What Does A Pastor Do?

Last month was Pastor Appreciation Month. During that month, you’ll have a handful of people share on social media a little peek into the difficult life of being a pastor. But for the most part, most people sit around and wonder what a pastor actually does. You hear a statistic that pastor’s routinely work 60-70 hours a week, and most people wonder, “Doing what?” More than one person has responded to hearing my husband is a pastor with something along the lines of, “Must be nice to only work two hours a week.” They mean it as a joke, but the fact is, most people don’t have any idea what a pastor does all week. So, I figured I’d shed a little light on that. Not all pastors do all these things. Some pastors are bivocational, meaning they work more than one job, and cannot do all these things. Some churches have more staff than just the pastor to help with some of these things. But any given week, this is what pastors across your community are doing.

You see them preaching on Sunday morning. That sermon usually takes around 10 hours to write and get ready to deliver. That doesn’t include all the other prep for Sunday morning, like typing up and printing bulletins, getting ready to teach a Sunday School class, choosing music or approving music for the service, picking up the coffee and tea, and making sure all volunteers will actually be showing up on Sunday. Then after church, they are putting things away, cleaning up, and getting the list of thing they need to remember for the next week going. (Remember to go pick up more pens. Get more giving envelopes printed. The nursery is out of wet wipes, pick some up. Etc.) Sunday morning takes a team of people to pull off, but the pastor has the bulk of the work, usually spending 18 hours or more each week just making Sunday morning happen at all.

The pastor is also responsible for making small groups, midweek meetings, and/or Sunday School happen. Even when there are other people to help lead these group meetings, the responsibility to choose curriculum or books still falls on the pastor. Every study done in a small group is usually read by the pastor first, to make sure it fits with their congregation and isn’t heresy. (Pastors, if you don’t already do this, you should.) They are also responsible for teaching those that are teaching how to teach and lead. They are checking in with them, seeing how things are going, and keeping up to date on the group’s progress. Just because they may not be at every small group meeting does not mean they aren’t actively involved in every small group.

The Pastor is on call all the time. Not just for church members, but for anyone in the community. He is called in for counseling on a regular basis. Some of those, he’ll refer to a counseling professional after an initial meeting. Some, he’ll continue to meet with on a regular basis. He is always there when people need to talk, not just people who give or contribute to the church. It may simply be a phone call. Or he may have to leave before dinner and head out to pick someone up that needs a friend right now. Sometimes it is people just needed a place to vent. Life is stressful. Sometimes he may need to mediate a family conflict. Sometimes he may need to pick someone’s teenager up and try to be a voice of reason when they aren’t listening to much of anyone lately. Whatever it may be, it can take hours of his day or week, even in a small congregation. And he can’t just turn off his phone, ever. Because people need him.

The Pastor is often just the guy people call when they need someone. Emergency childcare, emergency transportation, house work, yard work, moving- he’s just the guy you call because he is dependable. When a single mother of four is evicted from her apartment, he’s the guy people call to help her figure out temporary and permanent housing. When she needs a sitter for a job interview, he’s the guy called to babysit. When someone locks their keys in their car, he’s the guy to call to drive them across town and back with the spare key. He’s just the reliable guy that will drop anything he can to help anyone he can.

The Pastor is visiting people often. This is something people in the church should be doing as well, but the pastor is making it a point to see the elderly, sick, and shut-ins in his care often. Taking them flowers to brighten their room. Delivering cards from the kids’ Sunday School class, so they know they are missed and still feel like part of the church. Taking them communion when they can’t make it to church because no one should have to miss the sacraments. He’s visiting strangers in the hospital, because someone called and said there is someone in a local hospital that needs someone to talk to. He’s also visiting with those in the church outside of a church setting. Getting together for coffee to catch up on life. Grabbing a quick lunch on someone’s lunch break with them just to be able to chat. He is staying connected constantly, which takes face to face time.

The Pastor is out there in the community doing the work of Jesus. Yes, he is coordinating volunteers to do this work as well. Yes, he is harassing and dragging those in the church along with him at times. But he knows from the example of Jesus to be a servant leader, to get out there and do the work himself, hoping you’ll follow his example. Often, he’s going at this alone, unable to convince anyone to join him. But he’s out there getting his hands dirty for Jesus, caring for the least of these.

