I am reeling from confusion and hurt. People that I thought were “for us” are talking negatively about us all over the community. I don’t understand why they would say the things they are saying. We have sacrificed so much for this church and for their families. We don’t deserve this kind of treatment. The thing that really gets to me is that it is all pure fabrication. None of it is true. Why would these people that I have loved act like this?
SET ABLAZE in Alabama
Dear Set Ablaze,
Devestating. It’s purely devastating when your integrity and character are attacked by people within the Church. When Jesus talks about being persecuted for our faith, we assume that it will come from people outside of the Christian community. But even Jesus, in His darkest hours, was betrayed and slandered by those who claimed to love Him the most. These people that He had been entirely transparent and vulnerable with decimated His trust and friendship with the power of their untruthful words. They knew Him the best and because of their friendship, they were able to hurt Him the most. As Christian leaders, we are no more exempt from Judas’ kiss and Peter’s lies than our Lord was on the night of His betrayal.
When these moments come into the midst of our ministries, they often knock us off our feet and shake us to our core. And while we are gasping to catch a breath, someone will come by and kick us in the head. I long for Jesus’ strength to forgive His persecutors in the midst of His crucifixion, but I’m no Jesus. So I turn to what comforts me the most in the moment of my hurt: REVENGE! ;0… No, not my revenge, but God’s justice. Psalms 101:5-8 says:
Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy;
No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.
My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me;
He who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me.
He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house;
He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me.
Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land,
So as to cut off from the city of the LORD all those who do iniquity.
Of course, this doesn’t absolve us from our responsibility to forgive. These kinds of events put us in the “bitter ‘ol pastor’s spouse” danger zone. Bitterness-caused wrinkles and back-row isolation can be the product of these kinds of ministry devastations if we let them fester. Challenge yourself to not retreat. If you are innocent, you have no reason to hide. Let God defend you. If you walk in a blameless way, maintain your integrity, don’t return evil for evil, God will ferret these lies out. He has a way of shining the light on the truth. Prepare yourself though; it may take a long time for the truth to come out. But rest assured, God will deal with those who attack His faithful ones. You are not the only one who will feel the fire! You are in my prayers.
What is happening to me?! I feel like I just walked into bizarre-o world! Several weeks ago, the pastor called us up to the front of the church and told everyone that we were in the process of becoming full-time missionaries. Our close friends have known this but not many other people until recently. Since it was announced, I can’t seem to set foot in the church building without people feeling compelled to give me their opinion! Not just on becoming a missionary, but on everything- my kids, my spouse, my clothing!! Up until a few weeks ago, I was just a church member, but this announcement seems to have put me into some alter-world category that makes people I have known for years feel the freedom to openly run with diarrhea of the mouth. I never asked for or invited this kind of attention. How do I make it STOP!?
I’m not a pastor’s spouse!
Dear “not a Pastor’s spouse”,
While your spouse may not be a pastor, you have unwittingly found the key and unlocked the door that leads to the Secret World of Pastor’s Spouses. Unfortunately, it’s too late to retreat. This “bizarre-o world” has begun to take over, but the good news is, you do have control in your new alter reality. I’m sure that you have already recognized that some of these people lavishing you with unwarranted attention do have good motives. They want to encourage you and, in some small way, be a part of what you are doing for the Lord. In fact, I believe most people THINK that’s what they are doing when they feel compelled to give opinions. But, being in the Secret World of Pastor’s Spouses is kind of like when a woman is pregnant. Everyone, including strangers, feel compelled to tell her pregnancy stories (to help her out, of course!). They also like to reach out and touch her in places that they never would touch if she wasn’t pregnant. It’s uncomfortable. Privacy and sometimes decency are encroached on in this world. But it’s mostly harmless and with time you do get used to it. In a few more weeks, you will be able to figure out who is safe, who you need to smile and nod at, who you need to avoid in the hallway, and who might become a new friend.
There is no way to avoid this attention. We can’t control other people’s actions or stupidity. But you can filter the comments, judge actions rightly, and respond transparently. When you feel like someone has crossed the line, it’s ok to tell them so.
You may not have invited this kind of attention, but God may want to use your new platform for His Glory. Don’t be so quick to slam the door and throw away the key because of the initial shock of what you have experienced. Come in. Look around. There’s beauty in this secret world too. I hope you discover it soon.
