Perhaps you are familiar with Ruth Graham’s book, In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart. You may be quick to nod in affirmation thinking, I have often worshiped with a broken heart among a congregation and friends who are unaware of my hurts and circumstances, for one reason or another. However, it may surprise you to realize the broken or discouraged heart of a brother or sister may be your pastor or his wife.
My husband has served in ministry prior to and all throughout our dating and married years. For the last fifteen years, we have served together in a handful of churches under differing roles and responsibilities. We have enjoyed sweet times serving with fellow staff and lay leaders and the visible fruit of changed lives. Other times, we have served alongside those who, it seemed, viewed us as the enemy or a stumbling block to the way they envisioned ministry should be carried out.
We encountered a situation like that in one of the first churches we served in. The most active couple in the youth ministry was also the most vocal couple in opposition to the direction my husband was taking the students. It seemed no matter what he did, this couple wasn’t pleased and wanted to let everyone know. Months after we left that church, the husband became the youth pastor. It is hard to please someone who wants your job and thinks they can do it better.
I can tell you that there is much that your pastor and his wife will probably never tell you as a congregation and maybe even most of you one on one. Ministry can be a lonely and difficult profession. When relationships fail within the staff or the church, we often have to suffer silently. To air our hurts would cause disunity; when to work through them with a few trusted friends, or as a couple, would save the greater church body pain and division.
Here are five things your pastor and his wife aren’t telling you, and 5 ways you can pray for them.
1. We are susceptible to loneliness.
Many contributing factors lead to this. Full ministry schedules are one. The view that the pastor is always in a teaching role is another. Additionally, there is the misconception that pastors are closer to God than other Christians and therefore, don’t need relationships. Not true! Each Christ follower has the same amount of access to God through Christ Jesus, and we are each called to gather together. We should be involved in a small group regularly for edification, accountability, and encouragement from God’s Word.
2. We aren’t relationship experts.
Simply because we know the Bible and study the scriptures, doesn’t mean we haven’t been hurt in relationships with family, friends, or congregants. Jesus told us to be one as He and the Father are one. That’s what makes it so very difficult when relationships fail within the body of Christ. When brothers and sisters don’t treat one another as they want to be treated, it is painful. I’ve shed my own tears as well as brought comfort to others who have borne the brunt of personal attacks over differences of opinions in ministry. It is painful and can feel isolating.
3. Your encouragement goes a long way because we are insecure at times too.
It may seem that your pastor and his wife are confident, accomplished leaders, and for that matter, they may very well be. However, all of us second-guess ourselves. We all battle to work as unto the Lord and not think about what others will say. We all realize that there are smarter, more eloquent communicators and leaders, but Jesus has called us to this place and this position for such a time as this. Your encouragement may be Jesus whispering needed affirmation or a timely testimony that He knows, He sees, and He cares. It may be just what your pastor needs to hear to press on.
4. It can be hard to ask for help.
A pastor and his wife are more likely to offer you assistance than to request your help. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t need help. Many families are serving in communities in which they have no or limited family to depend on and celebrate with. Not everyone is going to be best friends or close friends to their pastor’s family. However, reaching out and offering assistance to families with childcare, bringing a meal, or inviting them to your home can mean so much – especially for the younger couples in ministry. It is very hard for young moms to balance the home while her husband is away at a youth camp, a mission trip, or training conferences.
5. Sundays can be stressful.
While Sunday is a family day for most, it is a ministry day for your pastor. This means that his family – specifically his wife and children – must operate with the knowledge that it is one of dad’s workdays. It takes time and experience to learn how to view and behave with Sunday as a workday. For both introverted and extroverted couples in ministry, finding a healthy balance between private time and public ministry is a balancing act.
In light of this inside track to your pastor and pastor’s wife, here are five ways to pray for the pastors and their families within your church:
1. Pray for your pastor’s marriage to be strengthened and to be a picture of the gospel to the congregation and community.
2. Pray for your pastor and his wife to possess a servant’s heart of transparent humanity, genuine humility, and absolute honesty.
3. Pray for sincere, safe, and edifying friendships for your pastor and his wife. Pray that they will run and not grow weary.
4. Pray for unity within your church staff and congregation. Pray that criticism would be constructive and not destructive to your pastor and his family.
5. Pray for your pastor to hear and obey the Lord’s call and direction for your church. Pray for each pastor and the respective ministries over which they preside; that they would submit to, and clearly heed, the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Brooke Cooney is a pastor's wife, mother of two, and foster-mom of one. To capture the eternal in the everyday, she blogs about family, faith, and lessons along the journey at ThisTemporaryHome.com.