I hope today’s post isn’t too discouraging and doesn’t turn into a rant. I’ve had something on my heart and mind for quite a while now, but haven’t put it on paper yet. I think today is the day. I’m hoping to write this in the kindest way possible.
For those of you who have been following my little blog for a while, you know that my husband is a pastor. He is a pastor of a very small church. We have been there for almost two years. In that two years, our family has been dragged through things I never would have imagined.
Before my husband became a pastor, I knew people were mean and just downright hurtful. But, never in a million years, would I have expected church members to act like that! Some of these people are the meanest and most rude people I have ever met! I don’t understand why they are the way they are. I was raised to treat people the way you want to be treated. I was raised that you always need to be kind to everyone. You don’t have to agree with everyone, but you must be kind. Christians are supposed to be the cream of the crop when it comes to these attributes. So why are they the way they are??
I have been a member of a few churches now. We have moved quite a bit, so that has caused us to switch churches a few times since we’ve been married. This is our fourth church in the last 11 years. Now, don’t get me wrong. The other three churches all had their issues too. There is no such thing as a perfect church. But, I can say, I have never once experienced people being mean and disrespectful to their pastor. Based on what I’ve learned these last couple of years, it must have been happening though. I have learned that people are really brave when they can talk behind someone’s back. Gossip is a relationship killer. Gossip a church killer.
Right now, the biggest thing I don’t understand is how people can treat any human being, much less their pastor, the way these people have been treating my husband and our family. I have only been a pastor’s wife for just under two years. I don’t exactly have a wealth of experience to call upon. But, I do know that I would never, and have never, treated any of our pastors, or their family, the way we have been treated by our church members. It brings me to tears when I think about some of the stuff that has gone on.
Honestly, today’s post is going to make me cry. I have been so depressed these last couple of days because of everything that has been going on. My husband has been working so hard to keep everything in order at the church. For what? Just to be knocked down, ridiculed, and beat up. He has been working for the last two years to build the church in a Biblical way. He has been teaching and preaching clearly and carefully from the Bible. He has not said one thing that cannot be backed up by Scripture. And what is coming from all his hard work? Backstabbing. Gossip. Threats. Ridicule. Defiance. You name it. We’ve seen it.
My husband became the pastor at this church almost two years ago. The previous pastor was there for 18 years. He was very different from my husband. Their personalities are complete opposites. From what we’ve been learning, the previous pastor was also treated this way. What is the difference between then and now, you may ask? The previous pastor allowed all this behavior and even encouraged it in some cases. He allowed the congregation to walk all over him and treat him and his wife like dirt. How could anyone allow this type of treatment?! It’s ridiculous!
There have been multiple times during these two years where my husband has contemplated resigning because of the way the people in the congregation are. When we came to the church, it was in such disarray that we didn’t even know where to start. The financial records were a mess. The business meeting minutes were a disaster. And neither of those things were even kept at the church! That is completely illegal! When Phillip came into the church, he noticed these things were not as they should be. He has been fighting with these people for the last two years to get everything corrected and all the documents back to the church. The people are so defiant, that these documents are still not housed at the church. We have another business meeting in a couple weeks. Since the members still have not corrected their ways, I have a feeling this is going to be a terrible meeting. Bad enough that the children and I will be staying home. The kids do not need to be around there when everything blows up. And these members are not at all concerned about blowing things up and blaming it on the pastor.
Phillip was talking to a friend of ours the other day. That friend said that he frequently prays with the pastor of a neighboring church, and that they pray for us and our church regularly. The neighboring pastor said something to our friend a couple weeks ago. He said that any pastor who takes a church after the previous pastor passes away is always a “sacrificial lamb.” He said that is what is going on with us right now. Phillip became the pastor after the previous one passed away. We are the “sacrificial lamb.” I can feel it. Our family is being dragged through the mud and left for dead. And our so called “church family” is who is responsible for it.
I will give you one example. And this isn’t even the worst thing that has happened. Shortly after Phillip was hired as the pastor, we sold our house in order to move closer to the church. I need land to keep my horses on since the church is an hour away from where they are currently boarded. We looked for six months and still hadn’t found anything. During that six months, the church members kept bugging us to “just buy something already.” That was when Phillip injured his shoulder at work and had to leave his regular job. We were then down to just his tiny salary at the church and my part time job. They kept bugging us to buy a house. They knew he couldn’t work his other job anymore, and we had less than half our regular income at that point. After a month or so of this, they decided they would “help us out a little.” They started to give “love gifts” each month to help.
