I kept repositioning myself in the seat. I’d never had a moment with my friend that I would consider uncomfortable, but I was practically squirming. There was no real point in burying the lead. “I need to talk to you about something,” I said. “I’m starting a new job in San Antonio. We are going to move down there.”
Saying it isn’t the hard part, really. I’ve had time to think, to process, to pray. The response is the difficult part. Friends are blindsided. They haven’t had the benefit of seeing how God has been orchestrating things for the past several months. Some had responded to the news with tears. The toughest responses were the attempts at utilizing humor to remove the awkwardness from the situation. “That sure will be a long commute for you guys,” one said. “Well it’ll be tough to let you go, but at least we will still have Stefanie,” said another. So I braced myself for what my friend’s response might be. “Man,” he grinned, “that’s awesome!”
My wife, Stefanie, is a children’s minister and my unapologetic, biased opinion is that she is amazing. Moving is never easy. Saying goodbye to friends. Packing. Learning a new town. But I’m convinced it is even harder for ministers and their families. I can’t say exactly why, but the investment ministers and their families make in the local church and the community is unique and makes moving away even more difficult.
This was by far the toughest move Stefanie and I have made, due in no small part to the plagues. Yes, you read that correctly… plagues. First we had lots of bugs. They weren’t exactly locusts and it’s not exactly a surprise given how long the house sat empty, but it was still unpleasant. Spiders, gnats, and other little unidentifiable insects were everywhere. Next was the hail. It hailed three times our first three weeks here. People in San Antonio said they can’t recall that ever happening here before. Finally, there were floods. Not a biblical plague, but troublesome all the same. Unprecedented amounts of rain meant that the house flooded twice in our first month of living in San Antonio. Now, if the Riverwalk turns to blood, we’ve got some real problems.
I can’t know what challenges you and your family may face with your next move. But I do know that just because God directs you to serve somewhere and just because you obey, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.
Here are a few things I’ve learned from relocating that may help your family the next time that God calls you or your spouse to serve in a new community:
1) Write down your experiences as God starts directing your path. God was at work in your move. You could feel it and it was very real. But from time to time, difficult circumstances can cause you to forget all God has done to direct and provide for your family. During these times, you will be glad you have a written reminder that this is God’s plan and not your family’s plan.
2) Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer. It’s fair to ask your friends at the church you are leaving to pray for you even though you will be serving somewhere else. Every time a church hires a minister that is currently serving at a church, that means a church has also lost a minister. Ask your new church community to pray for the church community from which you will be moving.
3) Go out. When you get to your new town try to remember that you are there to minister to the entire community, not just the church where your spouse is now on staff. Volunteer somewhere that isn’t the church building, explore parks and make mental notes of good places for a jog or a picnic, drive around town and get familiar with the streets as you scan the radio to discover what your new favorite station will be, visit the local library to get a library card and read the local paper. I know… I know… It’s tempting to spend the first several weeks in your new home unpacking boxes and hanging pictures, but remember that God called to you a new home and not just a new house.
4) Go on a date night. Moving to a new town and starting new jobs is stressful stuff and that places stress on a marriage too. You can simultaneously explore a new restaurant (they are all new to you at this point) and get some much needed “us” time. Something as simple as reminding your spouse of his/her commitment to the Lord as a minister and your commitment to the Lord in marrying a minister can go a long way. God called you to serve as a team. Don’t neglect team meetings.
John Litzler currently lives in San Antonio with his wife of five years, Stefanie Litzler. Stefanie serves as the Children’s Minister at Shearer Hills Baptist Church in San Antonio. An attorney by trade, John serves as the Director of the Church Law Division of Christian Unity Ministries.