Disclaimer #1 – The stories (and possibly frustrations) I will share are not necessarily my own. I was a Pastor’s daughter whose father served two different congregations and am now a Pastor’s wife whose husband has served as a Youth Pastor, an Associate Pastor in two different congregations, and is now a senior Pastor, In other words, I have encountered 6 different congregations as a member of the Pastor’s family. A majority of the people I have encountered in that capacity have been wonderful. Unfortunately, there are those who just don’t get it. Some of the stories I share will be from other pastor’s wives/kids I’ve encountered over the course of my life. Don’t ask me why, but we tend to find one another because there is a level of understanding that exists between us that others just don’t get.
Disclaimer #2 – The Pastors I have been related to have all been men so I tend to use male pronouns to refer to men, female pronouns to refer to their spouses. This is not a statement of my attitude toward female clergy, simply a habit born from my personal experience.
The most important thing you need to remember is fairly simple – you hired a Pastor. One person. Unless you put his family on the payroll, they don’t work for you. I know that sounds harsh and I’m sorry but I just couldn’t think of a more subtle way to say it. Every Pastor’s kid I’ve ever talked to (or given birth to!) feels the same way. As a Pastor’s wife, I am committed to being involved in the life of the congregation my husband ministers to. But I need to be sure that I am involved in ways that allow me to use my gifts and passions and that may not agree with what the congregation wants. True, I’m a piano player which is stereotypical “pastor’s wife”. But that’s where the stereotype stops.
A Pastor’s kids are kids. They will behave quite a bit like the other kids of similar age in your congregation. It’s tempting, I know, to set your expectations for them higher but may I lovingly suggest something? Don’t. Expect nothing more or less of them than you do any other kid in their age group. The best way to help them become amazing young men and women is love on them. Lots. Attend their games, concerts, plays, musicals, etc. and love them. If your Pastor’s family has moved a significant distance from their extended family, those kids can use surrogate Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents to love on them in the absence of their biological family. As a matter of fact, they NEED you.
Let me be very clear – there are aspects of being a Pastor’s wife that I absolutely love. The most notable is the fact that I get to hear one of my two favorite preachers speak every Sunday AND I’m related to him! (Funny thing is, I’m related to my other favorite preacher too!) I love planning and putting on the annual Open House that we put together each December for our church family. I truly feel that we – our family – were called to Fort Dodge and I believe that we each have a purpose in this community. And I deeply value those members of our congregation who “get it” – they love on me and my kids and they value my husband’s work but they realize that his job and his family are two separate things.
Have I been too blunt and harsh? If so, I’m truly sorry. It is my belief that the vast majority of church members are eager to do right by the Pastor’s family. With this series of posts I am hoping to share some real stories from the lives of Pastor’s spouses/kids I’ve met to help shed some light on the very weird existence that is the Pastor’s family. I hope we can laugh together, maybe cry together a little and gain a better understanding of how to work together in the family we call “church”.