The Awkward Side of Vocational Ministry

I am brand new to this whole “pastor’s wife” role. Frankly, it’s incredibly awkward. Mostly because my husband is not yet a pastor. He’s still in the process of finding work as a vocational minister, either in chaplaincy, youth ministry, or worship ministry. It is his calling- undoubtedly. Every time I hear him speak, I have the privilege and honor of seeing God speak through him and use him for His glory.

But, the entire process is incredibly awkward, and I had never really considered the “weirdness” experienced by pastors and their families before. Here are some of the ways vocational ministry is just awkward.

Auditioning Churches

I would never say I go in to a church to judge its service; because it’s not about my personal preference, it’s not a service for me, it’s a service for and to the glory of God.

But the thing is, there’s that gnawing comparison to other churches I’ve attended in the back of my mind. “Oh, this building is smaller than I’m used to,” “This isn’t at all handicap accessible,” “That mic is way too loud,” “Choir sounds good this morning,”

The point is not my comfort, I get that, it’s worship and praise for God. But it’s still an awkward experience

Everybody knows you

I am not the greatest at remembering names. Or faces for that matter. But when you’re visiting as a potential pastoral candidate, everyone has eyes on you, your husband, your children.

You meet and shake the hands of virtually every one that passes by and they all know who you are, but for me, it’s virtually impossible to remember the slew of names slung at me in passing. Especially if I don’t get to go through my “process” of making eye contact, shaking hands, and saying their name back to them at least 3 times.

I’m weird, I know, but it works! Unfortunately, people aren’t always willing to give me the full 2-5 minutes that takes.

Job + “Family” = Drama

You know how there’s always some kind of drama at work? Ministry isn’t any different. With the notable exception that people who are professing love for Jesus one minute, are complaining about committees, finances, building issues, and other people the next. These people are your church family- brothers and sisters in Christ. And yet, you can never truly make all people happy all the time. And when people have hurt feelings, unfortunately, they don’t always handle it with the grace and discretion that one might expect from a follower of Jesus- we’re human. Even pastors. And working with “family” can often lead to “drama,” especially if you’re applying for a position where the last guy had made people mad… That puts a LOT of pressure on the “new guy.”

They Can’t Talk to You About It

Along the lines of awkward work-family drama, If I knew all the garbage that goes on in the church between the pastors, staff, and congregation, I probably would begin to harbor ill feelings toward the Church and that’s not good for anyone, especially as the wife of a pastor, whose job it is to encourage her husband in his ministry. It’s easy for pastors to experience compassion fatigue with all the “stuff” they walk through with people. Last year, our pastor had done something like 6-10 funerals in a matter of 3-6 months. I cannot imagine how incredibly emotionally draining that would be, to be the one people come to for comfort and spiritual guidance in their grief.

So the wife bears the burden of knowing her husband is burdened, but not being able to really talk to him about it because of mandatory confidentiality and voluntarily choosing not to learn “how the sausage gets made.”

(Unmet) Expectations of Others

I’ve noticed people expect the pastors and their families to be “super spiritual” and always on their game. To a degree, this should be true- if you’re leading others in Christ, you have to do so without hypocrisy. But, pastors are people. And their children misbehave the same as all other kids. And they have to be disciplined. All made more difficult by living in a fish bowl, and people making comment about how the pastor parents, how they respond to their spouse, how they dress, what they eat. You’d think I’m making this up, but I’m not! I’ve actually heard people complain both that a pastor dresses too formally, too casually, and eats too much junk food! It’s important for pastors (and congregations) to remember that the only One whose expectations must be met of them are God’s. What does God require? To seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8), To boldly proclaim the Truth of Christ until His coming (Ephesians 6:19), to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and their neighbors as themselves (Luke 10:27), And to walk worthy of the pastoral requirements as set forth in Scripture (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7). That’s a general list, but you get the idea.

There is so much of vocational ministry that never occured to me before. Much of it to do with the fact that a preacher isn’t just a preacher at the pulpit on Sundays, but is the leader of his flock 24/7, 365. I have infinitely more respect now for my pastors and their families, and I pray that whatever church God is preparing us (and them) for will extend us the same grace.

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