Content written by Rev. Paul Johnson, CCA
This is a series of articles about real world problems that churches often find difficult to handle. They are presented in the form of emails for ease of conversation but can come in many different ways. Disclaimer: All the names are made up and in no way identify actual people nor does the author assume responsibility for the opinion expressed in the response.
This chain of emails is not particularly unusual but it does describe a common situation in churches that are problematic. As pastor you do not want to be the person doing the ‘responding’. Certainly you do not want to be the person to enforce the rules. The example above demonstrates very common feelings of entitlement as a member that may be in opposition to what the community has agreed to formally. It is a time when our “humanity” or humanness shows. From “20,000 feet” the rules seem reasonable. Less so when on the ground and the space that you have worshiped in, dined in and met in many, many times has warts that you have never seen.
Member weddings are important and also can be filled with landmines. Members who have been active in the congregation can become very demanding for a “very special family event”. Stories of “mother of the bride” antics are legendary. How do we honor the specialness of our member’s lives and still preserve the integrity of Gods space for worship and celebration. It walks a tightrope for many churches.
One of the answers is to appoint and train a wedding coordinator. Can be paid or not but it is a person who meets with the families and explains what needs to happen and helps families understand both the necessary time deadlines that are required to have smooth and happy wedding. The wedding coordinator becomes the buffer between the pastor and the family about the logistics and facility requirements.
This leaves that pastor in the ‘pastoral’ role and not the referee nor arbiter of disputes.
Wedding are worship services in a church. Receptions, dinners, social events surrounding a wedding need to steer clear of pastoral control.
The reality is that member or non-member weddings can be very problematic and fret with stress for all involved. Clear policies with fee’s, timelines and rules need to be put in the hands of wedding parties as early as possible. A wedding coordinator who can organize things and remind and hold wedding parties to the policies and time needs with firm control are the key to “happy weddings”.