+Mark 9:36-37 Jesus took a little child and stood among them, taking the child in his arms, he said to them “whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me…”
It’s official: 2 Pastors in Canton Ohio are having a baby in 2015! What does this mean for our churches-or any church-when your pastor has a baby?
Here are 5 things I hope my church (and all churches with soon-to-be parent pastors) remember:
1) God has called your pastor to serve, and likely, this call is just beginning.
What will it actually be like for your pastor to have a baby? Is this the end to ministry as we know it? It’s natural for churches to have anxiety about a big change and a new addition to a pastor’s priorities. But children offer an opportunity for churches to grow together and for the church family to learn more about becoming the beloved community. I love serving Community Christian Church. I feel called to serve here well into the future. I believe my ministry will only be deepened and enriched as I become a mother. I am passionate about my vocation AND my family. I believe this is true for most ministers called to serve The Church.
2) Parenting and ministry go hand in hand, and often switch places.
To love, to nurture, to protect, to teach, to advise, to comfort, to listen, to stretch, and to build a family together… this could be said for ministry or parenting. Being a minister helps me prepare to be a mother, and becoming a mother will strengthen my gifts for ministry. I will do some of my best parenting from the church when I am serving as a minister- creating a safe, sacred place for my children to explore the big questions. I will be doing some of my best pastoral care from home as a mother- creating passionate followers of Christ in my children through tenderness and attention, & teaching them to love their neighbors and stand up for justice.
3) You will be the witnesses to this child’s life, and that’s an honor.
Most pastors serve churches away from their hometown, and away from their families. They have been called into your community, and with trust and hope, they have invested in your church. It is my hope and my prayer that the church will see this baby as a testimony to our desire to deepen roots in Ohio, and at our churches. Our congregations will hold our baby more than our parents and family. This community will bear witness to the milestones and the growth of our son. Church members will be the trusted ones to teach our baby, to share in the love of our baby and to be our partners in the shaping of this little boy. We will all be intimately connected through journey in our lives. It is a gesture of trust for any pastor to welcome a congregation into their journey of parenting.
4) Churches have a chance to put their prayers into action by supporting the health of their pastor after the baby arrives.
Pastors need parental leave. Most pastors hope and pray that the church can structure a maternity leave that will not be a detriment to the progress and momentum of the church, and that will not be a detriment to the pastor’s growing family. I am working with the leaders of CCC to develop a plan for a maternity leave. We are engaged in research with other pastors and denominational policies so that we can devise a leave that will strengthen both me and the church. At Community Christian Church, I believe we can be leaders in this process- showing the world what it means to be a church that values women in ministry, and young families in the church- with this, the kingdom of God draws near.
5) The church is more than the Pastor, and all will be well during a maternity leave.
A church is a group of faithful, compassionate people. Prayer shawl knitters. Bereavement Meal cooks. Singers who make a joyful noise each week in worship. Children who remind us to approach our faith with wonder. And so much more. At CCC, we are already planning for some dynamic guest preachers to fill the pulpit in my absence. The leadership is also planning a retreat for Elders, Deacons, Trustees and Board members in August that will help the leadership continue to gain strength. Our Elders have worked hard over the last year, filling their toolbox with skills in pastoral care and leadership- and they are ready to invest deeply in their ministry responsibilities in my absence. Remember, the church is much bigger than the pastor!
I am confident that the church will remain strong and grow from this opportunity to welcome a new little Taylor Peck. I thank God for each of you and the ways you will be a part of my son’s life.
Rev. Sarah Taylor Peck
For more insight on this topic- I encourage you to read a post from my friend and colleague Rev. Erin Wathen, senior minister at St. Andrew Christian church- she encouraged much of my thinking on this topic and she beautifully articulated these points and more on her blog entry from 2013: