This is part of a series on clergy couples and their stories. Andy and I wrote a book about being a clergy couple and all the insanity that goes along with it called Yoked: Stories of a Clergy Couple in Marriage, Family, and Ministry.
Having two kids in two years while both you and your spouse are pastors at program-sized churches is not for the faint of heart. With so many evening meetings and weekend obligations, trying to have any kind of normal family life becomes kind of a joke. We both loved our congregations and our positions but it became more and more obvious that it was not a situation that could work in the long term.
There was the time that my newborn son contracted pneumonia and I wasn’t there for the doctor’s visits because of a Sunday afternoon meeting. Or the time that my husband was out of state officiating a wedding when I began having pre-term contractions. Or the one where the kid starts throwing up early on Sunday morning and you and your spouse have to negotiate who gets to leave and who has to stay. Or when you realize that you haven’t all been together for a meal in several weeks.
Even with all of the difficulty, we struggled with the decision to leave. Both congregations were so excited for us when we announced that we were expecting, that they threw us incredible baby showers. Both congregations had loving and wonderful nursery staffs that our children grew to love. Our kids were regularly on a blanket in the corner or crawling under a table during any number of meetings. They were embraced by our congregations wholeheartedly. These were the churches where our children had been baptized, where they starred in their first Christmas pageants, where they first learned of the incredible love of a church family.
And yet, for us, the sacrifices to our family life were just too great. We moved to ministry situations that allowed us more family time. Our children still choose on a Sunday between “Daddy’s church” and “Mommy’s church”. They still are unfazed when one of their parents has a meeting that means they’ll miss breakfast or dinner. But for now, two kids and two churches feels a bit more manageable. I just hope the double PK moniker doesn’t scar them too badly.
Rev. Heidi Bolt lives in Nebraska City, NE with her husband who is also a pastor. She works part-time at a UCC Church in rural Iowa and part-time as a hospice chaplain. She and her husband have two kids, age 3 and 5.