Embarassed and Ashamed
My husband left a career in the secular world for a call to ministry. We have never been happier but we also have never been so poor. There are people in our church who know how much we are struggling financially and they occasionally slip money under my husband’s office door or send me a gift card in the mail. I feel so embarrassed that we are being given benevolence money. We are supposed to be the ones giving. I’m not sure how to shake this feeling of shame.
I hear you. I lost all my pride years ago! I felt exactly like you and I swallowed a big helping of guilt along with it. I’ve cried, I’ve asked people not to give, I’ve avoided looking at people who I knew had left groceries on our doorstep. I’ve tried to figure out how to get an extra job to pay people back for what they have done for us. I’ve told myself a million times that this surely cannot be the way that God wants to provide for us.
But then, I think about my Savior and how the Bible says that He never had a place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). I remember that He sent His disciples out with nothing and told them that a worker is worthy of his support (Matthew 10:8-10) and I meditate on the verses encouraging me not to worry about food and shelter (Matthew 6:25-34). And I realize that God’s got this. He doesn’t HAVE to use the people in the church to take care of us. He chooses to use them.
I learned that lesson one year through an envelope taped to my front door. Every week, it was there, filled with cash of odd amounts. $38.53, $52.21, $78.97 – I couldn’t figure out the pattern or the significance, but I was so thankful that it kept appearing because we had a new baby and we were desperately poor. One evening, the parents of a teenager in our youth group showed up at our house. I had no idea why they were there until I saw the envelope in their hand. They explained to us that they had been watching our lives and had been moved by our frugality and budgeting. They said that they were convinced that God had told them to begin saving 10% of anything they made to give to us. On every payday, they were giving us the cash that they believed God had designated for us. They had decided to out themselves because this week’s cash was such a large amount that they didn’t want to leave it on the door. They said that they were both making more money than they had ever made in their lives and were so thankful to us for our witness and the privilege of being able to give to us.
My perceived humiliation was their spiritual victory.
I’ve learned to get over my embarrassment for ministry’s sake. I would encourage you to do the same. By allowing people to give to you, you are giving to them. Your sacrifices are their discipleship. And, there’s no shame in that.
A lady from church just approached me and asked if she could take me out for a makeover. She was very humble when she approached me and she said that she wanted to give me this makeover as her special gift. I told her I would go next week but I have mixed emotions about it. I mean, really, do I look like I need a makeover?? Is she just trying to be nice?? I don’t know! And that is bothering me. I don’t want to over think this whole thing but I’m a little uncomfortable. On one hand, I want to call her up and cancel, and on the other hand, I really would love to have a makeover and get to know this lady a little better. I feel crazy for being suspicious of her motives. I’m not sure what to do.
Dear Skeptical Sally,
Sometimes living the ministry lifestyle forces us into an attitude of cautiousness. Jesus himself said that we should be as “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”. * (Interestingly enough, He was giving instructions to a group of people He was sending out to do ministry!)
I know you have mixed feelings about this lady; however, I don’t think that you should let your apprehension limit the “Church” in the way that they want to bless you. If your feelings about this lady make you sick to your stomach, it may be time to graciously bail out of the date. But, if you have gotten to the point in ministry where you are suspicious of everyone, it may be time to allow God to stretch you beyond your comfort zone. You know when you are getting a Holy Spirit stop sign and when you are letting past trespasses get in the way of new friendships.
Just because someone offers you a makeover doesn’t mean you have to take it, but check your heart. Be shrewd AND innocent. This may be just the opportunity you need to prove that some church people are worthy of your trust.
My husband handles all the technical aspects of our church ministries. He was hired with the title Minister of Media. The problem is that he spends a lot of his time just fixing the computers in the church office. What happened to the “minister” part of his title? I don’t think that the staff sees him as a REAL pastor. He recruits and ministers to a large team of volunteers who run the all the tech in our services. He leads those volunteers in Bible Study and pastors their families. He has a religious undergraduate degree and he is a licensed minister. Why do they treat him like the IT guy? My husband tells me to blow it off and not worry about it. He’s a lot less concerned about this than I am, but I’m irritated. How do I get past this attitude?
Insulted in Indiana
This may be one of those things about ministry life that you are going to have to just let go of in order to find some peace. It is definitely our first reaction to defend our spouse when we see an injustice taking place. Especially when we think they deserve so much more respect than they are receiving at church. Changing your attitude starts with:
- Recognizing that while man sees the outward appearance, God sees the heart (I Samuel 16:7)
- Realizing that no matter what happens with the staff or congregation, we do our work as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24)
- Start claiming God’s promise that what is sacrificed to Him in secret will be rewarded (Matthew 6:4-6)
And don’t diminish what your attitude can do for your spouse. It may be that the reason your husband can accept his relegated role so easily is because you see him as so much more. Sometimes it only takes one person, the most important person in our lives, recognizing the work we are doing to give us the strength to push through when ministry is difficult. Balance your admiration of your husband with the viewpoint that the only person you are really trying to please is God and I think your attitude will swiftly find adjustment.
My wife is on staff at a church. Any time she needs anything, I am there for her. I build sets, I haul stuff, I sponsor events, I even fill in when she needs a last minute volunteer to help with something on stage. I am very proud of her and I love being a part of what she is doing. How do I tell her that I need a break?