The Pastor is constantly reading and trying to stay “in the know” on both or culture and the Christian culture. He’s reading through the top books at the Christian book store so he can know what you’re hearing. He’s staying up to date on current events so he can know where people are. He’s challenging himself by reading theology, counseling, and leadership books so he can be the best he can be for you. He’s also doing his own daily Bible study, and studying the Bible with his family. He’ll also, likely, be heading to conferences and meetings to stay “up on his trade”, like continuing education. And he’s likely listening to the sermons of other pastors throughout the week.

The Pastor also has to do work that just needs to be done. Keeping up the church website, making sure it stays current and relevant. He has to send out the same information in a half dozen different ways to make sure everyone is informed. He can’t just send an email about an upcoming event because half the church will say they don’t check their emails. He’ll have to put it on the website, knowing only 3 or 4 people even check that on a regular basis; make a Facebook event and personally invite every person in the church and share it on the church’s group page; share it on Twitter; send half the church a text about it, because that is the only mode of communication they use; and then call people every few days to make sure everyone knows what is going on. This is all in addition to the ad on Sunday morning and the reminder in the bulletin. He has to upload the sermon each Sunday and make sure he shares it on every available social media platform. It may look like he is always promoting himself, but really, he has to share things that many times to make sure everyone in the church even knows the thing exists. He’ll also have to type up and send prayer request emails through the week as people call or send those to him.

The Pastor may also have other ministries that he is involved in. Our pastor is on the board for our association, so any given week, he has several hours of work to help them out as a volunteer. They are also contacted by all manner of non-profit ministries and organizations to try to solicit the congregation on their behalf. They have to wade through each request and determine if the non-profit is in line with the values and mission of their church and what their involvement should be, if any.

There are also the services a pastor performs. Weddings and funerals both take considerable time and often, pastors aren’t paid for either. A wedding usually takes about 30 hours of work from the Pastor. (10 hours of counseling, 5 hours to write the service, 5 hours for the rehearsal, 10 hours the day of the wedding from pre and post wedding duties.) A funeral usually takes about 20 hours of work from the Pastor. (10 hours meeting with the family and writing the service. 6 hours of visitation. 4 hours for the actual service and after.) Keep in mind, in both scenarios, the Pastor is first there and usually last to leave. And a pastor isn’t guaranteed to make any money from either, even if travel and hotel expenses are involved.

There are also other speaking engagements a pastor may be asked to do. A youth camp, a retreat, a service at a Christian school. Those are often unpaid, as well.

The majority of a pastor’s work is secret, unseen, so it is easy to see where the misconception comes from that they don’t do that much. But when you are going through a crisis, you know who you can call. When you are in need of guidance, you know who you can call. We know they do things other than just preach on Sunday morning, but we often don’t think about just how much they are doing.

What the Pastor Wants to Say, but Doesn’t

This list is really meant to give some insight and be lighthearted. The Pastor helped me out with this list. And yes, they are all true to life, but specific to our life. (And trying to take a picture with The Pastor was beyond ridiculous!)


(1) I really just need you there.

We honestly get that things come up, stuff happens, but we really do need people we can rely on.

(2) We had a late night, too. Or a baby who wouldn’t sleep. Or a kid who woke us up 27 times. And I also currently have a headache. And we still made it here, early.

(3) Yes, this is personal.

When you reject the church that we pour ourselves into, we do take that personally.

(4) This is what I do. Ministry is completely different than running a business. While I appreciate your input and ideas, you have to know that this is what I do.

(5) Yes, in fact, it must be the very best; it is, after all, for Jesus.

In times where people want to cut costs by cutting the quality of things like tea, coffee, paper, sound equipment, etc.

(6) We realize we live in a glass house and we are okay with that. There is no need to snoop, just ask us outright, we’ll answer.

(7) No, I can’t tell you about so-and-so. We may not have secrets of our own, but we do keep other people’s business in confidence. If you want to know the “deal with them” you’ll have to ask them.

(8) It isn’t always about you.

Sometimes, we do things you don’t like. And you have to realize that it isn’t always about you or your needs or your taste.

(9) You’re curious about where they’ve been? Have you called them?

(10) We sacrifice a lot for this. This isn’t just a job or hobby. This is a calling we see as vitally important.

