Now for those of you who's heads are already spinning, I'll lay it out like this- being "in ministry" just usually means that you hold some sort of title as a pastor within in a church. Although, it's definitely possible to be in ministry and not hold any sort of official position. Doing any sort of service or volunteer work is ministry at your church. Cooking dinner for a friend or family member is ministry. Just loving people as Jesus would love them is ministry. But, for all intents and purposes, this blog is about the "official, title holding, on staff at a church" ministry. And a parsonage is the typical name for a house that the "in ministry" family lives in.
I grew up in church. My parents were always very involved and held leadership positions within the church. Because of this, they were always fairly close with the parsonage family. We spent lots of time with our pastors and pastor's wives. I have fond memories of all of them, and am thankful for each of them and the influence they had on my life. But now that I've been a pastor's wife and a parsonage occupant, I've realized what and who I perceived them to be was totally off.
These are the few of the observations and truths I've come to know over the last 6-10 years:
1. Pastors don't live in a suit. Funny as it is, I had this perception that my pastors got up in the morning, put on a coat and tie, and headed out for the day. All day. Every day. I remember being shocked the first time I saw one of my pastors in shorts doing non church things. The truth is- Pastors love their church and the people inside the church, but they do have a life that happens outside of the 4 walls of the church building. They have to. Just as you need a break from your work, or some down time- Pastors need it too. Obviously, there are exceptions- emergencies (legit ones), but PLEASE let your pastor have a life and have some free time especially when it's with his family!
2. Pastors (and their spouses) are humans. Please realize that just because your pastor can get up and preach the most spirit filled sermon on Sunday morning that doesn't mean he is above or free of struggle. He gets tired, he gets frustrated. He probably really wants to ignore the 100th phone call of the day. The pastor's wife locks herself in the bathroom to get a break from her children (I wouldn't know a single thing about that), she's probably lost her cool with her kids in public, and she's ducked into the fitting room at Target to avoid "that person". Love them, respect them, but don't hold them to a standard that, as a human being, they can't keep. One day they will do something you don't like and you will be hurt by the extreme expectation you have placed on them. Be fair to yourself and be fair to us.
3. Pastors don't know everything. I feel like your pastor should come with a disclaimer-
Just because I graduated from such and such school(s) and potentially have a certain number of degrees that add letters to my name doesn't mean that I can answer every question or solve every problem that you have. And it doesn't mean that I can pick up a phone and call God to handle all of your issues immediately.
Sometimes, the best your pastor can do is put his arm around your shoulders, cry with you, and share in your pain. Pastors are people that God has called to teach others about himself and his word. People that God has called to lead his Church- to shepherd them, to love them, and to hold their hands along the path of life. Sometimes the expectation of being a miracle working problem solver seems like an insurmountable wall that Pastors can't climb. Don't build that wall for your pastor. There is a good chance that he holds himself to a rather high standard to begin with. Don't make his ministry feel impossible.
4. Pastor's Wives don't fall directly from the June Cleaver tree. Being a pastor's wife is as much of a calling as being a Pastor. That may be hard for some to understand, but essentially, you are accepting the same challenges and sacrifices as your spouse and you have to be happy about it! My worst fear as a pastor's wife (when we were a parsonage family) was that someone would drop by unexpectedly on the day my children got out of bed on the crazy side, my unfolded laundry was piled on the couch, and dishes were filling the sink. The pressures that you feel in keeping your house, raising obedient polite children, looking put together, and essentially having it all together- add even more expectation from every smiling face that fill the pews (or chairs) of your church and that is how your Pastor's wife mght feel.
If you sense an air of frazzeldness, extend a hand or a hug. Offer to watch the kids for a few hours so she can take a bubble bath, or read a book, or go shopping, or fold laundry. Surprise your parsonage family with dinner (provided you call at least an hour in advance) or send your son over to cut their grass. Love on them. It will mean more than you know.
5. You are loved. Pastors celebrate your births and cry at your losses. They enjoy getting to see your successes, and they pray you through your struggles. They appreciate you trusting them with your children, your teenagers, your wives, your husbands. You become family. It may be a hard thing for your pastor, youth pastor, or children's pastor to express to each and every person, but you are loved with a love that only God can give a shepherd. We worry, we lament, and we rejoice because we love you. And because we want you to know that God loves you more than we ever could.
Obviously, none of this is scientific and it's also generalized. There are lots of pastors and pastor's wives that might disagree with these things. (They do wear suits all the time and they wouldn't dream of using the lock on the bathroom door). But these are just a few of the things that I've lived, experienced, and sentiments that have been shared by other folks "in ministry".
I'm willing to put money on the fact that your pastor (and spouse) would appreciate hearing how loved they are on any day of the week, not just once a year or on holidays. Take a minute to send your Pastor a card, and email, or a text, or order some pizza for them for dinner. Just thank them for all they do (and lovingly put up with!).