Dear #1 Volunteer,
When I read all that you do for your wife and her ministry, I’m almost sure I heard a collective “aaahhhh” from the ladies out there. Do you do dishes too?! What a blessing you are to your wife, her ministry, and your church!
However, no one can do it all, not even the perfect husband! It’s convenient and easy to ask our family members to be the “fill-in everythings” at church. It’s more difficult to ask a church member to make those sacrifices. But, in the long run, it will be better for you, your relationship, and her ministry for her to expand her volunteer base. At this point, you may not be able to just step out cold turkey. I suspect that she has become a little dependant on what you do for her. I would start by telling her that you need a break. Let her know that you love supporting her in ministry but you need to step back. Pick the one thing that you are most passionate about helping her with in ministry, and let her know that you will continue to do that one thing only. Make plans with her to take a total ministry break sometime in the near future. The break should have a definite starting time and ending time so that she knows you are not going to be gone forever! When you come back from break, you won’t need to be her #1 go-to-guy because she will have been forced to develop alternative solutions to her volunteer needs in your absence. This may be a little rocky to employ, but every minister wants their volunteers to be fresh and excited to be serving in the ministry. If you don’t step back now, you may begin to resent being the #1 Volunteer later. And that would be very disappointing for all the “aaahhhh” ladies who read this blog!
Wounded 2 Ways
I just got out of the hospital after having surgery and I will be in recovery for 4-6 weeks. During my three day hospital stay, not one person from church called to see how I was doing. My husband is one of the pastors at church. None of the other staff pastors called either. We have three kids and don’t live near family. Soon, we won’t have any help at home. I’m worried about how my husband and I are going to manage during the recovery. DW, Why wouldn’t anyone call or offer to help? Who’s our pastor?
Wounded 2 Ways in Texas
My heart is breaking for you. I wish I could come over and help! Who knows why people do what they do but here are some thoughts on what might be going through people’s heads:
“I don’t want to bother her when she is sick.”
“I’m sure her family is there to help and I don’t want to intrude.”
“The pastors will take care of it.”
“What if she had ‘female’ surgery-I don’t want to make her feel uncomfortable.”
“I’m positive that someone has already organized meals for them.”
“I’ll call once I know she’s out of the hospital….oops, has it been that long!”
While service, outreach, and sacrifice probably come naturally for your family (you are in ministry), it’s just not the bent of most people to meet someone’s needs unless they are asked to do so. Should they have known that you needed help…YES! And I’m boggled by the inaction of your fellow pastors! I’m hurt and disappointed for you that the pastors at your church did not reach out to your family during this time. Pastors should be the first ones to respond when someone on their team is hurting and in need. Unfortunately, ministry families are seen as “able to handle it”. There is an assumption by other pastors that “they will understand how busy I am”. In the Good Samaritan story, it was the Priest and Pharisee who walked right past a battered and dying man lying in the road (I wonder if he was a pastor’s spouse).
Wounded, you have 2 ways to handle this hurt. You can carry it around with you and let it fester and infect everything you do in ministry for the rest of your service there OR you can prick it now and let the pain and infection drain out giving you the chance to heal by choosing forgiveness. We all miss it sometimes. People and pastors mess up. You know pastors aren’t perfect-you live with one! I urge you to choose grace in this situation. Holding on to this hurt will only lead you to bitterness.
And, ASK FOR HELP! Don’t assume that people will know you need it. You and your husband need to call, pester and do what you have to do to let people know that you need help. It may surprise you to see who responds and what bonds are formed within the church when the pastor’s family admits that they are human and in need.
My prayer is that healing in all ways comes quickly.
Pastor Unappreciation Month
It’s Pastor Appreciation month. This is the month that I always feel least appreciated. Our church takes up a Love Offering for the pastors on the last Sunday of this month. The Love Offering is promoted as being “split among the pastors”.
In the last five years, the Love Offering has been split 70-30 between the Senior Pastor and the Associate Pastor. (Besides my husband, we have two other pastors on staff.) All five pastors, secretaries, and janitors are given a $25 restaurant gift certificate with their paychecks.
I’m not resentful that the Pastor and Associate get the offering. They work very hard and deserve all of the appreciation they get. But it does feel like a slight that the other three pastors are given the same gift as the support staff. I also struggle to respond to congregation members who assume that our family received the Love Offering. I’m not sure what to say to them.
I feel guilty and ungrateful for even writing this all down-
Dear Mrs. Unappreciated,
Please don’t feel guilty! If you didn’t tell me, who would you tell? 🙂 It’s ok to have feelings of under appreciation for the sacrifices your family is making to be in ministry. The problem comes when we dwell in these moments and allow ourselves to set up a root of bitterness in our lives. We have to keep grounded in the fact that everything we do as ministry families is an act of service to God. God knows we are not in it for the money and gift cards!!
Focus on those people who DO appreciate your ministry. The ones who are excited that they had the opportunity to give to the Love Offering. If it’s the thought that counts, they COUNT! Graciously accept their encouragement and don’t dwell on the fact that the money never made it to your family.
And give credit where credit is due… don’t attribute the slight to your congregation, but to the leadership who made the decision to distribute the gifts in that manner. My preference is to assume that they are ignorant of how this action makes you feel. And even if they do know how it makes you feel, there’s nothing productive that you can do with that information. This just leads me back to the fact that they are ignorant…
Guard your heart. This is a tricky, slippery slope and all roads lead to bitterness. Remember, your real rewards will come much later and God has not forgotten your service:
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Colossians 3:23-24