By Randy & Linda Myers
The next four blogs we will talk about some of the issues pastors and their families deal with during the course of ministry. We broke it down to the early years, middle years (in two parts), and legacy years. It ranges from finances, conflicts, friendships to leaving well. So, here we go.
The Early Years of Ministry Life
The first few years a pastor is at a church is a time where everyone gets along (mostly) but pastors perform weddings for people they don’t know and bury people they know even less. There has not been time for relationships to be established.
The pastor is excited about the possibilities at the church. He often works long hours building up the ministry. Often the wife is called upon to volunteer at many levels..
During these first few years, ministry families may experience time management issues and financial pressures.
In ministry, there’s always more you can do. It’s hard to know when enough is enough and pastors may feel guilty for not accomplishing a to-do list nor meeting all the needs of the congregation. Sometimes in the zeal to serve God, family is relegated to the back-burner. Going to work early, coming home late, allowing phone calls and emails to interrupt family time is a recipe for conflict. The pastor’s family may begin to resent all the work, but is afraid to complain because it could appear sacrilegious or something.
It’s easy for a pastor to blur the line between what he does and who he is. Reading the Bible for sermon preparation is not the same as feeding his soul with time set aside for devotions. It’s hard to have boundaries between socializing with people and serving them.
Just as Jethro came alongside Moses, we need others to help us in our lives. John Maxwell wrote, “No leader is so advanced or experienced that he can afford to be without a mentor. If you don’t already have a mentor, go out and find one.” (Qualities of a Leader p.78-79) A coach or mentor can help set up priorities and a schedule, including family time, devotions, exercise, hobbies, sermon prep, meetings and time for ministry. Saying yes to something means saying no to other things. Having more balance leads to stress reduction, both personally and in ministry.
Money seems to be a hot topic at church. Some complain that all the church wants is their money. Pastors are in a unique situation as they are paid from the tithes of people they lead. Sometimes pastors feel like they have to make sure people know they used airline miles to go on vacation or bought clothes from a garage sale.
One Sunday, I (Randy) had just changed and was looking forward to relaxing when my cousin called in a panic, “We are at a resort near you where my friend is getting married, but the pastor fell ill. I’ll pay you whatever you want if you can be here by 2 o’clock.” I dressed in my best suit but looked like a pauper as even the guests were in tuxedos and the bridesmaids wore black velvet dresses. The happy couple planned to go on a two-week honeymoon to Hawaii. The bride’s father handed me a $50 bill and thanked me for doing the ceremony. As I was getting into my car, the groom’s uncle handed me another $50 bill and complimented me on the ceremony. It was so nice to have unexpected cash to take my wife on a date.
Three weeks later, I received a phone call from the groom asking, “Did my father-in-law give you $50 and did my uncle give you $50?” After I said yes and thanked him, he said, “Well, that was a mistake. Could you send $50 back?” My wife was furious as we had already spent the money, but I wrote them a check and sent back the money. (Now I think that story is worth twice that much).
It is vital for the church board to fairly evaluate the pastor’s salary. There are many resources that compare salaries for location, education, and years of ministry. In the areas of finances, the church needs integrity.
Before You Go
We all have stories about mistakes we made, lessons we learned, and struggles we conquered. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned? What is one of the ministry “opportunities” you faced in your early years?