Choosing the Pastorate

Okay, so maybe the pastorate chooses you. I guess it depends on how you look at the calling to ministry. Did God call you? Was it a Moses type, burning bush calling? (Mine was.) Or how about an Abraham sort of call….one thing led to another to another to another (more like Jeremy’s) and somewhere along the way you’ve found yourself completely submerged in the ministry life. Parsonage and all. Or did you choose it because it’s sort of what was expected of you? Maybe you’re in it because it makes you feel validated.

I’ve seen a lot of blogosphere and webosphere posts lately about the misery of being in the ministry, how horrible churches and their congregants are to their pastor, how woe-is-me hard ministry life is.

I’ve gotta be honest- I don’t like what I’m reading. I don’t like those articles. I don’t like hearing pastors or their spouses complain about being in the ministry like the “hardship” of it is a badge to wear and, whether they truly think it or not, it makes them feel something satisfying inside to complain.

I think we need to stop complaining about the ministry. And by “we” I mean any and everyone who has chosen this life.

It is a choice after-all. Whether it’s a choice to follow an honest God-call on your life, or it’s a choice to follow because it’s what was expected of you, or a choice to follow your spouse into ministry life. (Might I suggest that if you’re in it because of yourself…you might want to think of another career. God, and only God, needs to be the leader of this ministry life.)

Is it easy? Heck no. We deal with people. All the time. People are curious creatures. Unexpected things happen.

Is it miserable? Heck no. We deal with people. All the time. People are curious creatures. Unexpected things happen.

I know there are people whom we will never please. Ever. Those people tend to make life super difficult. But those people are anywhere in life, not just in ministry.

I know there are churches that are unhealthy, strife ridden.  I’ve seen them close up. But not all churches are.

Unfortunately, it seems that the angry pastors who don’t care too much what reach their words have are the ones whose articles get the most attention mostly because they simply chose to write them down and push the share button. And anger begets anger begets anger.

Let me tell you this….I’ve been in churches where bad things have happened. Where difficult people make difficult situations well…difficult. I’ve run across moments and circumstances that have forced me, forced me, to have conversations that are out of my comfort zone, circumstances that have forced me to dig down deep. There have been times where I’ve essentially prayed: “Lord, if I don’t have anything nice to say keep my mouth shut.” And He has. There have been times I’ve prayed for courage to speak words of truth, and He’s given me that as well.

I don’t like conflict. Period. I get stomach aches. Conflict scares something deep down inside me. And I’m almost 40. And I’ve been doing ministry on some level for more than half of my life. And conflict still hurts my tummy.

I’m the daughter, granddaughter, sister, wife, friend, and cousin of pastors (both male and female) and I’m also a pastor (who’s currently staying at home with her teenage babies..but that’s a story for a different time). If something has gone down in a church, in board meeting, in a staff meeting, in a lunch table conversation, in a ministry meeting, at a picnic table or in the school yard, there’s a good chance I’ve been privy to it.

But here’s the thing: I CHOSE THIS LIFE. My calling to ministry was pretty much burning bush-ish. God’s call was very clear when I was young and has continued to be very clear as I’ve continued on the journey. Did I have to follow? Well, yes. And, no. And, yes.

I chose to go into ministry, knowing that I’m not in it to make millions. I chose to open my heart and my home to a community of people. I have chosen at different times to be the pastor and more recently “just” the pastor’s wife. I chose to raise the pastor’s kids, fully trusting in God that, despite the horror stories I’ve read about being a PK, He’s well-aware of the life my kids would have and He will provide and guide them every step of a journey they did not choose.

Daily I choose to balance life at home, home-education, supporting my pastor husband, loving my congregation, leading church ministries, and adding to it anything I enjoy for myself.

At one point when our baby really was a baby I sat at our dining room table at two o’clock in the morning, legs crisscrossed across the chair, with her on a pillow on my lap nursing, while I wrote a paper on some passage somewhere in the New Testament for an ordination course of study class.

(#femalepastorthinkingshecandoitallandtakingtheworldononeburningthecandleatbothendskindofnightatatime).

The pastor’s schedule isn’t “normal”. It’s not typically an 8-4 or 9-5 job. It’s evenings and weekends and days and somewhere in between fitting in family, rest, friends and life. It’s why, I wonder, that so many pastor’s families homeschool…not because we’re anti-establishment snobs but because it’s best for our family’s well-being. It’s demanding. I get it.