(11) I’m absolutely available to answer your questions, provided you are actually looking for answers.

(12) No, I won’t call your friend at work and tell them why their pastor is wrong. If you would like to defend your faith, I can give you the resources to do so.

(13) Actually, we do practice what we preach.

(14) Pastoring is more than just preaching. What you see on Sunday morning is only a small part of what we do.

(15) We always expect that we’ll have to do it ourselves. It isn’t that we don’t trust you, but we’ve been let down so many times, we’re always prepared to do it all.

(16) We really do want the very best for you and your family.

(17) I really need people to do the work of the ministry, not just come up with ideas. Ideas are great, but we need people to follow through on them.

(18) I have my own vision and my own calling. Don’t expect me to drop everything I am doing for your great idea of a ministry I could do.

(19) No, I cannot do counseling with your [spouse/child/parent/friend/cousin] to tell them you are right and they are wrong.

(20) 3 am is not the time to discuss Ezekiel. Call me at 3 am if it is an emergency. But calling me at 3 am to discuss Old Testament prophets is never a good idea.

(21) We are not all millionaires like televangelists. Most pastors work for far less than their equivalent degrees would earn them elsewhere. We aren’t in this for the money, but for the ministry.

(22) No, my kid can’t do the activity that has Sunday responsibilities.

(23) No, we can’t come to the family reunion on Sunday or a big church holiday like Christmas Eve or Easter.

(24) I really wish you’d stop reading books written by heretics. Need a good book recommendation? Ask me, I have more than a few to recommend.

(25) Ministry requires volunteers. We know you want a children’s program, but you have to have people to run that. We can only do so much with limited volunteers.

(26) I know this isn’t how it was done at your church growing up, or your sister’s church, or by the pastor who was here before us. Do you like being compared to your mother-in-law?

(27) We go through hard times too. We often forget to mention our own troubles or prayer requests, but we have tough times, as well.

(28) It hurts when we invest our lives in people and they turn away from us. We understand that, but we keep investing and giving anyway.

(29) We wish you would see our success as more than just numbers. Personal growth of disciples isn’t always quantifiable but is success nonetheless.

(30) I wish you wouldn’t apologize every time you cuss around me. Jesus takes us where we are. I’m really not judging you. I’m just happy you’re comfortable being yourself around me. Don’t ruin that feeling by making it awkward and apologizing. If you’re working on changing your vocabulary, let me know so I can encourage you as you make steps of improvement.

(31) We have many of the same struggles you have. We have limited finances, student loan payments, bills to pay, work and family to balance. We really do understand.

(32) We are in this as a family. I know you only see one name on the sign or with a title, but this is an entire family ministry.

(33) We make a lot of sacrifices to do this, so it is very upsetting when people put us down for not working normal hours. Often this means taking a second job, only having one car, not being able to buy a home, having no health insurance, giving up saving for retirement. We sacrifice. We don’t want to tell you about this, because we don’t want to complain about what the Lord is providing through His people. But this is more than a 40-hour/week job. This is an all-the-time, always-on, immersed-in-your-work way to live. It is far from cushy.

(34) Sunday mornings are not a good time to complain. If you need to complain about something, I understand. Sunday morning or Saturday night are the worst times to do so. Shoot me an email or text Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. Let me focus on what God is speaking through me on Sunday morning.

(35) I am not looking for a “better” opportunity. We are serving where we are called to be. I don’t need you to send me information on churches looking for a pastor. This isn’t a typical job where you look to climb some sort of ladder. I’m where I need to be for now.

(36) We will drop everything for you, even when we know you are using us. It isn’t that we don’t know, we know. We just love you enough to do it anyway.

(37) It is hard for us to balance the work we do for the church with the work of the church. We honestly cannot do it all. We are always aware that without volunteers, the church will be lacking in one area or another. We just can’t be the whole body.

(38) We know we’re always pushing for more. It isn’t that we aren’t satisfied. We just know there is always further up and further in. And the work is just never done.

(39) Seriously, I don’t just want your money. Yes, ministry takes money. But we are really in this FOR you. (In fact, I pray God will give YOU more money than you know what to do with.)

(40) I know you did a quick Google search, but I do have a Masters of Divinity degree. You aren’t an expert on anything in 20 minutes compared with my 90 hour graduate program that was after my bachelor’s degree.

