Thursday, October 20, 2016

5 Things to Know About Your Pastor's Family

There is a common misconception that pastors and their families are somehow superhuman and/or perfect, born to lead and well-equipped to do so. The truth is that 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their roles (source). What's even more terrifying is that 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families, and many pastors' children do not attend church as adults because of what the church has done to their parents (source). 

I'd be lying if I said those statistics didn't hit close to home.

When Todd and I decided to follow God's call to ministry we knew, but didn't fully understand, the impact this vocation would have on our entire family. We've chosen this life, but that doesn't mean it's always been easy. But God is good and we've been shaped and strengthened in the past 5 years of ministry. 

Since October is Pastor Appreciation Month, I thought I'd give you a glimpse into the life of your pastor's family. Perhaps this will give you a more human perspective on the people serving your church. 

1. My husband doesn't tell me everything, and that's OK. In fact, it's critical that he maintain confidentiality with those that seek his help. So if you've met with him privately, don't assume I know anything about it. If you want me to know, please tell me, or tell him its OK to share with me.  If you need my prayer or counsel, please ask. Nothing is more awkward than talking to someone in the greeting line after Sunday worship who thinks you know about that thing but you have no idea about that thing, and you just smile and nod and make a mental note to ask your husband about it later.  

2. We can feel lonely, even in a crowded sanctuary. We are itinerant, so though you may have grown up around the saints and members of the church we're serving, we haven't. To combat this loneliness and to build relationships, Todd and I commit to having people over for dinner about once a month. But you'd never believe how many times we're turned down! You're not in trouble if we invite you over--you're not being called into the principal's office. Since we move around a lot and don't have family nearby, we have to cobble together a support system wherever we go. Gathering new friends around out table is how we try to do that.

3. My husband might work for the church, but I don't. I'm not part of his job description. I have a career of my own and have made many sacrifices to honor my husband's calling. Though we're in this together, my role is often to support him, which translates to being the parent at home with my young daughers. That's where I'm needed most days, and I can't get these critical years back. Anything I do for the church is because I want to or because I know I have gifts to get the job done. Consider me like any other church member or volunteer. If I can help, I will. If it interferes with my family or my job, I won't. 

4. My husband and I have made the decision to serve the church as a vocation. My kids haven't. They get to decide how they participate and where they feel they fit in. We hope to raise children who have a healthy view of the church and desire to serve as they grow. Please don't be the one that makes them want to run from church because of how you treat their parents (or each other). 

5. Before you criticize how my husband or I do something, ask yourself how you'd react if someone said the same to you. This is more than just a job to us: were trying to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world here. So my parenting style or how I dress or how I allow my kids to dress or what my kids watch on TV should not be your concern. Are my kids being unsafe or unkind? Feel free to let me know (or correct them yourself!). We are doing the best we can. There are always things you don't know that affect how we might run our household. Take for example the fact that my husband hasn't been home for bedtime 7 days straight due to evening church obligations. Some weeks are better than others, and this is a busy season with charge conferences (times 3!). Please always assume the best in us and we'll continue to assume the best in you. 

If  you don't already, please keep your pastor and his/her family in your prayers. Even better, drop him/her an encouraging note occasionally! And if you ever have questions, ask. I’m really quite happy to talk about most anything. 

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