Ministry Journey Blog

Thoughts on Ministry

22 Apr

Pastors as Community Property

Posted in Uncategorized on 22.04.19 by Merlyn

Below is an article I wrote for a church newsletter:

Why do we??…

See Pastors and Their Families as Community Property 

One of the most difficult adjustments in being a pastor, is adjusting to the mindset that most congregations and their members having regarding their pastors and their families. In most settings and in the minds of many members of churches in the United States, Pastors and their families are seen as community property. This means that church attendees assume that they in part ‘own’ Pastors and their families and have a special right to dictate the appearance, personal life, personality, interests and time of their pastors. While the leadership of churches should hold Pastors to a moral standard, this is something entirely different.

Over the years I have seen, heard and experienced this mindset. It is wrong, often painful and unhealthy. In many case, we say things to Pastors and their families that we would never say to someone else: strangers, friends or even spouses. We comment on and critique every aspect of the lives of our pastors and their families: their time, appearance, personality, interests and more. Things are set by those in churches that if the roles were reversed and pastors were to say to congregation members would cause tremendous angst and hurt, yet we don’t flinch in saying it to our Pastors.

So why do individuals and congregations take this approach?

The Personal Servant Mindset. In many cases congregations and parishioners assume that the Pastors and their families exist to be their personal servant. This often means the neglecting of family, marriage and rest in order to meet every diverse need, opinion and expectation in the church. It is the ‘spiritual butler’ approach, but even if it were right or healthy, its impossible to achieve.

The Donation Mindset. The consumer mindset that drives our American culture has also infiltrated our church as a heresy disguised as an improvement to the ministry of the church. Congregations and parishioners across the country assume that since they give to the church that they have a right to weigh in on every aspect of the life of their pastors and their pastors families. Interestingly enough, we do not do this in any other area in our culture and it is neither fair, biblical or healthy. It distorts the purpose of the tithe and joyful giving. There is and must be a difference between the church and Mc Donalds. 

The “Because we Care” Excuse. More than once I have heard someone say something inappropriate or nasty to me and when challenged say to me, ‘I only say it because I care.’ If we were really honest with ourselves, we would admit that while we care, this statement is not accurate. There are many people in our lives we care about and in few instances would we say things to them that we say to Pastors and their families.

As one article notes…“The fishbowl pressures on pastoral spouses and children are enormous and they feel it keenly. Most ministry family members suffer in isolation, loneliness and silence. Few professions scrutinize and criticize their leaders and leader families like the Church does its pastors. These realities alone complicate the marriages and family life of pastors.”

Pastors and their families are not community property. Don’t be surprised if the pastoral team or their families give you a gentle as possible reminder of this reality the needed. We are thankful for the mutual love we share and look forward to growing in this area together.

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