Dear Pastors and Pastor’s Wives: Stop Whining

By Joel A. Hess

Since seminary, I have been told by seasoned pastors and “expert” first timers that pastoring is a tough, thankless job. They encouraged me to set boundaries so I don’t get lost in the work and forget about myself and my family. They scared me stiff, perhaps hoping I would not be overwhelmed by surprise when I went out on the front lines. The dark forecast was cast with even more doom and gloom for my wife. At seminary, there were groups for pastor’s wives that met like AA, all bellowing, “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen…”

This chorus of martyred voices continues to shower the blogosphere with sundry titles all along the line of “A Confession of a Pastor’s wife.”  Then, of course, there are the organizations serving the hurting pastor and his wife, offering respite and healing. And finally, I am regularly reminded of all the pastors who do not have calls because their former churches threw them out.

Now, I am not arguing that pastors and their wives have it easy or that we don’t need help and compassion by others. Oh Lord, we do! Just stop the whining. Everyone in our congregations has it tough! Very few have job security. Most of our people work more than forty hours a week and work on weekends. Many wives in our churches have left their families to follow their husbands to places they did not want to go. Many of our members pay for their own health insurance, if they even have it, and fret about retirement.

Certainly, there are occasions in which a pastor is thrown out in an unjust and unbiblical way. However, I have met far too many pastors who probably deserved it. They are not martyrs, and they are not without a call because they were preaching the truth to remnant. Worse than pastors who brag about their numbers are pastors who brag about their low numbers. Herr Pfarrer—You are no Elijah. Yes, there are some terrible situations out there, but I have encountered too many guys who, for whatever reason, are very poor pastors. Quite frankly, I have seen far too many instances of congregations irrationally putting up with their pastor’s asinine behavior! Their situation reminds me of beaten wives who tell the police and their friends, “But I love him.  He won’t do it again!”

There is definitely pain and suffering that accompanies the shepherd and the shepherd’s wife. We all need prayers, let alone the Word of God, confession, and Christ’s holy body and blood! And for sure, sometimes we need it bad. Let’s just stop crying and speaking about it as if somehow the pastor’s struggles are heavier than other vocations. May the Good Shepherd continue to pick us up, dry our tears, and lead us on toward those green pastures!