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Friday, June 24, 2011

part 3...how “the ministry” almost ruined my marriage...the pastors we serve and the churches they lead

I am grouchy.  My beautiful 2 year old daughter has once again awoke me before anyone should be awake...it’s like clockwork.  If we don’t have to be up early, she is awake at 6, if we do have to be up early...we have to drag her out of bed kicking and screaming! And if you know Abigail, when she is up... so is the dog, her brother, her other brother...and me. Today might just be a 2 pot day...meaning coffee.... :0)


As I sit drinking cup number 2, black, no cream, no sugar I am trying to gather my thoughts.  I am amazed at the responses I have received from friends, former youth members and others I don’t even know...I am humbled to be able to share my life and I truly hope that it can help other to heal and find hope for the future. 

We are currently attending a small church in Colorado.  We aren’t on staff. The Pastor and his wife here are true friends.  We have served with them on staff in the past. They are good people. Although the church is smaller than what we had grown accustomed to, the spirit of the people and the opportunity to take a break from full time ministry could not have happened in a better place.  The pastor is a phone call away when we need prayer, counsel, direction or just a friend.  Literally, anyone in the church can call him up. A seemingly foreign concept in a lot of today’s churches. His wife is the same.  Morning coffee and a shoulder to cry on...a voice of wisdom. 

It seems that this simple concept of being a pastor has become almost foreign in some religious circles today.  The pastor is insulated from the people and the focus is bigger, better, faster...if you are lucky you might be able to shake the pastor’s hand as you exit the church...

What do we expect in a pastor?  Someone who is good at preaching?  Someone who is a friend?  Someone who will lead us? 

There are a lot of expectations on a pastor.  This I understand and can sympathize with.  He cannot be everything to everyone, especially if the church he leads is large.  Some would say if a church becomes so large that the pastor doesn’t have time to be bothered with the phone calls of the people, the hospital visits, the “shepherding”, that, quite possibly, the church is too large...

I really have mixed emotions about this.  There is a large church in the midwest that I attended in college when it was not even meeting in a permanent building.  It is now running in the thousands every weekend. I showed up to attend a couple of months back and the pastor still remembers my name...and my husbands name...we served in a volunteer capacity with the 4 year olds for a year or two when the church was already quite large, but the man still remembers my name...me, a volunteer.  There are countless ministries happening through that church to the homeless, widowed, poor, addicted...the pastor is somewhat shielded, but still accessible. I think the thing that sticks out most to me about this church is that from the beginning they were about reaching the community in a Biblical way, and they have never strayed from that.  They have a large paid staff of pastors and office administrators that help with keeping everything going.  I haven’t served on staff first hand at this church so I can’t speak to the work load or the stress. I am sure at times it is crazy. 

I say all of this about this church, because I think that there are large churches that are getting it right...it might not be for everyone...

As a “lay person” or even “volunteer” in a large church I can tell you that the temperature of the church, where the church is headed, can be felt. If you are feeling overworked, the staff of the church is probably feeling 10x more overworked.  This is a good indicator of church health. I know this is a bit of a generalization and can not be fairly applied to every situation.  There are seasons of busyness.  That happens.  Preparing for a big outreach, a Christmas Service...but the key word is seasons...Last time I checked the longest a season lasted was 3 months...not years on end...

I am going to divert away from the “large” or “mega” church for a minute.  Another church we served in as Youth Pastors in the midwest is a great example of a pastor and his wife that are getting it right.  They have been faithfully working at the same church for the last...well, at least 10 years I think. They have pushed through difficulties personally and in the church, but have seen God blessing their work immensely.  They haven’t focused on numbers, but the church has grown.  They haven’t focused on being “the best”, but that is the reputation they have.  Why?  The people have grown under the leadership of this pastor...they’ve gone from drinking milk to eating steaks with a side of potatos. There isn’t a revolving door.  People come, people see genuineness and people stay...and grow! God has weeded out the thorns...some have left, blossomed and come back. We worked for this pastor and his wife and they loved us.  They loved the people.  The people, their staff and the health of their staff were the most important things...everything else has fallen into place as God’s word has been preached...unapologetically. I still speak often with my friends from this place and continue to seek counsel from the pastor’s wife. She has wisdom beyond her years.

Cup 3...this is getting long...

All of these churches and pastors...different styles, different people, different places...

If you refer to what I wrote yesterday and what we bring with us into these places, you can see how it can be quite the volatile mix...some pastors lead with an iron fist, others with a gentle helping hand...neither is necessarily wrong...one just tends to be much more appealing than the other!!

I want to be careful here as I start to wind things down for today.  Many of you know where we have come from and the things we have been through over the last year.  No matter what you bring into a place of ministry, there is still a certain responsibility of the pastor you serve under to make sure that his staff is healthy.  

If the pastor sees a staff member working 70-80-90-100 hours a week....something needs to be done.  

When a staff member sees the people of the church more than his own family...something needs to be done.  

When this pattern is seen repeated over and over in the same church...what or who is the common denominator?

As someone who has been told after being asked to leave a church-who I can and cannot speak to....where I can and cannot live....where I can and cannot go...who can and cannot visit me...for my own protection...I can tell you that it is hurtful and it is wrong. Period. I have begun to think that it is not all for my protection...or my healing...

I won’t go on because it will turn from truthful statements to harsh words and anger...that is pointless.  Because I have found freedom in my relationship with God, I seek the counsel of those people that God has placed in my life. 

Who has God placed in your life? Who do you allow to speak into your life?...

Questions for later.  I have already gone on longer than I should have.  

Lessons learned in the mirror...
the health of a church is directly related to the health of it’s staff...


I am sure I will receive some “flack” for the things I have written.  I know that my name and my story will be discredited...”she is just bitter...” but I can tell you...NO, I am not bitter.  I am thankful. No matter what circumstances have brought me from where we were to where we are...God’s hand was in it.  I may not have liked the “way out” that God provided...but I have no doubt that he got us out just in time...





2 comments:

  1. Wendy...we love you both so much. thanks for your kind words. you guys are a blessing to us...again!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wendy, this is truly amazing; how far you've come, and your attitude towards everything thats happened. you are truly an inspiration.

    ReplyDelete