I’m having a problem with a woman in my church. She really is a nice lady, but she has pushed me too far. I have a five month old baby. He’s my first child. This lady must have a sixth sense because as soon as I come into the church building, there she is whisking away with my baby. A few weeks ago, I thought I saw her feeding him ice cream. Today, I walked around the corner and saw her letting him suck soda from a straw!!! I am fuming mad! She’s a sweet woman who has been somewhat of a mentor to me in the past. I know she loves babies but recently she has just about frayed my last nerve. I’m not sure what to do. I’m finding myself hiding and doing everything I can to avoid her when I see her. I don’t want to lose her friendship and, honestly, I don’t want to offend a church member. What do I do?
Frayed and Torn in Nevada
Dear Frayed and Torn-
Since this is your first baby in ministry, I want to help you with your priorities: Baby, #1, Church Lady #31. You have permission to offend! It’s ok to assert yourself where your kids are concerned. It’s probably not going to be the last time so you might as well practice while your son is still a baby.
I am getting the feeling that the reason you haven’t already dealt with your angst is because this lady is not just anybody in the church. It sounds like she has been someone special to you. Even more important that you approach her about how you are feeling. You don’t want to spend your time hiding in the bushes from someone you admire as a mentor. Approach her about how you are feeling so that you can reconcile with her! If you value her friendship, make sure that this does not become a rift between the two of you. She may not even realize that she has crossed the boundary lines. Might you offend a church member or friend… yes. But your baby, your frayed nerves, and your friendship are worth the risk.
Avoidance is not going to make this better. Face it head on, chin up, and ready to take a blow. However, you may be surprised if that blow feels more like a soft apology and a hug from a friend.
DW~ Matthew 5:22-24
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.
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
Last week the church secretary approached me during the worship service and commented on my dress. She made sure to mention that it had been a long time since I had worn a dress and it was nice to finally see me in one. The week before, a different lady told me how nice it was that I wear dresses every Sunday because it had become so rare to see that in church. WHAT?!!! #1) Why do they care so much what I wear? #2)Whatever is clean is what gets put on the body that Sunday. What’s up with the fashion police!? Next week I think I’ll go naked and see what they have to say.
Au Naturel in Jacksonville, FL
Dear Au Naturel,
Wow! I guess you didn’t realize that when you became a ministry spouse you instantly turned into Jackie O. How does that verse go- “Church ladies look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”- something like that (I Samuel 16:7).
You made me laugh and I think that is the only way to deal with situations like yours. Of course it is utterly ridiculous that these ladies have expectations of you regarding what you wear to church, but realistically, nothing you say or do is going to change their expectations of how you should clothe yourself for worship. There are some things as a ministry spouse that we have to be sensitive about when it comes to the congregation and their opinions and feelings about us. Clothing should not be one of them as long as you are biblical in your expression of it; “ Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart…” I Peter 3:3-4. Be careful not to put too much stock in the ignorance of flippant comments. Ministry is stressful enough without indulging every single expectation church people have of you. Be comfortable in your own skin by knowing that you choose to please God first, the “paparazzi” second. And as for going naked….intriguing… somehow I think your husband might appreciate that much more than the church ladies!
I am so tired of the people at church. Sometimes I wish I could just melt into the wall and pretend that I don’t exist. Their comments rub my raw nerves and leave me crying in the corner. However, this week I received a note from a lady in my church who told me how much she appreciated my sacrifice of time by allowing my spouse to minister to her family. I hate it when these church people ruin my negative perception of them!! I want to be angry and then they go and encourage me. Church people SUCK…and then they don’t.
Boggled in CT
Thank you for sharing your raw and honest opinion of church people. I think that most of us as ministry spouses go through a myriad of emotions when it comes to people in the church. It’s people like this lady who sent you the note who make it all worth it in the end. The ones who acknowledge that the lifestyle you lead is not the easiest and then seek to support you. They keep us going in ministry. But people of this quality seem to be few and far between. It seems that our congregants have not read the verse in Hebrews that says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17 NLV) That’s why it is so important to cling on to those few beautiful and rare moments when someone blesses you in ways you did not expect. When church people SUCK, pull out your note and remember the blessing. When you want to disappear, remember the few people who you would miss if you were gone. When you want to cry, think of the small appreciations that you have known. Release yourself to love church people despite what they do and God will surprise you with those rare few who give you the blessing of serving with joy. Besides, anger is not profitable for producing anything but wrinkles! 🙂 I choose joy!