I (Jeff) am not even going to look up the statistics. Partly because I don’t think I would trust them, and partly because I think I would find depressing stats.
Today I talked with a couple who have had the opportunity to visit in almost twenty churches this year. This couple had occasion to spend a fair amount of time with the pastors and wives in these churches. The churches they visited were mostly small churches.
They did not give me a good report.
What they told me was that most of the pastors are discouraged, a little fried, losing hope, and at their wit’s end trying to find enough time to accomplish what they believe God is calling them to do.
These pastors don’t have any additional time or energy to think about outreach in places far from home. They don’t want to hear about the needs of lost people in the 10/40 window, because they are still trying to figure out how to reach the lost people they can see in their neighborhood outside their own windows.
Most of the pastors this couple spent time with in 2014 are tired. Culture is changing in an unhelpful way, and they are losing hope that they will be able to create new ideas and the change their churches need.
Tired Pastor’s Wives
The report on the pastors’ wives is no better. Many of them feel trapped, lonely, and hopeless. Their husbands are married to the ministry, and when they do come home, they often have nothing left for the family or their spouse.
The wives know they must continue to support their husbands and church members, and they are also tired, sometimes resentful, and mostly losing hope.
After talking with this couple, I considered doing some research on the health of ministry couples – their psychological, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. But I don’t want to. I almost don’t want to know.
These 3 things might help us!
1. We need to change paradigms. A paradigm is simply a pattern or model for how things are or should be. We need to change the pattern of pastoral ministry. It needs to be less about pleasing people, and more about reaching people. It needs to be less about burning out leadership, and more about leading out of health and fullness, even overflow.
It needs to be less about strategizing and structuring for convenience – i.e. we always do it this way because it’s just much easier and less time consuming than trying to reinvent things, and more about strategizing and structuring for effectiveness and outcomes.
I know, it’s easier to do things the way we’ve always done them. Who has the time these days to get people together, brainstorm, listen to ideas and suggestions, try things, perhaps fail, tweak approaches, revamp, etc. etc. Let’s just try to adjust a little, and run with the tried and true. Except the tried and true just isn’t that anymore. We need new ways of doing things that reflect the reality we now exist in.
Somehow, pastors must work with their people, and not for their people. They must account for burnout and allow for rest and renewal. Pastors’ wives need room to be themselves, have fun, choose their own mold, and get the best part of their husbands, not just the dregs at the end of the day.
2. We need to live and minister through the power of God, Father, Son, and Spirit! The power to change lives is not our power, it’s Jesus’ power. Without him, we can do… well, you know. Can we surrender our alleged power to his power, and trust him to lead, grow, and change his church?
3. We need to release our church to Jesus. Let’s sign over the ownership of our sheep to the Good Shepherd. They’re his sheep anyway. We don’t need to control people. We need to love, serve, teach, and shepherd people, but not control them. Hey, we can’t anyway. They’re going to do what they want to do. If we model a surrendered life, dependent on Jesus, to them, then maybe they will also surrender to Jesus, and depend on him!
I have just a couple questions that you could ask your spouse and your board. These questions might just start the conversation (if you have the strength and faith to even have the conversations!)
Ask your spouse if he or she feels like they are getting enough of you at home – at least some of the best of you. Maybe something like, “How are you doing as a pastor’s wife? Is how I am pastoring our church helping you or hurting you? What could I do better?”
Ask your board – “Are the things that we are doing as a church helping us to fulfill our mission of making disciples? What could we do better?”
Let’s go back to when ministry was something we all longed for as pastors – when we got excited for the phone to ring, and when we were thankful if others needed us. Let’s get back to resting and renewal, so that the passion for the lost can again be kindled in our souls.
Welcome to the 200churches blog! We have hundreds of posts covering every issue imaginable. So pull up a chair, pour a cup of coffee, and stay awhile.