I wrote an essay a few months ago for my family. I contrasted a ten-year experience in a warm and caring church that was followed by a much shorter time in another church that frustrated and damaged our family. That ‘short time’ affected us greatly for many years, especially my husband. One point I would like to make is that this happened to us twenty-five years ago, and for fifteen of those years I could not deal with it. It would not go away. It haunted me.
Having always been a writer, you would think that I would have written the essay years ago, but I never did. Suddenly it became something I should do. I began to write about it.
When I was invited to the Wisconsin writer’s workshop I had just finished the raw, unedited essay—for us. Knowing our instructor and two of the women, I knew this would be safe to share in our group. When our group of twelve was formed, we all sent our essay to each other to read ahead.
I thought about sharing some things here, but possibly they are too personal, so I have decided to generalize this into a list. Generalizing my essay changed it from raw emotion to a rather clinical nature, but I think it is best.
I hope it helps for those who have never been in the pastor’s shoes, or his family’s for that matter.
- Don’t put him on a pedestal and idolize him because of his charismatic personality or great preaching.
- Don’t expect him to be perfect or never make mistakes; he’s no holier than the next guy. That goes for his family also.
- Don’t expect the pastor’s wife to be the pianist, a public speaker, fill in anywhere there is a gap, and still run her house like the military.
- Don’t expect the pastor’s teenagers to be without doubts, or to not act like teenagers.
- Don’t expect him to be at every meeting at the church; remember he has a family, too.
- Don’t gossip. If you have a problem with your pastor, be honest and talk with him in a loving way.
- Don’t think your pastor can get along financially with less because you have provided him a parsonage.
- Don’t expect your pastor to be a financial expert.
- Don’t begrudge your pastor and his family a vacation each year.
- Don’t expect your pastor to know if you’ve gone to the hospital and are dealing with a crisis. Have someone call him.
This is just a short list, and these ten reasons are not necessarily all things that we dealt with. Yet, I have not shared some of the hardest things. Over the years I’ve seen pastors not only leave the ministry, but be so angry with God they never returned to church. I have seen pastor’s children leave the faith because they had their eyes on people instead of Christ. I know my husband and I were so busy trying to keep all things moving smoothly at church, and the school, that our children were lost in the shuffle. Our teens were off in one direction and my husband in another. More times than not we were so busy at church we didn’t eat together as a family. This was very important to me, being raised in a traditional home.
Somehow we lost our way at that church in the very beginning. We found ourselves terribly naïve and that put us in a position of being pushed around and controlled.
My husband was exhausted just trying to keep up with meetings, the school, and preaching. There were endless programs in church and school. During basketball he took the school team in our van, travelling hours away to play another school.
Where was the rest?
When did we seek God?
Where was the peace?
It is interesting who asked Jesus about the greatest commandment…it was the Pharisees…the doers…the works people.
What does God ask of us? What did Jesus repeat to those around him?
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. …
This is the gospel in its simplest form.
Love your neighbor…
“And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
It sounds easy, but far from it. I can dwell on how much I should love God and spend time with him and don’t…its laughable.
It reveals my weakness…my humanness. But it also reveals the overwhelming love and faithfulness of my God…our God. I know I am nothing without him. He gives all life…and peace when I rest in him.
The more we do for God, does not impress him or give us brownie points in heaven.
He wants our love!