Personal Advent Devotion

In addition to the Family Devotion this Advent, I have included a personal devotion aspect, as well. This is for Mom and Dad or older kids to do on their own through the week following the Family Devotion. You can also do the Family Devotion alone and incorporate the Personal Devotion aspect into your own days if you choose, as well. This is intended to compliment the weekly devotional. You can do this all at once, stagger it through the week, or just do some of it. Really, make it your own. The goal is to center our hearts and minds on the season at hand and the truths God has to reveal to us this Advent.

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So, you’ll need a Bible, notebook, and pen. You may want more, that is up to you. You may want washi tape, stickers, colored pencils, markers, watercolors, etc. You don’t need them, but if you are more of an art or craft style journal person, those might be what you need.

Now, I just grabbed one of my handy little mini notebooks from Casemate. (They come in 2 packs at Wal-Mart for $1.88.) You might choose a composition notebook, sketchbook, Moleskin, or some other form of notebook. I went with what I had. I may fill it up completely and have to bust out the second one before Advent is over, which will be fine for me.

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What you’ll be doing is very simple. Each week, there will be several Bible passages that go along with the devotion. You’ll look them up and read them as part of that devotion time. Some other time during the week, you’ll take each passage and write it down in your journal. On the right hand page of your notebook, you’ll copy the Scriptures word for word. You can use any translation you like. You can read the Hebrew or Greek and translate it yourself. I numbered my verses to match my Bible, but you can omit the verse number if you’d like. Just copy the Scripture on the right side of the page. Now, one passage may take several pages, and that is fine. Just write the Scriptures only on the right hand pages. On the left hand pages, you’ll go back and write thoughts, questions, song lyrics, other verses, or doodles that come to mind. The left hand pages are for your journaling. The right hand pages are for Scripture. Easy enough, right?

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Why write the verses and not just read them and write what you think? Well, writing will activate different parts of your brain and memory than just reading them. Remember in school when you would write out notes and make note cards? The more various ways you interact with a specific text, the better ingrained in your memory it becomes and the better you really “see” it.

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There are several passages each week. You have all week to write and journal about the passages. Take your time. If you miss a passage, no worries. This is for your benefit, not to make you feel bad. I encourage you to put forth the effort to get as much out of this as you can. But if life happens, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on track as soon as you can.

My prayer for you is that you immerse yourself in the Word this Advent. That as we draw close to our remembrance of the Word being made flesh, we fill our hearts and minds with the Word and find Jesus there.

Fundraising, Charity, and The Church

funraising, and the church

I’m writing this blog post for the Church. Not just my church, but the Church. This isn’t for those outside the Church. Just the Church. I’m also writing this as a Protestant. And I’m writing this as someone knows the inner working of churches. That makes it a little more awkward. And I’ll tell you, most of the pastors I know, including the one I am married to, have a hard time talking to you, the people, about this. First, it directly affects them. Their livelihood comes from the Church. Second, some pastors, and we won’t name any names, give giving a bad name. They are self-centered and have no vision for the Kingdom, only their wallets. But the majority of pastors I know aren’t like that. The majority of the ones I know live on small salaries, sometimes working more than one job to provide for their own family, all while trying to do the thing God has called them to do. They often don’t know if they’ll have income by the end of the year. They often don’t know if they’ll have income next month. So, drop your preconceived notion about pastor millionaires flying around on personal jets. Now, on to the money talk.

I’ve been listening to quite a few podcasts lately. It is just something I do while washing dishes, folding laundry, or cooking dinner. While folding laundry and listening to an old Freakonomics Podcast (called How To Raise Money Without Killing A Kitten) about charity giving and the economics and research behind Americans giving, it just really hit me that (1) Christians aren’t the super charitable people they like to think they are and (2) the Church often tries to pull a lot of the same “tricks” other organizations do to compete for the Christian’s dollar.

Now, there are a couple of issues going on here. And I don’t call myself an expert, and really this is more of a rant to raise awareness than anything.

