Have You Ever Thought This About Your Pastor’s Family?
As a congregation, we sometimes get a distorted view of the pastor and his family. Misconceptions range anywhere from elevating our pastor to a god-like level, and believing that he and his family have some divine insight, to gossiping about how his kids behave and questioning his right to be a pastor at all. Here’s the thing though – pastors are just people! Their marriage has its stresses, their children have a will of their own, as do ours, and they also experience those valley and peak moments of faith. I’ve talked to a few trusted friends about what it’s like to be a pastor’s wife or a pastor’s kid, and my sources have given me some great insight. So, to set the record straight, here a few confessions from a pastor’s family:
I really don’t like Sundays.
As a member of the pastor’s family, I am basically obligated to fill in the holes left by other members. Someone didn’t show up for nursery? I better be prepared to step in. Someone forgot to prepare a lesson for Sunday School? I’ve got a few on hand, right? More coffee, more doughnut holes, more bulletins – I need to know where everything is so I can refill, replace, replenish. Sunday becomes more of a marathon, and less of a day of rest. And it can be exhausting.
It can be lonely.
When your husband is the pastor, he is everyone’s father, everyone’s brother, and everyone’s friend in a crisis. It’s hard to be mad when he has to visit someone in the hospital or do a last minute funeral. On the other hand, we, his family, we need his love and attention too. Even with the best intentions and time management skills, a pastor is just always on call.
I do not know what my husband knows.
“I will not treat you differently because you are having an affair; I don’t even know you’re having an affair.” This is such an important thing to remember, and refreshing to hear as a member of the church! Just because you had a counseling session with your pastor, doesn’t mean he went home and told his family all about it over dinner. It’s not their burden to bear, so don’t treat them like it is!
It is difficult to hear a good sermon.
When my husband is preaching passionately from the pulpit I tend to be thinking of all their flaws in the back of my head, and getting upset that they don’t measure up to the person they present from the pulpit. “Oh, you want to talk about responsible parenting? What about when you forgot the kids at the baby sitter’s and then fed them cake for dinner?”
God confuses me too.
I definitely don’t have it all figured out. Just because I live with the shepherd of our flock doesn’t mean I have my master’s degree in divinity, or study the original Greek texts. I get angry at God too, I doubt His goodness at times, and I have my own unique set of hurdles to jump through when it comes to my faith. Along those same lines…
I am not a “super Christian” (or parent, or daughter, or sister, or friend…).
Please don’t hold me to a higher standard than you would any other member of the church. I have my own set of shortcomings, so when I fail, show me grace, not judgement.
One huge misconception people have is, “Oh, you get to live with the pastor and soak up all his insight!” In reality it’s like, “I live with the pastor, and can see all the cracks and imperfections, and for every one liner of packaged wisdom he rolls out on Sunday morning, there are at least 10 lines of gibberish, if not flat out blasphemy!”
The fishbowl is real. And it stinks.
This phenomenon is usually over spiritualized, by using the term “transparency.” Example, “We love that our pastor is so transparent about his family life.” It sounds so much nicer than, “Well, we all scrutinize and judge your every action anyway, so you really have no choice but to be an open book. It’s part of the job.” What people fail to consider, is that while living a transparent life above reproach is a good guideline to follow as a leader in the church, the kids never got a choice in the matter! So please, be patient and gracious with us.
Home is where the heart is, not where the parsonage is.
As a pastor’s kid, we moved around “as the Spirit lead” so to speak. A total of 4 times throughout my childhood. That’s 4 new schools, 4 new neighborhoods, 4 separate occasions of having to leave good friends and community behind. For all the upsets and changes it brought, I definitely learned about family and sticking together. I also learned that there are good people wherever you go, and your family doesn’t have to be just the ones you share the parsonage with.
You develop some awesome people skills.
When you have a new missionary in your home every weekend, you learn how to carry on a conversation with just about anyone. Looking back, this has come in handy more often than I ever thought it would as an adult.