puppies playing tug of war with a knotted rope on the grass

Sibling Rivalry

Post Author: Heather Culuris

One of the major sources of competition between yoked churches often revolves around the role of the pastor. Which church is the parsonage/manse closest to? In the case of my previous churches, the original parsonage was next to the larger church, but a new one was built in the 1970s halfway between the churches to make the situation more equitable. How is the pastor’s salary shared between the churches, and how is that negotiated when one of the churches might be having budget problems? Which church gets more of the pastor’s time and attention?

Sometimes, by virtue of necessity, in a given week or month, one church will receive more pastoral care and time, but my conviction is that it balances out in the end. And the biggest struggle that keeps resurfacing, does one church feel that it is the pastor’s favorite and the other feel that it gets left out? (Just a side note, I have learned that though difficult at times, it is my call to make each church feel like the favorite, for they are both precious in God’s eyes.) A practicality connected with sharing a pastor was schedule-related as in the following touchy question: Which church gets the coveted early service on Christmas Eve?

Another wave of envy seems to focus around new members, most especially young families joining one church instead of the other. Each church in the parish would say that they wished the best for their partner church, but it is hard to watch one church welcome new members and grow. It is especially hard when the youth and young families are joining one church rather than the other.

A third area that seemed to be sibling-like was the issue of blame and finger-pointing. At budget time or when a pastor would leave for a new call, the question would occasionally surface about whose fault any event might be. Most often, it was most convenient to blame any problems on the other sibling/church.

Still, with all the challenges and nuances of serving a 2-point parish, my husband and I have chosen to do it all again. In this call, we share a 2-point parish between us. We have found that there is much joy and blessing in a call like this. Though we have double the council meetings each month, we also have 2 Sunday School Christmas programs and 2 Vacation Bible Schools each summer. We have 2 unique
communities to call home and that we relate to differently. We have noticed a blessed balance that when life is more difficult at one church, it is more joyful or easygoing at the second. Just like parents who may face arguments about toys or antics to capture their attention, but would never trade their children for anything in the world, we are blessed by our sibling churches, for they are partners for each other and for us in spreading God’s love.

Heather Culuris is an ELCA pastor sharing a call to two churches in the lakes country of Minnesota with her husband. She is also mom to a talkative 2-year-old whose favorite words are "RIGHT NOW."

Image by: trainer24
Used with permission
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