The best way to fail at church

Next week I have a big, newsy, tour of the church post planned.  But for now, it’s another feely post about church planting and pastor’s wifing.  Cool?

For those who are new, every Saturday for the foreseeable future, I’m writing about our church planting journey.  Here’s a little more info

6380995935_0c38436424_bI didn’t want to be a Pastor’s wife. I made this declaration before I ever graduated high school. And it was seriously confirmed in college by watching countless episodes of Seventh Heaven.

I remember one specific episode (viewed in my suite mate’s room just before lunch) where a bunch of church women were touring the parsonage and commenting loudly on the curtains and bedrooms with disdain and loads of snark about the decor.

In their opinion, since the home belonged to the church it was theirs to evaluate, tour and scrutinize.


So often ministry families feel like this. Owned. Scrutinized. Evaluated and found lacking.

College me grabbed another handful of Doritos and told my suite mates… “See, this is why I will never be a pastor’s wife, that’s crap.”

But…. here we are. #pastorswifed

They say that man makes plans and God laughs.  This phrase has always bothered me because it makes God out to be a bully who enjoys messing with us.

It also bothers me because it seems to hold true a lot of the time. I didn’t want to be a pastor’s wife, but here I am.

I talked to a lot of other pastor’s wives and they said the same thing.  “I never wanted to be a pastor’s wife, but here I am.”

I think it’s because so many of us worry that somehow God’s work will be the undoing of our marriages and families.

We’re worried you’ll judge us
We’re worried you hold us up to unreachable standards and dismiss us when we fail you
We’re worried you’ll judge our children, maybe make them hate church.
We’re pretty sure that you’ll say mean things about our spouse
We’re worried we’re not good enough for our role
We’re worried we’ll fail you by example.

And all these fears, have validity in the history of our lives
They’re valid because they happen.

Here’s how I plan to survive this, I’m going to believe exactly this:
They only way I can truly fail our church is if I cease being the woman God created me to be and start becoming the woman they want me to be.

The only way I can really fail them is by conforming or giving into these fears.

And I say this is true for every man and woman who walks through the doors of the church.  The best way to fail the church is to never bring your true self through the doors.

To either not show up at all or to bring some churchy plastic version of yourselves on Sunday.

I’m going to bring myself to church.  This is my jam, my game plan, my future hope.

I’m going to be myself, Kel’s wife, Caedmon and Noelle’s mom.  I’m going to bring my questioning, broken soul to church with me every Sunday. Sometimes I’m going to cry and sometimes I’ll show up pissed off at the pastor (totally gonna happen).

But I’m going to bring myself to church, down with any other version of doing it.
I’m going to have faith in the people who come through those doors and not fear them for things they’ve not yet done.

I’ll cross bridges when I need to and pray for the strength to do so, but for now?

I will take hope in a God who had me in mind when he set our family on this journey.  I’ll take hope that he wouldn’t send me into a place that had no room for me.

And if he’s laughing, it’s not because he’s bullying me around but because he sees the woman this journey will make of me if I can do the good work of showing up and he can’t wait for me to meet her.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

There’s always twitter and Facebook too, you can join the conversation on all fronts. Join the conversation on all fronts, that’s my favorite.

  • Kel “The Kel” Penny

    What? We never fight…especially not on Sundays :) :) :)

    • Leanne Penny

      ha. you’re cute.

  • Stacy Smith Aannestad

    Love it. I have so much trouble “being myself” on Sunday mornings. I grew up in Plastic Church (well, that’s not fair, it was a lovely church, but I grew up in the 60s — “Plastic Church” times). A “good Christian” was the BEST “good Christian” on Sundays. And, man, I was determined to be the BEST “good Christian.” Nowadays I know that’s all bunk. But it’s still very hard for me to just be myself in church. (Story: I sing on the praise team. One Sunday we had visitors — the family of our organist, who was succumbing to Alzheimers, so they insisted our church honor her before she retired. One of her daughters was a music professor — voice, I think. After the service she came up to me and said, “You shouldn’t close your eyes when you sing.” Uh? So I said, “Well, that’s how I worship sometimes.” And she said, “God doesn’t need you to close your eyes to worship Him.” And so, this woman totally wrecked my enjoyment of being on the praise team. To this day I worry about if I’m closing my eyes too much. I’ve tried giving that to God. Sometimes I’m successful, other times not so much.) So, I feel like I’m too weird and broken to be “real” in church, in spite of the fact that our tiny church is warm and loving and full of caring people. I love this post, because it reminds me I should stop worrying about that stuff and be who God created me to be — as unique and non-average-normal as that is!

    • Leanne Penny

      Well that was a snarky comment. Thanks for the unsolicited input. Close your eyes all you want.

      Be weird and broken, we all are… I think that may be my new motto :)

  • Andrea Frazer

    Love this! Thank you! It’s funny, because having been married to an atheist for so many years (he’s now just going to church – a very real and non plastic amazing church) I used to fantasize about being married to a pastor! How much easier that would be! ha ha ha! God has us all where we need to be, huh? Nice writing. I get a kick out of your spunk and lust for life. Relate to a lot of your posts.

    • leannepenny

      Thank you! I’m so very cool with being spunky and so very honored to have you reading these words.
      Yes, Pastor’s wife-ing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and our home is a very real place with all the feels. I hope that this church turns out to be exactly what you guys need.