Ministry isn’t for the faint of heart.
You will be stretched, broken, and refined in ways you never thought possible. Some days you’re barely hanging on….and by the grace of God, you get out of bed. The highs will be high and the lows will be low, with little room left for middle ground. In fact, I would argue there are few professions more emotionally taxing than ministry.
Don’t believe me? Ask any pastor’s wife.
Provoked by my own curiosity, I recently reached out to a pastor’s wife and here was her take on ministry life:
Moments of Complete Helplessness
Even when you’re wrongfully accused or completely misunderstood, you really can’t defend yourself.
We had a situation where one of our volunteers was not fulfilling their role in a way that was honoring to the other volunteers and we caught wind of the situation. We pulled this person aside and gently asked them to step aside to do some self-discovery. The meeting went well and we left believing we were all on the same page.
This person then began to spread a rumor in the church about our confrontation with them and completely twisted our words. We couldn’t defend ourselves because it becomes our word against theirs, nor would we disclose the discussion we had behind closed doors. People can go out and say all they want, but we had to remain quiet. You always have to take the high road and sometimes that leaves you feeling helpless.
This Road Can Be Lonely
Because we minister to people in confidence, we can’t talk about the hard things we encounter.
We had close friends confide in us about a horrible situation. We listened in shock as they revealed that the husband had been having an affair and they were completely broken on the verge of a divorce. There was much pain in what we heard, but because of the confidential nature, we couldn’t tell anyone. We had no outlet for this traumatic experience except in each other.
When we first started, we had an abundance of resources in the church. Recently, a few large tithers have left and with them, the majority of our church tithing money (and consequently budget). Church finances have been low recently and it’s causing my husband an immense amount of stress.
But we’ll bear that burden. If we let people in on that, we’re creating a sense of instability within the church and so sometimes, we walk this road alone.
There have been times that the money has been so low that we don’t even cash our own paychecks. We’d rather pay for our staff and make sure they’re taken care of.
Every Single Life Decision is Closely Watched
This part is nuts. If we get a different car or buy anything, people walk by and make comments like “Oh I see how it is! The life of a pastor, man I should’ve gone into that career.”
People have no idea where we got the money, but they often assume it’s because we gave ourselves a pay increase but that wasn’t the case. It’s hard not to feel that people use that as leverage to judge our stewardship of the money entrusted to our care.
We often hear comments about how we spend our money or how we parent our kids, so we begin to be more cautious about what we share. For instance, if we go on a vacation it can be looked on disapprovingly. Can pastors not go on vacation? Is it too elaborate of a vacation?
We’ve had people confront us about purchases. You feel like in regards to your lifestyle, you always have to explain your decision and defend yourself.
When People Leave Our Church, It Can Feel Personal
This is the hardest because there’s oftentimes no closure. It can make running into them at the grocery store weird.
You’re constantly wondering what you did wrong and what more you should have done better.
Sometimes it keeps me up at night. If I’ve invested into you as a friend and you just up and leave, I’m mulling it over in my head. Did I not give enough? Did I push too hard?
We’ve had people leave because they had an offense with someone in the church. To me, that’s the worst reason to leave. When there is drama in the church, you try your best as leadership to bring people together to find a resolution but people make excuses not to resolve the problem. Then what happens is that someone leaves or they both leave. This sucks…because we all lose.
I feel that if you’re switching or leaving a church, then it’s commendable to let leadership know why- in a note, over coffee, in an email, or in person. This leaves no doubt as to why you left and then the pastors aren’t wondering, “Was it something I did?”
But There is a Lot of Good, Too…
Tangible Fruits of Labors
One of the most remarkable things I’ve witnessed was seeing someone who was wrought with drug addiction be radically changed by God. I had the privilege of ministering to her from addiction to being completely set free.
I’m a vessel of the Holy Spirit and through prayer, I’ve seen people healed from back pain and literally have seen a short leg grow to match the length of their longer leg.
The amazing thing is that while I’ve seen it working in ministry, you don’t need to work in ministry to see remarkable things. We can all take hold of this.
Our Family is More United
There is something beautiful when our entire family jumps into something together, giving our lives away to see the Kingdom come.
In reference to some of the things above, our family has endured a lot in this time. We’ve clung on to each other through the unbearable heartbreaks and celebrated with one another through triumphs.
We’ve grown stronger, more resilient, and closer as a family. The incredible thing is that, again, you don’t have to be in ministry to go “all in” to something together.
The Body of Christ Rising to the Occasion
Once there was a great need for a family in our church and we saw people step up in a big way.
The church unified to care for this family- praying for them constantly, figuring out creative ways to raise money, showering them with cards of encouragement, making them meals, and probably so many things we never saw.
When we would hear updates from them, people would stop in the middle of service and pray for them outright. Our hearts were touched by the way they were cared for during this extremely difficult time.
Christ commands us to carry each other’s burdens and this was one of many examples we saw of the body rising up.
Our Job is Fueled By Our Greatest Conviction
The last thing Jesus said before He ascended into heaven was “Go and Make Disciples”.
We have the privilege of having that be our mission statement and everything we do flows from that. Much like what we’ve said before, it doesn’t require a job in ministry to live out this calling.
We can all make this our conviction with whatever job we’re in.
The job is mainly stewarding relationships. Being steady and faithful is the success, not necessarily retaining everyone that comes your way. We have to guard our hearts because some of the time it can feel like losing.
Nevertheless, the reward has been great.
I’ve seen people overcome addictions, affairs, and strongholds of sin because of the power of Jesus. To be so close and see the raw transformation is a humbling honor. Truly one of the best aspects of this position is that He has allowed me to see every characteristic of God minister to his people.
Winning is keeping our eyes on Jesus and remaining faithful to whatever He’s asking of us.