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Key Discoveries - Part 4

The following was included in the report on the National LCMS Church Worker Family Needs Assessment Pilot Report.

The HomeLifeProfile shows care must be considered in a “now, but not yet” manner with one set of thoughts serving today’s church worker family—with another serving tomorrow’s.

A transition, for our purposes here, is a bridge between two different stages of life—a period of movement between stages of relative certainty. It’s a season of uncertainty, of change, as one stage winds down and a new one emerges. As we all quickly learn, any change—even changes that are predictable, desired and expected—carry elements of risk, insecurity, and vulnerability. Times of stability are actually the exception—change is the norm.

Over the years I have posed two questions to varieties of people to gauge their receptiveness to change. “What have been the main transitions and issues you have faced in each unfolding of your adult life?”, and “How did you handle them in a constructive way?”

Over the years have come two categories of responses. To some, the word change holds a sense of hope, marks a new starting line to race toward fresh possibilities or the potential for newness, and they embrace change accordingly. To others, even the word change represents a threat, a disruption of comfort and safety, and they resist it as such. Still others make cosmetic changes but intentionally do all in their power to keep everything as it is.

A transition starts with an ending; we release the old to make way for the new. One reason personal change (in the same manner systemic change), seems difficult is that even if what we had was flawed and we’ve know it—we’re familiar with it and it has grown comfortable. The busier we are, the more we live a crisis-to-crisis tempo, the more we resist transitions that will really enrich our lives.

In the ending, we lose or let go of our former outlook, our former manual for how life works, our former attitudes, our former values, and our former self-image. We may try to talk ourselves out of what we’re feeling, and we do finally give in, we may be swept up by feelings of sadness, anger…

What comes next is a neutral zone between the old and new—yet not really being either the old or the new. It is a confusing state where some feel they have broken apart—others just feel numb. We get mixed signals with some from our old ways and some from a way of being that still isn’t clear to us. Everything is up for grabs—and in a strange way, everything is possible. This can be a very creative time.

Finally, we take hold of and identify with some new outlook and some new reality as new attitudes and a new self-image. When we have done this, a new chapter in our lives has begun. No matter how impossible it was to imagine earlier, life now feels as though it is between the lines and guard rails, again.

The HomeLifeProfile points to leading indicators of endings just ahead, and with whom.

From an overhead or macro view of our 1,001 respondents we currently see 23.7% in Young Life (YL=age 39 and younger), 44.7% in Middle Life (ML=age 40-59), and 31.7% in Older Life (OL=age 60 plus). As with all original research, some methodology problems emerge—and this research was no exception. For a short time, a “rabbit-hole” of sorts made by-passing and/or inadvertently skipping the question “Which of the following statements best describes your church worker family connection?” to be available.

In this case a software update by the online survey provider produced our “unknown” category. Once discovered, the problem was corrected—but not until some 282 respondents (proportionately spread across all 3 districts) did not provide this key variable information.

By way of the crosstabulation of HomeLifeProfile, Age and Church Worker Family Connection we now know that 71% of these “unknown” are middle life married with children, 15% are young life never married/not parents, and 5% are older married respondents. For this reason, use of the micro view of church worker family connection will be brought into portrait of pending transitions.

The micro view provides a closer look at our five “church worker family connection” categories.

  • Currently unmarried church workers (n=90) are actually quite dispersed with 40%=YL, 30%=ML (7% single/solo parents and 6% with children launched), and27%= OL. Clearly, the perception of the typical young, unmarried church workers needs to be revisited. When asked, “While one is a whole number, living as one often means waking up in the middle of the night with one or more of the following questions…” the most selected were: 50% “Do I fit anywhere?”, 39% “What am I going to do with my life?”, “39% Will I ever be loved?”,33% “Will I ever marry?”, and 33% “Will I ever be good enough?” by the 107 of 120 currently unmarried respondents. When given four statements regarding biblical singleness the top selections were 61% “A stage parallel to marriage that is rich and full on its own”, 24% “A stage of undivided devotion to the Lord” , and 13%“A temporary stage prior to marriage”. The transition from single to married life remains a desired transition.

  • Current couples with spouse not a church worker (n=376 where n=312 spouse never church worker + n=64 spouse once was a church worker) are very dispersed with 9%=YL, 37%=M, and 17%=OL overall. Looking at the YL-Young Married with Children we see 10% #3-spouse not a church worker and 20% #4-spouse is not a church worker—but was previously indicating the presence of children forced a transition within the household—which remains through ML and OL. It is likely that this is the critical moment for struggling with the parish holding a one-directional church worker view of the family when becoming a faith trainer at home should be embraced. Of special note is the large percentages for ML-Middle Life kids launched and OL-married exceed two-thirds for both church worker family connections.

  • Not a church worker, but spouse is (n=121) was a priority group sought for this study providing 9% of the aggregate with one-third YL, one-third ML, and one-third OL. This group was highly supportive of the church worker’s call, balance of work and home life and perception of their spouse as effective and seeing progress in their ministry. More on this later.

  • We are both church workers (n=142) makes up 14% of all respondents. Noteworthy are the columns showing 6% YL-Young Married no Children and 12% Young Married with Children while remaining a one-directional vocation oriented family. From closer examination of other questions, many of whom are unknown for this category are actually both church workers in ML. An unintended consequence of this one-direction household is that every church conflict or transition has the potential to become a whole household problem.

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