finding purpose in the good + difficult
This is our story - it is rough, difficult and has a purpose that we did not see for years. God was writing something beautiful for us, creating empathy, understanding, walking with us through some of the most difficult stages of our lives within ministry and outside of ministry - ALL for one purpose. To gain an understand for what pastors, ministry leaders and their families walk through so that we can support and love them well.
Our story is so much bigger than both of us - it is about our family, our community and the struggles we have walked through within the ministries that we were serving. It is by no means a definition of who we are, however it is the hardship of what we have gone through at the hands of the church that has defined our ministry and our mission to walk well with others.
We began doing ministry together before we even got married - working in the youth ministry that I (Summer) loved and grew up going to in Southern California. From that very point - we began to struggle and the transitions began. It is the defining moment of where our "why" begins. Todd has filled different rolls within the churches we have served in as a youth intern, youth pastor, discipleship pastor, teaching pastor and worship leader ( he served as a worship pastor while he was serving other pastoral rolls). Each of those positions has been an amazing opportunity to grow and love others, however - it has also opened our entire family up to some very extreme difficulties.
Transitions. We have made a few transitions, for a variety of reasons. Some were because we were asked to leave and others were us walking away - only one we can say we wish we had never left. As we exited our very first church, one that we left for our own growth (I grew up in that church, my dad was an elder, my parents went through a very public divorce), we knew it was time to do things on our own, away from the wonderful people who had watched us grow up - we just needed it to be us. Little did we know that this well-intentioned transition was the very beginning of our journey to walking away from church ministry in the capacity that we knew and moving towards a more supportive ministry roll.
"New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings." Lao Tzu
Transitioning through the new beginnings was an experience that nearly destroyed our marriage, our children's emotional health and myself as an individual. I (Summer) turned to suicide as a way to get out and save myself from all the hurt and stress that I was experiencing. Todd had to work through some extremely difficult feelings and emotions - anger, resentment, bitterness, feelings of failure. Our kids have had to struggle individually with their identity and if they wanted to be apart of the church - at this time only our youngest chooses to go to church. It breaks my heart to have to see our kids hearts destroyed by what they saw the church do to us and what they experienced.
We decided to share these things as a way to grow, heal and support those that are going through similar church experiences. While this is not an exhaustive list, it is the highlights of what we have grown through in 21 years of full time ministry. We have seen it all and been through a TON after leaving the safety of that first church ministry job in Southern California.
- Following a youth pastor who had been there for 20 years and was going to be Todd's boss. (Why did no one tell us this was not a good choice?) We grew in understanding of how it is important to have a healthy work environment with boundaries that set someone up for success.
- Spending time in a church that felt like home, but leaving because we thought we knew better than Jesus. BIG mistake. We left people who felt like family and a church who loved their community so well. Learning that just because it sounds like a good opportunity, doesn't mean that it is what is best for your life, family and ministry. It is the one spot we would ALL go back to.
- Exiting a church because of being pushed out. After a leadership change within the church, both the church and us realized that the our trajectory of our ministry was different and we all knew it was time to leave. Circumstances quickly changed and the remainder of our time became extremely difficult.
- Amidst our adoption and being stuck in Ethiopia (desperately trying to get back) a text comes through one evening asking when we are getting back so that Todd can clean out his office (we already knew we were leaving, but a 2 week, last minute trip quickly turned into getting stuck in Ethiopia trying to bring our son home). UHMMM we were stuck in Ethiopia with our son and trying our hardest to get back. Due to a variety of reasons, Todd had to board a plane alone and clean out his office.
- Taking a position out of desperation is never a great idea. This is where a great deal of trauma occurred. We stepped into this position because they wanted to bring in someone different, someone who was going to push their ideals and expand their reach into a community that struggled to see them as valuable. We stepped into our new roll by loving those that were around us in our community, quickly fell in love with the people in our city and within two months realized that the church really did not want us like they thought they did. FALSE accusations began to run around the church, I was church disciplined for my social media and views, our kids were harassed in Sunday School by elders, they did not like our gay friends in our community that we were inviting to church or our love for those that they deemed too different. The church nearly destroyed us. Todd left for a meeting that he knew they were going to fire him in, but as he left he asked, "if they don't fire me, do you care if I just quit?" DO IT. It was time to get out.
- Transitioning into the church we thought we were going to be at for a VERY long time, but only were there for 9 months. Left feeling isolated in a city that we loved and alone because we were abandoned by the church family in the middle of a pandemic.
Does this feel like a piece of your story? Similar to your story? Please reach out to us, we get it and you are NEVER alone in anything you are walking through.
HELLO from Todd + Summer - welcome to our ABOUT US page. We are truly thankful that you are here and looking forward to walking alongside of you in ministry so that you have have healthy relationships in ministry, find healing in hard spaces, and flourish in the ministry that God called you towards.
Having served in pastoral ministry for 24 years I have personally experienced and seen unrealistic expectations, loneliness, burnout, and a variety of different struggles within the rolls of vocational ministry.
Due to the difficult situations, my wife and I understand what it means to walk through difficult times in ministry because of the journey that God has allowed us to walk through, yet through each of the experiences, we have grown in our love for ministry, expanded our view of ministry and trusted Jesus deeply as we walked in spaces that were difficult. I desire to see authentic, intentional relationships with deeper connections grow with the purpose of walking alongside others going through similar circumstances, supporting others in their own ministry, hoping to encourage, mentor, and care for them. One of my greatest ministry passions is for being real, open and honest, acknowledging the mess that ministry can be while walking with those during these difficult times.
Having experienced a broad array of hurts from being in full-time ministry, I have cultivated huge value on authentic relationships and helping others heal. In my time of ministry I have accumulated deep wounds that have shifted my journey to healing and brought me to a place of accepting who I am (Ennegram 7 with an 8 wing) without worrying about what others think. I am so many things, but free from allowing others telling me who I am supposed to be is something that I am most proud of in my life - it has taken me a long time to get to that place. I love Jesus, am passionate about racial reconciliation, and staying centered in my life.
I work as a freelance graphic designer for women owned companies and have a design shop that allows me the freedom to create and explore the gifts that God has graciously given to me.