YOU & YOUR FAMILY
Transitions can help us grow
By Benny Bong
IN A FEW WEEKS’ TIME, members of some churches will be experiencing a change that is familiar to many, but not to all, church organisations; that is the rotation of its pastoral staff.
This move happens in every church and is greeted with mixed responses by the congregation. For most, it is felt as a loss. After being cared for by a particular shepherd, familiarity is established and bonds are formed. This loss can unfortunately be turned to resentment towards the incoming pastor.
For some members, however, they may welcome the change with a sigh of relief. Some members may have found that the skill sets of their out-going pastor did not meet their expectations. Others may have wanted a pastor who has a passion for a particular ministry or one whose approach to members suited them better.
I would like us to turn our attention to those who are most affected by these transitions, namely, the pastors and their families. They too have to deal with a range of emotions, between sadness at leaving, anxiety over filling the shoes of a well-loved pastor, and letting go of cherished ministries. We expect our pastors to be very professional about such work rotation and to take it in their stride. However, as a mental health practitioner, I wonder what preparation and support is available to them.
I also ask myself: Is there something I can do, as an ordinary member of my church, to encourage and to help ease them through such transitions? I believe it is in supporting one another that we live out what it means to be a spiritual family here on earth.
Another group of people who perhaps need our support are the family members of these pastors.
For these family members, too, I ask myself if there is something that can be done to help them feel welcome. How can we help pastors’ spouses feel that they can support their husbands in ministry with their special talents, instead of being exact carbon copies of the previous pastor’s wife? Their work often goes unacknowledged but is rarely unobserved.
We can help the children of our incoming pastors feel welcome by including them in our church activities. Another way we can welcome them is to accept them for who they are, instead of taking them merely as the pastor’s son or daughter. This means that when they make a mistake, as is only natural for any child growing up, we are as forgiving and accepting. We do not hold them to a higher standard of conduct simply because of their kinship with their pastoral parent.
Last but not least, how we acknowledge and say farewell to the out-going pastor and his family is also important. As Singaporeans, we are good at expressing our appreciation at farewell meals. Others can express their feelings by writing cards or even preparing a photo album. Finally, some may have to bring to closure their experiences by asking for forgiveness for being too judgemental or not being appreciative enough of them.
Transitions are experiences that are sometimes imposed on us. If we rise above our initial responses and even our personal needs, perhaps we can grow from them and help others grow through them.