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.
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