What is Up With Pastors?

I have wanted to do this type of blog for quite a while.  A blog that focuses on ministry and ministers.  Since I was a full-time, paid minister for 31 years and now work with them through my business, I realize they present a unique challenge.  Hopefully, what is brought up in these posts will produce a conversation from which we all can learn.

Several very high profile and respected speakers in the Christian community sought to put on a workshop for pastors and their wives.  They wanted to help these marriage strengthen as they modeled healthy relationships to their congregations.  A lot of time, money, and effort went into promoting this event across the country.  Sadly, the response was dismal.

I recently tried to offer a similar workshop.  I contacted around 300 churches and sought to give ministers tools that would help their marriage and in turn help others.  One person signed up and he was a retired doctor who is now helping a church planting.

What does this say about pastors?  Several other colleagues of mine commented on the state of these men and women in full-time, paid ministry.  We have opportunity to see them in our offices as clients.  We all see a very unhealthy seclusion, isolation, and even a kind of paranoia.  If these pastors would only sit in my office for a while and listen to spouses and children of pastors regarding the affects that type of life has on them.  Consider the following statements from some past clients:

“When he over works it is not just for the church or his job, it is for GOD.  God trumps family and He is always used to justify my husband’s need to be accepted.”

“I’m not just another volunteer.  My husband’s ministry is not necessarily mine and I was made to feel guilty for that.”

“As a Pastor’s wife, my behavior was tied to my husband’s success.  Every action was scrutinized.  I felt like I had to be perfect.”

“As a child of a pastor, I was held to a higher standard?  Perfectionism.  My dad told me that my behavior was tied to his credibility as a pastor.  That was a huge weight to bear.”

“It was all about my dad helping everyone else in the church.  We got seconds and thirds.”.

“Never ever did we do things just for the family.  If we went on vacation, he would have to go speak somewhere also.  We were not as significant as his work.”

“As children of a pastor we were never protected from the critical eye and words of the members of the church.  Lots of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”

“I felt that I had to have the perfect family, perfect kids, perfect marriage, pray the perfect prayer  or even have the perfect answer to anyone’s situation. “   

My experience with other pastors is that many (not all) will minimize these comments as exceptions and not typical.  I believe recent research would tend to support the fact that these are more common than not.  I would love to hear what you think about these statements.  Especially from pastors, wives and their children.  What do you think keeps them from being transparent, vulnerable… normal?



Filed under Ministry

8 responses to “What is Up With Pastors?

  1. EdO

    A dear friend of mine (and a pastor) heard me tell my story at a local Celebrate Recovery group a while back. He was encouraged by my transparency but lamented the fact that he, “… could never be that transparent” because of the position he held. I agree a pastor is held to a higher behavioral standard, but his statement made be believe that he – and probably many others – believe that he must be viewed as having led a perfect, sinless life. One, that’s a lot of pressure to put on one’s self. And two, how much ministry do some pastors miss out on because they don’t think they can be viewed as ‘human’ in the eyes of others?

    • stephanie elkins

      Studying Genesis, I have been BLOWN away by the “fall” of man…think about it….Adam and Eve HAD THE BEST DAD…HE WAS PERFECT, THE BEST HOME, EDEN/EARTH WAS PERFECT…NO dysfunctional lineage, generational “curses”…NO divorce, death, disappointment, cheating spouses, addictions, sexual abuse, church wounds, ETC…..AND YET….ONE question, with a splash of accusation/deception caused Eve to DOUBT….Emotionally responding, SHE QUESTIONS…QUESTIONS PERFECTION…..the serpent baited her, hooked her, and reeled her in. NONE OF WHICH was based on HER PAST/ PRESENT experiences…they were perfect….My point is this…..IF Adam and Eve stumbled under those circumstances…..HOW MUCH MORE likely are WE to FALL SHORT, stumble, and YES SIN, and make mistakes? WE NEED JESUS, isn’t that the point. WE ALL fall short, daily… if we were honest…..and I personally, have chosen Christ because I NEED HIM….I need HIS SAVING grace, HIS sufficient grace….I am thankful that HE IS LOVE, and that LOVE is patient (long suffering), kind, doesn’t keep a record of wrongs….and unfailing. SO THANKFUL I DON’T GET WHAT I DESERVE! As long as I walk on this earth….I’ll continue to stumble, trip, fall, say regretful things….and my mess will tangle up with other human beings, and their mess….

  2. Z

    I thought a thought and this is what I thunk:
    What if, we like being held to such a higher standard?
    …because it makes us feel worth and valued?
    What if, this is a horrible lie of the enemy?
    …..to get us focused on what everyone else thinks we should look and behave like?
    What if, it’s this lie that helps us cope with our imperfections?
    …it keeps us focused on working harder on doing the right thing “for the sake of others”
    What if, we should be the most uncovered and vulnerable?
    …..that’s a bit hard to swallow myself, I think ill keep chewing on that one a bit longer.
    What if, it’s in our vulnerability that we find our connection to “The Source”?
    …..because we can come to a place of realization that we are imperfect like everyone else and He loves and accepts us just as we are, but lets keep walking together.
    What if, we did step out in vulnerability and trusted God and found that it is possible to stay connected to the Source and still deal with that thing we call LIFE.
    ….what would that say to others then?
    What if, this caused others to do the same?
    ….trusting God and staying connected is the way.
    What if, all along He put us in the ministry because He knew we would have to eventually look at that thing were hiding behind our backs. Then through the dealings we learned to walk in intimacy with our Creator.
    …hmmmm, just a thought- but maybe?!?
    What if, I’m called to the ministry because it’s the only way God could save me, grow me and connect to me?
    ….not because I could save others, grow others and connect others by being used by God.