The average American gives 2% of their income to charity. Now, a Gallup poll in 2008 said 77% of Americans identify as Christians. (Who do they poll? I’ve never been polled. Anyway, moving on.) I think that is a very high estimate. Huffpo in 2013 said 20% of Americans no longer identify with any religion. (This source says 83% identify as Christian.  This source says 70.6%.  This source says there are 247 million Christians in the US.) My point is, something is wrong. The majority of the country is Christian, yet they obviously aren’t tithing.

Dun. Dun. Dun. I said the big bad word in today’s evangelical circles. Tithing. It is a Biblical concept you’re all aware of. Give God 10%. Now, we can debate gross or net. You can even try to debate that tithing is an Old Testament concept not relevant for a New Testament Church. And if you want to go there, fine. Pattern your life after the New Testament Church in Acts 2 when they sold everything they had and gave the profits to the poor and lived sharing everything with one another. That’s cool. I was just asking for 10%. But I guess everything works, too.

So, disconnect number one is that 2% of income from Americans is going to charity (all of them, not just the Church). Shouldn’t that number be higher since the majority of America is “Christian”? (I use the quotes because I am not sure we have that many followers of Christ; I think more of them are cultural Christians.) So, clearly, some of you (again, talking to the Church, here) aren’t giving as you should. (I should also note here that neither I nor the Pastor has now or ever known how much any individual or family in any church we’ve been in have given. We’ve made it a point to not know those things. I don’t want you thinking I cooked you dinner when you were having a tough time because you gave the church money. We’ve also made it a point not to touch the money. So, I have never seen a single check in the offering plate or a single name on the PayPal summary. I really have no clue.) And you can justify that decision until you are blue in the face, but the facts will not change. You need to be giving 10% to YOUR CHURCH. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care where you attend. You need to be tithing to your church. If you don’t trust them with your money, why are you trusting them with your spiritual health and the spiritual health of your family? You can dislike this if you want, but you need to be giving 10% to your church. You don’t need to be earmarking it for what you want it to be used on. You need to let go and give it to God. Period. No strings attached. No splitting the amount between all the good things you want to give to. 10% to your church. Then give to the other things. (And don’t forget to give of your time and talents as well.)

Back to the podcast, they listed six reasons people give to charities: (1) altruism– you really want to help the person or cause; (2) “warm glow” altruism or as I called it, selfish altruism– you want to feel good about giving, you want bragging rights, you want the warm fuzzies knowing you are a good person or knowing other think you are a good person; (3) guilt– you feel bad not giving, you don’t want to look bad by not giving; (4) herd giving– you give because others around you are giving or someone you look up to gives; (5) private good– you give to get or keep (not loose) something you want; (6) public good– you want the thing to exist, not just for yourself, but for your community or others. Now, often your reasons are a mix of things. And often churches use these same things to get you to give. (I don’t necessarily think it is intentional for the most part, just something that happens when we do things because it is the way things are done. Think about passing the offering plate for a minute. You play on herd giving: everyone else is doing it, possibly even someone I look up to. You play on guilt: I don’t want to look bad not giving. You play on public and private good: I need to give for the church to continue and I really like this or that program; plus, I want this place to exist for my community. “Warm glow” altruism: you feel good by giving; some churches will even tell you the blessings of God are directly tied to your giving. Altruism: you really do want to support the Church and the cause of Christ. Now, clearly all those are not bad things. There are a few negatives, but some positives. We don’t pass a plate at our church because of the negatives. I don’t think passing a plate is wrong. We just don’t do it.) But isn’t there another BIG reason to give to your church? Yes, I hope there is altruism in your gift. But isn’t there something else? Obedience. It is a dirty word in our culture. Obedience. But that is how we grow. That is how we grow as children. That is how we grow as Christians. I don’t know how to put others before myself until I practice it. I don’t know how to become less self-centric until I practice it. I don’t know how to be obedient until I practice it. Tithing is bare-minimum obedience practice. It is the absolute easiest form of obedience. God asks us first for the small things. When that becomes easier, it becomes easier to give the big things. To give up our lives for full-time ministry. To give up our children for full-time ministry. To give up our time for someone in need. To give up our comfort for someone else. To give up ourselves for the cross. 10% of your money is the starting point.

