My mother shared an article with me today that both moved me to tears and encouraged my heart. The article was written by Joe McKeever for the website “Church Leaders” and is entitled “Pastor, Remember Your Wife is the MOST Vulnerable Person in Your Church“. If your pastor is indeed a man, please read the article. I promise you it will provide insight into the weirdness that is her life and will provide you with ideas for encouraging and building her up (and, consequently, building up the entire family AND your pastor!) (Disclaimer – it may all work in reverse if your church has a Pastor’s husband or it may not. Just don’t know enough from conversations with those men to say adamantly one way or the other!)
Just have to share a few of the quotes that most touched my heart and left me saying, “Yes! That, right there. That’s completely how I feel!”
“You might not think so, but she is the most vulnerable person in the building. That is to say, she is the single most likely person to become the victim of malicious gossip, sneaky innuendo, impossible expectations and pastoral frustrations.” Sadly, this has been true in every church where my husband has served as a member of the ministerial staff. Things that would be perfectly acceptable of every other woman in the church would earn me a glare or vicious words. I’ve watched others start new ministries or alter the structure and function of existing ministries and no one pitches a fit. But let me make a suggestion or try something new and I’m in danger of setting off World War III.
“Her pain is magnified by one great reality: She cannot fight back. She cannot give a certain member a piece of her mind for criticizing the pastor’s children, cannot straighten out the deacon who is making life miserable for her husband, cannot stand up to the finance committee who, once again, failed to approve a needed raise, or the building and grounds committee that postponed repair work on the pastorium.” To the phrase “She cannot fight back” I would add “She cannot just go find another church.” If the average person sitting in the pew finds herself in constant conflict with another member of the church and every attempt at resolution or reconciliation has failed, she can choose to find another place to worship. Theoretically, I suppose I could to. But the times I’ve heard of that happening have not ended well. It often causes the church to lose trust in their pastor, increases tension and conflict for him, and will likely lead to his being asked to leave or choosing to leave to avoid the strife.
“Since her husband is subject to being called away from home at all hours, she is expected to understand this and have worked it out with the Lord from the time of her marriage—if not from the moment of her salvation—and to have no problem with it. If she complains about his being called out, she can expect no sympathy from the members. If she does voice her frustrations, what she hears is, “This is why we pay him the big salary,” and “Well, you married a preacher; what did you expect?” I have sent my husband off to the Emergency Room because a member of the church family was failing and his comfort was needed. What few people realize is that I often spend a significant chunk of time praying for him to have the right words, for the family to find some measure of peace in the midst of their grief. I cannot necessarily be there with him but I rarely sleep well until he is home. And the next day I am up and off to work, sleep deprived and brain slightly foggy because it is what I have to do. And it is my honor to hold him and the family up in prayer like that. But there are times that people want their pastor to bail them out of situations that are not truly emergencies, merely an inconvenience. It is not his job to run your child to school or pick your loved one up from work. This may fit easily into his schedule without any inconvenience. But if it doesn’t please understand that his family needs him too. Here’s the kicker – my hubby was not in full-time ministry when we got married. As a matter of fact, we will celebrate our 26th Anniversary in January of next year and he has been in full-time ministry for only about 10 of those.
I LOVE hearing my husband preach. His work as a pastor has shaped him into an amazing man of God who seeks nothing more than to follow the leading of the Spirit and I love him to the moon and back for that! But dealing with all the other nonsense – the judgment, the gossip, the anger, the expectations – can get exhausting. I have been blessed to have a former pastor’s wife in our current church and she is one of the sweetest, most encouraging, most positive people I know. She is truly a gift. I have also started building a friendship with a young lady whose husband has plans to be in full-time ministry and it breaks my heart to hear her speak of these kinds of personal pains as just being a part of the whole clergy package.
This is obviously an issue that is near and dear to my heart because it’s not the first time I’ve blogged about it. But it keeps happening. Not only to me but to other wonderful clergy spouses I know. Guess I’ll have to keep talking till people start listening.