Thursday, October 08, 2009

"Just Say It" Series:
You think you know...but you don't.


Last night I made a list of everything I want to say in this "Just Say It!" series.  I knew I had quite a few things to share but after I actually started listing the topics I'm going to cover in the coming weeks, I realized it was way more than I ever imagined.  There is so much that most of you don't know about that your pastor deals with.
    
The first thing I thought I'd start off with today is the fact that a lot of you think you know quite a bit about your pastor's life, but you really don't.  Even staff members think they know because they work at the church but truthfully unless they live with the pastor, they will not even come close to understanding.  I know this from actual experience.

Years ago at a previous church we hired a youth pastor from another state and when coming on staff they  had a hard time finding a house at first.  So, being the kind of people Larry and I are, we said, "move in with us til' you can find something."    We already had two kids, and the youth pastor and his wife also had two.  But I didn't really blink an eye at this living arrangement.   One of my mottos is, "you can do anything for a little while."  It wasn't a big deal to me as we've done things like that quite a few times and this wasn't the first.   So, this family of four moved into our home.  During that time I was taking care of my two children, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry for eight people AND working by Larry's side on a daily basis as co-pastor at the church office.  They youth pastor and his wife had not been in ministry very long and, as most we have ever had on staff, were looking to Larry and I as mentors.  With these staffers, the mentorship would be really up close and personal as they were actually living in our home for three months.   They are great people who are fun to be with, and though living quarters were a bit tight, we had a great time.  Our families enjoyed meal times together every night, talking much, and doing some recreational things together as well. 

But one day, the youth pastor's wife broke down and cried and said to me, "How do you handle this?"  

"Handle what?" I said.

She went on to talk about the busy church schedule, keeping the homefires burning, the constant interruptions, the phone ringing off the hook, the sharing of my husband's time with so many people, dealing with heavy situations in people's lives, being "on call 24/7",  administrating and planning for special events both in the home and at the church, bearing people's burdens to such a great degree, dealing with difficult situations and people in the church,  and much more.

 She said, "I admire so much how you handle all this and keep going, but I have to be honest, I just can't.  If this is what pastoring is, I'm just not cut out for it."  

 We encouraged them and poured our lives into them but one morning there was a knock on our bedroom door and the youth pastor asked my husband to come downstairs to talk.  A few minutes later Larry came upstairs and asked me to join him in talking with them.  Through tears the youth pastor told us they just couldn't handle ministry anymore, and although they loved us and had the utmost respect for our leadership, living in a pastor's home 24/7 and witnessing it up close had been mind blowing to them and showed them they were just not ready.  They said they dreaded disappointing us however, they felt they needed to resign, move back to their hometown and re-evaulate what to do with their lives.  We tried to get them to reconsider but they said they had made up their minds.

They loved us.  They still love us.   And we love them!  They have tremendous respect for us to this day and still consider us mentors.  We did not have inappropriate expectations nor were we abusing or taking undue advantage of our staff in any way,and they would tell you that.  We also did not have any strife in our home.  They were simply overwhelmed by the up close window into the ministry world.  They moved back to the midwest, he went to work in a factory and they said life was much simpler, which I'm sure was true.

 My sole point is that  many people think they understand pastoral ministry. They've been "around it".  They have family members who pastor, or maybe they have other friends who pastor a church. You can be around it but unless you're in it, you don't know. Most folks show up on Sunday morning oblivious to the fact of all that had to be done that week just to make the Sunday morning service happen, let alone Wednesday night. I think they believe the "church fairy" comes in and sets it all up. The truth is, there is no church fairy. Your pastor spends all week working on that AND about 4,376 other things. Sunday service is just the tip of the iceberg and many people imagine that to be the only thing their pastor has on their plate that week.   The volume of phone calls or emails alone would shock most people.   

    If some of you really knew what your pastor has to do or goes through every week, you'd be running to the altar to ask forgivess for not being more understanding.  And I'm not exaggerating. This is no pity party, I am simply stating facts for the majority who are unaware.  The pastoral ministry defies explanation to anybody outside of it although I'm really trying to explain it here, it doesn't do it justice.  Understand that I love pastoring!!!  So I'm someone giving you this from a healthy perspective.  I serve in a wonderful church with the most loving people in the world.  So if I'm telling you this from the perspective of a pastor in a healthy loving church can you imagine what pastors face who are in difficult situations??    You really have no clue how much pressure your pastor might be under, as the majority of them are NOT in healthy situations and I'm telling you that even in a healthy situation it's still a challenge!!    Before we go any further with this blog series, you probably need to log off of your computer right now, call them  up and say, "Pastor -- I 've realized I really have no clue about your life or what you deal with on a daily basis.  I'm sorry for any of the times I've misjudged you or your spouse or kids and had unfair expectations.  All I know right now is that I need to pray for you.  I just want you to know I appreciate you and I'm here to support you and your family and do all I can to help our church move forward." 

That's a start. 

 More tomorrow.


1 comment:

Ruth, PA said...

Amen, Amen, Amen, Deanna!! I grew up as a PK and witnessed what a Pastor, and family live through. I don't want to seem like I didn't love being a PK, but it was hard in the church. As I reached my teen years, I realized how selfish some people are. At 2 or 3 in the morning, sometimes many nights in a row, Dad would be called to a home to pray for a situation that could have waited til dawn, a home to talk to a feuding couple, and Sun. morning, we all would wear our plastic smiles!! As a mother of PK's how have you handled critics of your children? I think I hated that the most...living in the fish bowl!

Several times my pastor's wife and I have talked. She never reveals a situation, but I pray for her, for strength, and deaf ears to harsh words! I am very thankful they are able to get away from time to time and are very faithful to take Fri. off each week!

This subject is so needed, Deanna. Especially for those who have no idea what (or who) a pastor deals with! May God give you wisdom!!
Love to you,
Ruth