    I have to believe, now, that I am in the ministry only to come closer to the Father.
    ….WHAT?! Not my talents, not my gifting or my perfect sinless life? DANG! I thought it was because I was super special! Somebody, please wake me from this evil lie!

    ‘Grace” how sweet the sound that even saved the pastor and his wife and his family.


  3. stephanie elkins

    DEAR JUST A THOUGHT…..that IS IT….WE ALL NEED JESUS….not just HIS “saving grace…”.BUT HIS sufficient grace, and new mercies, all day, every day….to say otherwise, would imply that “IT IS ABOUT WHAT WE DO OR DON’T do….” and that would indicate, it is ABOUT US (our good works) and NOT ABOUT Jesus….After serving in a church, I am MORE clear than ever that apart from HIM….we are nothing….let that light shine….in those dark places….one flicker at a time.

  4. stephanie elkins

    the other thing….JUST A THOUGHT…NAMING is the beginning of KNOWING….can’t hide behind anonymous and be “transparent”

  5. Ralph Vasquez

    My thought is this…Fear! Fear is what holds us from being transparent. Fear of losing our jobs, our families, our status and relationships. Fear of the what if??? The enemy keeps us captive with what could be, so instead of trusting in God’s perfect love… the love that casts out all fear! We continue to hide in our false security that as long as we never speak
    out we are safe from the what if!

    So if there is any pastor, volunteer, pastor’s wife or even a pastors kid… I encourage you to remember this that his perfect love is all you need to overcome any situation. Now it may hurt when you start to walk in the truth but it’s only by his blood and your testimony that you can overcome!

    Don’t run from the pain…embrace it!

  6. stephanie elkins

    Actually, embracing the PAIN, is THE VERY uncomfortable place, I’ve allowed myself to be, (tightly in HIS arms at times….with moments of stomping a boot and shakin’ a fist) Neither, surprise my Jesus. Thank God! 🙂
    Another word (synonym) for embracing that pain, is RELEASING….Antonyms, according to my work as an English teacher….but isn’t that metaphorical…. for so many things that Believers are expected base their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors on, according to the Word. Love your enemy, less is more, I am weak, BUT CHRIST in me is strong, rejoice in suffering! Genesis was the beginning AND THE END….His death WAS THE END and the beginning…..by no means, accurately referencing the scripture….just off the cuff paraphrasing, if I am allowed.
    You get the jest of what I am saying Ralph, and or JUST A THOUGHT.

    He has been showing me that as I embrace/release the deep pains of jobs lost, huge circles of friendship severed, confidences and hearts broken, accusations spoken, a failed marriage, that HE ALONE ….MY ALL.

    The exit was abrupt, the “good bye’s and well wishing” didn’t exist. We left, a young couple with 3 kids in tow. We left slinging mud back. We left bitter, angry, ripped to shreds. We left without a “proper good-bye.” We were told by a friend, mentor, and church authority that “they” didn’t believe God was releasing us to go. Shamed to the door. Gasoline, on our already blazing fire. We walked away, nobody forced us…. The place we left was was home, church, school, work, the “safe” place for our children. OUR ALL. Allowing church, people, position, jobs, titles, best seats in the house, to become the many GODS that we were worshipping, is our fault, alone.

    YES, I agree, embracing all of the pain….releasing ALL of the pain, one bit at a time, is the only way through this very complex, and layered mountain.

    Thankfully He provided the way…..I’m just stubborn enough, that it may in fact, take a life time. 🙂 Again, HE SUFFERS LONG, is not surprised, offended, or ever going leave or forsake me. I don’t know much, but I hope to continue learning, I really do. While things have continued to unravel. James and I divorced, our kids have messy moments, and so do I….ONE thing is very clear to me…. HE “ALONE”, is THE “ALL” that I…. personally, desperately, need…. in order to plow through past/present/future pain.

    WE HAVE TO DIE, to really LIVE, to find ourselves in another layer of DYING….to… really live. Genesis/Revelation like moments at every bend. CRYING AND LAUGHTER, SORROW AND REJOICING, WALKING AND FALLING, LIVING AND DYING. They can happen within moments of each other all in the same day. And as long as I keep sight of my ALL…I am equipped to continue…..dying, so I can live…to die, to live, to die…..

    Surely HE has a sense of humor.

  7. It’s about the paycheck. In many, many cases the leadership of the assembly puts these unrealistic expectations on the Pastor/Preacher/Minister/Reverend (whatever your flavor is). And it is no joke. There are very few people that your pastor can just be himself with because God forbid, if a cuss word would slip it would be reported to the elders/bishop/board/council (whatever your flavor is). I don’t know if this started with the pastorate or with the assembly 2000 years ago but it has probably always been an issue just like everything else we deal with in life. There is nothing new under the sun. Sandy Hunt

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