They were still bugging us to buy a house even though we couldn’t now. The church was paying Phillip as an independent contractor. AKA self-employed. You have to have two years of tax returns in order to get a mortgage when you are self-employed. According to the bank, the only income we had to get a mortgage with was my part time job income. That was definitely not going to get us far with a family of seven.
About seven months after Phillip had to quit his job, we finally got the church to agree to pay Phillip as an employee of the church. Now he would have a W-2 and we could use that to get a mortgage. The only problem is that, nearly four months later, we still have not received an actual paystub. He is still being paid as self-employed. We will hopefully be able to get a mortgage this spring since we will have two full years of tax returns this year. But, here is the kicker. Remember how the church members kept bugging us about buying a house?? Well, since we still don’t have the correct paperwork to be able to do that, we decided to rent for the winter. We are now a family of seven (and a big dog) crammed into an 800 square foot 2-bedroom house.
Here comes the best part. Remember all that gossiping and backstabbing I was telling you about? Yeah. Now that we have our own place with a rent payment to make each month, one of the ringleaders at the church has decided to start talking behind our backs and has a bunch of people convinced to cut my husband’s pay. IN HALF. This will all be discussed at the next business meeting apparently. Like I said, this next meeting will be ugly. I’m glad I’m not going. I would probably say something I shouldn’t say. Maybe I have already said too much, but this is the reality we are going through right now. I have a feeling that this is the reality that a lot of pastors and their family go through.
I wrote all this to say, if you are a member of a church, please take care of your pastor. Your pastor and their family rely on you. That is their role. That is their means of living. That is how their family is fed, clothed, and cared for. There is no guarantee that they will get paid. It seems like church members think that they need everything, but their pastor and his family can live off nothing. If one of them comes into church with a new pair of shoes on, the church thinks they are paying the pastor too much. And I’m not talking about a brand new pair of name-brand shoes. I’m talking a $10 pair of shoes from Wal-Mart here, people. Yes, this is the reality that pastors and their family face each and every day.
I’m not asking for anyone to stop their way of living. But, I am asking that you put yourself in your pastor’s shoes. Just once. Every church member knows what the pastor’s salary is. Or at least has access to know what it is. Put yourself on the budget that the pastor is on. Even if it’s only for a few minutes of looking at the total the pastor is paid, and see if you can take care of your family on that much money each month. I will guarantee you that it will open your eyes, and make you think for a few minutes.
The other thing that I don’t think people understand is that a pastor doesn’t just work on Sundays and Wednesdays. He is working 24/7. He has four messages to prepare each week. With an average of eight hours of preparation for each one. That’s 32 hours/week right there. That doesn’t even include the actual services to present those messages. Then there is the time spent praying for the church and its members. And house and hospital visits throughout the week. Then there is the church maintenance. We have a schedule for who is supposed to clean the church each week, but it’s pretty rare that the people scheduled actually do the cleaning. The pastor ends up cleaning the church at least two of the weeks during the month plus all the other maintenance that needs to be done. Then there is the lawn mowing in the summer and the snow removal in the winter. That also falls on the pastor. Oh, and guess what? He also has a wife and family at home that would enjoy seeing him, if at all possible.
I’m sorry if this has turned into a rant or anything of that sort. I think the weight of everything has really hit these last few months, and it all spewed out onto my screen today. I don’t intend for this to be a scolding or anything like that. I do hope that it opened some eyes though. People may not purposely be doing things to hurt their pastor and his family, but, by not doing anything to help him, that is also causing harm. A pastor and his family desperately need the support of their church family. The devil is constantly attacking a pastor and his family. Your pastor needs all the prayer, help, and protection that you can possibly give.
If you are a member of a church, please be sure to always pray for your pastor. Yes, I know this is coming from a pastor’s wife, but how else would you know what actually goes on behind the scenes? Please be kind to your pastor and his family. They do everything in their power for their church members. They hurt when you hurt. They smile when you smile. And they do that for each person in their congregation. It’s not always easy for them, but they do it anyway. They intercede for each member on a daily basis. Please remember to at least keep your pastor in your prayers. He needs them desperately. And so does his family.