Pastoring, Parenting, and Best-Laid Plans

[Today’s guest post is from April Fiet. She’s wise, caring and knows how to put the two together.]

When my oldest child was a few months old, I took him to the nursery at our church for the first time.

My husband and I are co-pastors, and it was my Sunday to preach. My oldest child had, up until that time, been able to stay in the service with us while we co-led worship, but he was beginning to be mobile enough that it was no longer easy to keep him with us and juggle our leadership roles.

As a first-time parent of a child who had never had a babysitter, I was nervous to leave him with someone. On the flip side, I wanted him to be well cared for while being able to do my job. So, I took him to the nursery where the attendant assured me he’d be just fine. I knew he would be, but I was still concerned about how things would go. I swallowed my worry and handed my baby to the woman. My child immediately started screaming.

“Go ahead and go. It’s always the worst when you drop the child off. He’ll be over it in a minute,” she assured me.

With my eyes full of tears and my mind full of “what ifs,” I went into the sanctuary to prepare myself. The organ started playing the prelude. I took a few deep, cleansing breaths, and I prayed that God would take care of my little boy and give me the peace to be able to lead worship.

At first, everything seemed to be going well. No one had come to tell me they needed me to come get my child. I couldn’t hear him crying anymore. Everything was going to be just fine. The worship service began. We prayed. We sang hymns. We read the morning Scripture lessons. I gathered my notes and ascended the stairs to the pulpit, opened my Bible, and started my sermon.

That’s when it happened.

I could hear my son screaming at the top of his lungs.* It was that kind of cry that gets under your skin and frazzles your nerves. I could hear him wailing , and I was absolutely helpless to do anything about it. I tried to preach. I tried to follow my notes. I tried to speak slowly enough that people could still hear every word…but quickly enough that I could finish up and go get my child.

I started sweating. My heart was pounding. My ears were ringing. No matter how loudly I preached, the only thing I could hear was my baby who needed me. I have no idea what kind of a sermon was actually preached, no clue if any of it made sense. I ended with an “Amen,” and did the quickest run-walk down the center aisle of the sanctuary I could manage, you know the hurried run-walk where you’re also trying not to make a sound or draw attention to yourself – both of which I’m sure I failed at.

I went to the nursery and got my baby. He calmed down immediately when he was in my arms. He stopped crying, and I started crying.

Even though I have found co-pastoring and co-parenting to be the best of both worlds most of the time, this particular memory is etched in my mind. It was the moment I realized that my best laid ministry and parenting plans couldn’t be plans laid in cement. At most, they were suggestions that would have to change if a child woke up ill on a Sunday morning, or a pastoral emergency came up, or something else happened outside of my control.

That Sunday morning began with me taking my child to the nursery, but it ended with me realizing that co-pastoring was not going to be neat and tidy. Co-pastoring with small children is a beautiful thing, to be sure, but it is also constantly evolving and changing as the needs of our family evolve and change. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, even though I’ve had to trade in many of my expectations for what life and ministry would be like. Changing has been hard at times, but the end result has always been worth it.

***

*I seem to have super human hearing, especially for high-pitched noises. I’ve heard bats in our wall (in our parsonage several years back) before anyone else knew they were there. My husband is a very involved father – and if he would have heard our baby, he’d have gone to get him. The nursery attendant must not have thought the situation was bad enough to merit coming to get me, and no one else in the service told me they could hear him cry. I’ll just have to chalk it up to my sensitive ears.

***

April Fiet is a reluctant trailblazer who preaches, pastors, and parents in partnership with her husband Jeff, and enjoys accidental alliteration and crocheting creatures.

You can find more from April at her blog At the Table – where you’re invited to pull up a chair and join the conversation – as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

***

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9 Responses to Pastoring, Parenting, and Best-Laid Plans

  1. Velour says:

    Wonderful story, April.

  2. Tim says:

    April, thank you for sharing this story with us today. Getting parenting down right is an elusive pursuit, but you and Jeff seem to be finding success with your kids.

    How do you find them dealing with having a pair of pastors for parents?

    • April Fiet says:

      Oh, Tim, that could be a whole new post! Haha! We work very hard with our double PKs to try NOT to expect things of them we wouldn’t expect from other kids. One time, when my son was really little he said, “Our whole family works for the church!” And we realized very quickly we needed to assure our kids that they were off the hook. This calling was not something placed upon them, too.

  3. Anna Howell says:

    Beautiful, April!

  4. I love your post, April. It has something to say to all of us no matter what our vocation: that there are some things we just can’t control no matter our planning and prep and crossing of t’s and dotting of i’s! And just when you think you have one situation or phase down pat, it changes. Those expectations have to be held very lightly so that we can let them go when we need to. I’m glad you shared this behind-the-scenes glimpse of co-pastoring life — thanks!

  5. Beth L Olson says:

    how stressful. it was really hard for me to leave my first one in the nursery too. i think he was almost 2 before i brought myself to do it. the other 3 kids went in right away, lol.

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