I remember saying that to my mother when I was in my early teens. It wasn’t a slight against my father, a gifted pastor, but a cry for self-preservation.
God’s plans, however, were vastly different from my own: in my early 20s, I found myself married to a theology major who desired, above all else, to serve God in ministry. When I reminded my mom of what I had said years before, her response was, “Maybe God allowed you to grow up as a pastor’s kid so you would be prepared to be a pastor’s wife. Very little will come as a shock to you.”
After 10 years as a pastor’s wife, I can claim a wildly different perspective on pastors than most others. For many, pastors are highly visible on Sunday mornings, but much of their daily lives are a mystery.
Please allow me to share some insights into the lives of pastors and their families with you – a glimpse of “life on the other side.”
Pastors are people too.
Nobody is fully defined by a job, even though the love of ministry lies deep in pastors. They have hobbies and passions outside church life. They need vacations and encouragement just like others. They aren’t superheroes. Just because pastors have a position in a church doesn’t mean they’re mind readers, able to work countless hours, or infallible.
So, be gracious to your pastor. Be an encourager. Write a note. Make a call. Invite the family for a meal. Extend grace. (And recognize that calendar holidays – when most people are resting – can be the busiest and most stressful times of the year for pastors, spouses, and their kids.)
Pastors’ families need them, too.
I’m so thankful that both my father and husband place high priority on their families. I’ve known other pastors, however, who feel that the needs of their congregation outweigh the needs of their families. This causes bitterness among many pastors’ kids and accounts for why many leave the church at the first opportunity.
Allow your pastor to engage in ministry with his or her family. This might mean noisier home visits or a different office schedule than you might be used to, but it’s essential if we want children to be an integral part of ministry, not an afterthought.
Pastors deserve respect not only as shepherds of the church, but as fellow brothers/sisters in Christ.
I can’t count how many times my father or husband has come home with a story of being verbally accosted in the office. Even if the complaint was valid, quite often the approach was not. People have different perceptions of how pastors should act, and what they should say or do. Striving to please everyone in a congregation is impossible, not to mention detrimental to productive church ministry.
Follow Paul’s guidelines when addressing conflict with your pastor. Curb the tendency to complain to others on coffee row and, instead, approach your pastor with grace and calm. Recognize that most pastors are trying to do their best to help the church actualize Christ’s vision for his body – and there’s often a bigger picture than you’re aware of.
Being a pastor’s wife, although the farthest thing from what I wanted as a teenager, has been one of God’s greatest blessings to me. Life in ministry is always an adventure. And I love knowing that we’ve chosen – as a family – to partner with God in helping develop his church on earth.
—Jennifer Kramer is a member of Richmond Park Church, Brandon, Man., where her husband Ben serves as lead pastor.