the Matriarch: Helping Children Move when the Pastor is Called Away

  1. My girls are double pks-so they (and we) experienced a number of moves. The most difficult was moving from SC to Virginia when they were a rising junior and a rising 7th grader. My husband’s position started in February- so he went ahead. The three of us stayed to finish the school year. The most helpful thing we did was go to counseling together. I think we did 3 or 4 sessions. It was an opportunity to express the many emotions we each had. It was still a really difficult and unhappy time for about a year. We tried to keep listening and talking -staying open to the feelings and needs. That was 2001. A year later I asked if they could move back if they would. Both girls said no-they had made the transition successfully.
    Blessings in the journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I received my most recent call our two teens were a Junior and Sophomore in high school. We chose to keep them in their school until graduation while I moved to the new church location–and commuting back on my pastor’s weekends. While the transition has been complicated, it has ultimately been the best choice. Each of our children have done well remaining at their high school and my new church position is a good fit for me. It would have been a mistake to have forced them to move to the new schools system at such a late stage in their academics and social network. Our oldest has successfully transitioned to college and our second will enter college in the fall. The choice was the right one for our family, but would not work for every call or every family.

    Liked by 1 person

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