You'd give a rip if your pastor got divorced...so do you give a rip now while they're still married?
Before I get into this subject any further, let me say I'm not talking to my church people. Reason being - I already know they care. They have shown it and they are the very first church we have pastored that has. It is partly their caring on this issue that prompts me to write this, and partly an idea dropped into my heart by my friend, Pastor Andrea Fruscella.
Recently Pastor Andrea wrote an article and she was admonishing people about caring about their pastor's marriage. She brought up the point that the majority of church people would care greatly if their pastor got divorced. They would be the first to want to 'take action' as soon as they found out! I guess some churches would want to take some sort of action to perhaps remove their pastor and others might try to take quick action to restore, depending upon their point of view. In either case, an impending divorce or one that has just happened would make many a congregation rise up and say, "hey, what's going on?"
Pastor Andrea's question was - when so many care if their pastor ends up getting divorced, why don't they show some care while they are STILL MARRIED?
I believe this is an excellent question and something church people would do well to think about and begin to take action on. Some reading this will say, "I don't feel I can take action on this in my church - I'm not a board member, or a leader in the church." But really, ANYONE can take action in helping their pastor's marriage, and I'm going to tell you how right here on this blog. First, let me tell you a few things our church does for us. They typify the fact that love and caring for their pastor are really verbs - they show it by their actions not just words.
When Larry and I first came here the board informed us that one of the things important to them was that their pastor maintains a good marriage. They were very wise to realize that as the pastor goes, so goes the church. Therefore, they wanted to make an investment in our marriage, knowing that we are leading the couples - and ultimately the families of this church as a collective body. They want to do all they can to ensure the health of our family. Two times a year aside from our vacation time they give us a few days away together as a married couple, and in addition to giving us the time off, they pay for it. This is specifically for a marriage getaway and is not taken for something like a missions trip, etc.
This time for us is so special. One thing that was difficult for us in times past before coming to pastor in Florida was that we always wanted more time for just "us" away without the kids but we felt guilty to take our "vacation time" and leave the kids at home especially since there was so little precious time and money, and after all - family vacation time is important. But now we don't have to be faced with that choice. We have our vacation with our children, but those "marriage weekends" are for us alone. And best of all, we don't have to worry about how we are going to pay for it! The church takes care of it. Pretty amazing, huh? Yep, I think so too. It's one of the reasons why I think my church is really the best in the world!
In addition to this, people volunteer to help with taking care of the kids, the house, the dog, or whatever else we need. This is especially important when you have a pastor who doesn't live near their extended family and has left home and all that is familiar to follow the call of God far away from family.
At this point in our lives, our son has just turned 18, and so most times now he and his brother (who will be 17 in a few weeks) stay together and keep the run of the house and take care of themselves. However I still have child care arranged for the youngest, who is 10.
Rob and Jenn Hart are in leadership at our church, and an incredible couple we love so much. They are involved in the church in many ways, from being on the board to overseeing our Hopetown Ministries homeless outreach, however they told us way before getting involved in any of that, that their "ministry" to us that God gave them was to take care of Savanna. She has been with them so much over the past few years that we lovingly call her, "Savanna Hart Shrodes." The Harts have taken her in as one of their own, not only each time Larry and I want to go away as a couple for a "marriage" getaway, but they also care for her during all of our ministry trips when we are away on business or missions or such. We never have to worry at all about her and she is just as happy with the Harts as she is at home. It truly is her "second home." The Hart kids consider her "their sister" and truly the Hart family is an incredible gift to our family in so many ways.
Here are some ideas for you to be a blessing to your pastor's marriage:
If you are on the board - give the pastoral couple extra time (beyond vacation) for at least one overnight getaway a year and arrange for the church to give financially towards the getaway. If the church can't afford to pay for it, at least give them the time off - this really costs you nothing but will bring big benefits to the church.
If you are not on the board, go talk to the board members and share this idea with them and let them know of your desire that the church do something to invest in the pastor's marriage. Talk to them about "preventative maintenance." Honestly, some churches care more about maintaining the air conditioners or the parking lot than they do their pastor! If the board is somehow stacked with people who really don't care about this then don't say, "the board doesn't want to help, so I guess we can't do anything." You take the initiative - go to a few people off the board who are in the congregation who you know really care about the pastor's family. Take a little collection among yourselves and make a plan to make this happen for your pastor. If you can't get the leadership on board, do something from a "grass roots" level to help your pastor. You don't have to be on a special committee to help the pastor, but if the official leadership is on board, all the better -- and you can do something even bigger for your pastor. In fact, I know of one church that did just that. The pastor didn't really have any true supporters on the board. Some of his close friends off the board just got together and arranged the whole thing and went around to members of the congregation, advertised it privately and presented the pastor and spouse with it. It would have been great if the board would have caught the vision and it's a shame they didn't - however the goal of helping the pastor was still accomplished due to those caring folks.
Help arrange childcare for them. This could be for an overnight getaway or just a date night.
Ask your pastor questions like, "when's the last time you went on a date with your spouse?" Hold them accountable.
Give a gift certificate for them to go on a date.
Bless them with a book that will enrich their marriage.
Don't expect perfection out of them. Every marriage has it's ups and downs. Realize they are human and sometimes they go through rough patches like anyone. Give them space to be human.
Be sure to recognize their anniversary. Plan something extra special for the "special ones" (10, 20, 25, 50, etc.)
PRAY FOR THEM. Pray for your pastor's marriage EVERY SINGLE DAY. They are under great pressure, more than any other marriage in your church. The enemy has targeted them. Where the head goes, the body follows! Uphold them daily and let them know you are praying for them.
When God puts them on your heart in a strong way, tell them that. Let them know you are thinking of them and standing in the gap for them.
Offer to do extras like house-sit, pet sit, or take care of various needs of the church while your pastor is going to go away with their spouse on a getaway so they know those things are covered while gone.
These are just a few ways to be an extra special blessing to your pastor's marriage. I would encourage any church member reading this - don't dare criticize your pastor for a strain you may see now or in the future in their marriage if you haven't reached out to try and strengthen their marriage in the past.
Plenty of people will rise up and care when it all falls apart -- but will you be the one to care before it ever gets to that?
By the way, thanks Northside, once again! You care and it makes things much easier in keeping the flame burning in this pastoral marriage!