But honestly…isn’t life in general demanding? The ministry definitely has it’s nuances, things that make it uniquely different from other jobs. I’m not denying the stress that comes along with it. I’m not denying that there are times where you just feel like you can’t go on. I’m not denying that burnout is in fact a very real issue among pastors and their families. I’m not denying that pastor’s marriages are too often rocky. I get that a lot of PK’s grow up to not want anything to do with the church because of what they saw inside the church growing up. I’m not denying that pastor’s play a very unique role. .

I’m not denying that being a pastor’s wife is all roses. It’s hard sometimes. I don’t want to always share my husband with the world. And, quite honestly, sometimes I whine about it, throw myself on the bed or slam the cupboard door just to prove a point. Being the pastor’s wife is a role I have yet to define and many times I feel like a complete loser at the whole thing. It’s a legit struggle.  I don’t think I’m the only one to ever feel that way. In some ways I’m the “traditional” PW. In other ways I’m not. But really the definition of a PW seems like it’s changed from what it once was, which in some ways makes it even harder. We have nothing to check off at the end of the day, no box to fit nicely inside, it’s more like adding question marks and squiggly lines.

In the past, I’ve experienced some of the worst heartache and pain from those within the church who claimed to love Jesus, yet somehow forgot to love his people. I’ve cried tears that wouldn’t end. I’ve been criticized for wearing pants on a Sunday morning (seriously??) and told to “get back into church, because people needed to see me” days after I experienced a pregnancy loss. I’ve felt betrayed and unloved and uncared for. I’ve experienced the worst of God’s people. I get it.

I get that ministry is hard, but I also know…I know that I know that I know…that ministry is the most amazing, joy-filled, opportunity ridden life I can imagine living. It’s community in it’s truest form. It’s privilege. It’s hilarious.It’s memorable. It’s meaningful.

I’ve also experienced the BEST of God’s people.

I’ve experienced all of those things only because I’ve chosen ministry as a way of life. In that chosen life I have chosen a particular attitude, a particular way of looking at things.

As pastor and family we have the privilege of being the secret keepers of so many. The privilege of walking the journey of life with those both inside and outside our church and community. We get to experience brand new life, physically and spiritually with our congregations. We get to be there in the hardest times and often…the best times.

I’ve experienced the best of God’s people, sometimes because I’ve simply chosen to see the best in God’s people.

I think we need more “I thank my God every time I remember you” moments from Pastor to people so let me tell you about my church, the ministry I get to be part of: 

I’ve met some of the sweetest,most honest hardworking people on earth.

I’ve watched God provide for me and our family and our church and it’s families in miraculous ways.

I’ve seen God answer prayers that I’ve prayed which no one else ever knew about, most often using church members who are sensitive to God’s heart tugs.

I’ve gotten to pray with people and watch healing take place in their bodies, minds, spirits and relationships.

I’ve gotten to listen to stories of redemption and walk alongside those who’ve been saved by grace and are unashamed by it or their past.

I’ve seen a church board who loves it’s pastor’s family (us) unconditionally and prayerfully seeks to do it’s very, very best in every area of church life.

I’ve watched our church love my kids as if they were their own, and not expect anything from them simply because…..you know what’s coming….they are the pastor’s kids. They have allowed my kids to be exactly who they are. My kids have adults other than their dad and I who treat them to movies and night’s out and who spoil them at Christmas, who give them hand-me-downs and pray for them, thanking God for them regularly.

I am told weekly, if not daily by church members that I am loved and prayed for. My husband is told the same thing on a regular basis. 

I’ve seen our church pray. And pray. And pray. And pray. And pray. And give God the glory for every single answered prayer.

Our church feels at home in my home. Do you know how divinely amazing that is??

Our church loves to learn and read scripture together. To share a meal and sit around campfires just because we like to be together. It’s so much fun.

We are entirely, absolutely blessed.

Every single day in ministry is a choice. It’s a choice to see the best in people. It’s a choice to bring the best out in people. It’s a choice to develop a deeper prayer life, thus seeing the results of those prayers that have nothing to with you and everything to do with God. It’s a choice to raise up the next generation of leaders. It’s a choice to see the world through God’s eyes, not my own. It’s a choice to open our homes and hearts for the benefit of others. It’s a choice to choose joy, to be thankful and see God’s hand working through the part of His kingdom we’ve been given to minister in.

Please, guys, whether you read this or not…whether you agree with it or not, make choices to love your church. Real,honest,deep down love. Love that is humble and gentle, forgiving and repentant. Know when it’s time to get out and move on…be wise….but don’t be hasty. Sometimes the problem is us not the ministry.

I’m about ready to hit share…even though my tummy hurts a little.

 

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