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!


3 thoughts on “Dear Pastors and Pastor’s Wives: Stop Whining

  1. You certainly did hit the nail on the head. As your remarks are directed mostly to pastors, I feel those sitting in the pews should also pay attention to your words. First and foremost, not all applicants can or should be pastors by reason of temperament or dedication, having not fully consecrated themselves to the hard work entailed. They are not bad people, just unfit for the office, and can still serve the Lord in other capacities. If some pastors have been unjustly removed it is a travesty. In this case, one wonders why the congregation did not take steps to communicate their concerns, pray for their pastor, and give honest feedback so that the pastor might correct things he was doing wrong. We are in this together, as Christians, and each of us needs the help and the constructive criticism of others. In my view, the LCMS is entering a time of conflicting issues and points of view, and being influenced by moral relativism and social trends, the church is contending with struggles within. Older pastors and younger pastors in some cases do not agree on the direction of the Synod and the official positions taken by the denomination. Worse, there are now progressives infiltrating the body, and subtle controversies being fanned. In my humble view, the LCMS is vulnerable to a schism and future split. Some seem to want the Synod to be almost like ELCA, just a bit short of it, but closer than we are now. And the relevance of the Bible and the Confessions will be debated. However, as an optimist, I believe the church will still go forward, wounded but not cast down, and perhaps a purging of some pastors is necessary, especially the ones who are unfit, unmotivated, careless and do more damage than they care to admit. A smaller Synod is still, in God’s eyes, more preferred than a larger and lukewarm one.


  2. John J – we have been “split” since the ’80’s. You should know that.

    Fr. Hess – I cannot argue much of anything you wrote, save to say it lacks a lot of context, and likewise, glosses over much. But both the Church and society have long needed to speak to the issue of the culture of victimization, which has benefited no one in either camp, except maybe lawyers.

    While I did very much like your last paragraph, you were wrong on one count, which is implicit in our very vows as Shepherds of Christ’s Flock. We carry that burden above and beyond all other normal travails. Nature of our Divine Office.

    Pax Domini – jb


  3. Yes, the hours are bizarre, and the pay is not commensurate with the level of education, but I know of no greater joy than proclaiming the forgiveness of sins, handing out the means of grace and teaching the faith. It can be exhausting at times, but what job isn’t? After working for LCMS Inc. for a few years, and now back in the parish, I am too blessed to be stressed.


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