I was raised in the home of a pastor. Oh the stories I could tell! Don’t worry… I won’t.
But in order to draw a bit of a picture, I’ll provide some color on what it was like for our family. He often worked 6 days a week… sometimes 7. As a family we were at church every Sunday (just about all day), every Wednesday night and sometimes on another night of the week too. We tried to cram family time in between church and ministry obligations… and somehow we found a way to sit down at the dinner table together almost every night of the week. My brother and I attended every kids camp, youth camp and winter camp we could. We simply loved those camps. And as my brother and I grew older we started teaching classes at church and participating in peer leadership. And that’s what was visible to those outside of our home.
Not that we had a lot of secrets … but few people knew what it looked like back at home. This was a by-product of being the Pastor’s family. Not good or bad… it just was.
Dad often took those late night phone calls … those calls that no one wants to receive. There were long telephone counseling appointments in the family den… that crept into our family time. There were hospital visits, home visits and impromptu counseling sessions at the local doughnut corner. There were stops on the side of the freeway when we would come upon a car accident… you see, the caring heart of a clergy is a strong force to be reckoned with, even when we’re on our way to a long-awaited vacation!
Being a pastor is a calling, for the pastors. For their families… it’s just a part of life.
My brother and I accepted it, mostly because we didn’t know any different. And Mom? Well, she didn’t seem so thrilled with it, at least at times. You see, planning for family time was difficult (not to mention an occasional date night every now and then). You see, how does a Pastor say to the hurting, lost and confused person on the phone “I’m sorry you’re at such a loss… but my family is sitting in the car waiting for us to go bowling.”?
It’s tricky… being a Pastor. Not to mention illuminating. Pastors (like politicians) aren’t allowed to make mistakes. At least, that’s how most of society acts when a Pastor messes up.
In my opinion, that’s where we as Christians need to do some work. (I can say this because while I was once a “preacher’s kid” I’m now just someone in the congregation.) The expectations placed on our Pastors, their spouses and family are more weight than anyone should have to bear. Pastors and their family are human. Like every other human, they are not perfect.
Sorry to break it to you. But at the risk of sounding defensive, Pastors are also seeking God’s grace and mercy. Pastors are also seeking wisdom and forgiveness and humility… seeking time in God’s presence, being washed with His love.
We can be critical of Pastors, or we can love them. We can point out their faults, or we can love them. We can tell them how unhappy we are with their decisions, or we can love them. We can wish for them to do things differently, or we can love them. We can treat our Pastors like we’re asked to treat the rest of mankind… with love.
(Side note: Sadly, I know full well that some of our Pastors are not seeking the Lord as they should be. That’s when we need to love them more.)
So back to a scene at our home, specifically what happened on Saturday nights… some of my favorite times in watching my Dad. He would break out his Bible and sermon notes and his set of colored Papermate markers. He would join the family in the living room and do a final re-write of the sermon notes he had been working on for the week. Using those colored markers he used a different color to emphasize a different emotion and yet another color to indicate this week’s anecdotal illustration, and so on. I never knew which color stood for what… but I loved watching his process. I would sit next to him on the couch and watch as he thoughtfully put the finishing touches on his weekly labor of love… delivering the Word impressed upon him by the Holy Spirit.
And now, as a grown adult, when I contemplate the constant juggling and position of preparedness he lived in constantly I know it was his calling. There were many long days and nights. And somehow he did his best to graciously move from visit to visit, call to call, task to task (even pruning trees and handling plumbing issues on the church campus) with the heart of a servant toward his congregation… not to mention all that he juggled at home.
He was often under-appreciated, under-paid and mostly misunderstood. But his family loved him the same. We missed him often… but we loved him the same. We often wished he could have been with us more… but we loved him the same. We hurt for him when we was hurt… and we loved him.
And many years after Dad retired from his last role as Pastor this was written in his honor, by a dear friend Tom Gilbreath: Tribute. These words sum up what so many families have felt about my Dad’s devotion to the congregation in which he was entrusted. And it brings tears to my eyes, and joy to my heart, to know that my Dad has been honored in this way here on earth. Oh to be there when he receives the heavenly welcome for his servant-like leadership.
October is clergy appreciation month. This month many churches across America are recognizing their clergy by saying THANK YOU in what might feel like trivial ways… but we will still say it: THANK YOU for your leadership, your sacrifice, your humility and your willingness to answer the calling.
How have you shown appreciation to your clergy this month? Through prayer? A kind note? Through an act of service for your Pastor and/or their family members? I challenge you… just love them.
To the several Pastors who have been my shepherd since my Dad retired… thank you. To their families… thank you. We pray for you regularly…