So why is it so hard? Why are churches closing the doors because they don’t have the funds to carry on? Why are pastors working two or three jobs just to be able to bring God’s word to God’s people? Why are churches not being planted? 70% giving 10%– we shouldn’t have problems funding any aspect of Christian work. The widows should easily be taken care of. The orphans should be well loved and cared for. The missionaries shouldn’t have to come home to beg, but come home to share the fire in their bellies for the people. Why is 10% so hard for us to let go of? And is 10% in your pocket really worth limiting the Church?

So what do donors or givers like to get? Well, according to the podcast, they like getting something in return. An inflated ego, for sure. They want to win something. They want to gain something. They want control. Sadly, how much does this all sound like Christians? (Ahem. Especially that control part. Ahem.)

But what do we actually get by tithing? What is in it for you? Well, the fact that we ask that question highlights the problem. If you’re more concerned about yourself than others then you clearly haven’t quite gotten the message of Christ.

Now, I could go through the list of what your pastor does, what your church does. I could add copies of the budget and account for hours spent and what they were spent doing. But really, the bottom-line is obedience. And your church shouldn’t have to use gimmicks and tactics to get your support. You should support them because you love God and you love the Church. You should give because you are invested in the Gospel of Christ. We should give because God tells us we should. The Christian life is a life lived for others– from our pocket books to the hours in our days. Giving isn’t to make you feel good. It isn’t to make you feel bad. It isn’t to purchase your mansion in glory. Giving is about obedience to God and love for others.

Now, I know my editor is going to give me grief about this post. All I have to say to him is that I was led to say something and that I did it out of love, not self. I think it is a message worth sharing.

Transparency

I know many find my open expression of who I am to be odd. I don’t use a lot of filters in my life. The reason is very simple. Our culture has seen plenty of people in church leadership fall. We’ve seen the hidden sins of people we felt were holy revealed. Many don’t trust the church, don’t trust our message based on that simple fact. I’ve heard it many, many times. “I won’t go to church because it is full of hypocrites.” The cry of those outside of the church seems to be “Show me who you really are!” Because of this, because we are a pastoral family, I choose to live a life of transparency. Often, it comes across as too much information. But it will never be said we have anything to hide. I would much rather give too much information than for anyone to think I’m hiding. You come in and you can see all the movies on our shelves. You can check my Facebook and see how I really feel and think. I keep all our books on Goodreads and anyone can see what I am reading, what I have read, and what kind of literature fills our home. Anyone can ask me anything and receive a completely honest answer. Nothing is hidden. I think that we, as Christians, need to be able to show what we are made of. We have a message, that is well and good. But the truly interesting and inspiring thing is not just the message, but how that message impacts our life. I would challenge everyone, not just those of us in church leadership, to live lives of transparency. To let the world, and the Church for that matter, see who we really are. No masks. No acting. Just living together openly.

My Wish List is here.

You can see the books I am reading and books I own here on Goodreads.

My Amazon wishlist, which I use to remind myself of the books, movies, etc. that I want to buy can be found here. You can also look on my Amazon profile and see my reviews and my purchases.

And, of course, here on my blog, you can get to know me- what I think, what I do.

New Tutorials Coming Soon!

**Note: Photos in this post are completely unrelated to content. I just hate posting without pictures.**

Oy! Life has been so busy lately! I haven’t had a chance to share with you some of my newest designs! I’ve recently created a half-yard apron pattern (per my Mother’s request) and a plastic bag holder pattern. I will get around to posting them asap! (Have to take all the pictures first!) I will also attempt to post a tutorial for my hoarding apron. Not sure how well that will translate, since I had to draft the pattern for it, not just measuring squares and such. We’ll see. I’ll try. You see if you can manage!

We have had two illnesses fly through the parsonage this month. Yuck. Everyone but the Pastor got the flu earlier this month. Then the big littles got a stomach virus this week. No fun!

This weekend, a crew of volunteers will be giving our church (the building, not the people) a make over. Everyone needs a little “spruce” now and then. (And no, that was not a hint to the wall color.)

I have made 3 Etsy sales in my one month (almost) of being open. I consider that a success (though I would have liked to have sold out) considering it is a new shop. (And since many other sellers are complaining about low sales right now.) Maybe my giving the patterns away for free won’t bite me in the butt. One can hope! I’ve got a few skirts that will be in the shop soon! (Just have to take some pictures of them!) Believe me, these skirts are gorgeous! I’m very tempted to keep them for my own princess!