Monday, May 26, 2008

When Pastor's Wives Burn Out

I was speaking to a friend of mine yesterday. It was a long conversation. For my part, just about all I can do is empathize and give a listening ear. She and I are both pastor's wives. Even though we are in different states and in different denominations we are each moving to new appointments because of our husband's job. Both of us are under ridiculous amounts of stress.

Wives and families are too often the collateral damage that happens when a pastor changes position. After the conversation I had to wonder what happens when pastor's wives burn out.

(And please, before the email starts pouring in, let me say that I do realize that some pastors are women and that their husbands face challenges too. It's just that I know more women well who are married to pastors than I do men. Therefore, I'll continue to use pastors wives language.)

Despite distance, my friend and I are going through similar struggles. We both love God and our churches. We hate to leave but we have no vote, no choice and no say. My job will stay the same. Her's won't.

For me, this upheaval comes at a time of natural transition for my daughter. She's going off to college. I should be happy for her and I am, somewhat. But being faced with moving has robbed me of much of the joy I should be feeling. It has colored and permeated almost every aspect of our lives.

Her senior class trip with friends was postponed because the church decided to honor graduates on the day they were to leave. Then, they decided to make the graduation celebration also a goodbye affair. That put more pressure on her to be there.

Then, her orientation weekend at college has to be juggled in between a conference we must attend and the required moving date. Her chance to go on a missions trip was superseded because she feels she needs to move her things. The missions trip fell on both sides of the moving day.

But my family isn't alone. Like my friend, there are other pastor's wives everywhere going through similar situations. What makes us unique is having the support network and the resources to be able to reach out to one another. Not everyone has that and I feel very blessed in spite of my current circumstances.

Because of the work I do with victims of sexual or domestic violence I hear from pastor's wives who are on the brink of disaster. This illustrates just how isolated we are sometimes from family and friends.

So, to my sister pastors wives I want to offer the following resources. They've been helpful to me or to friends - even if it was only to let me know I'm not in the boat alone. Perhaps they will be to you as well.

Parsonage.Org Article
Pastor's Often Succumb to Job Burnout
Bright Wings

Congregation members can make a difference. Talk to your church boards and councils. Get them onboard. Taking care of your pastors' family will benefit your church for years to come.

Pray for her and her family, just as you do the pastor.
Encourage the pastor to set aside quality time to spend with his family on a weekly basis.
Every other year, take up a collection to send the pastor and his wife for some time together.
Call the wife of the pastor to encourage her or send a card - it may be the only one she gets.
When you see your pastor's wife give her a hug and a sincere compliment.
Ask if you can help.
Offer to keep the kids.
Occasionally bring a casserole or give her a gift card for dinner out - even pizza is fine.
Pray for her and for her family, just as you do the pastor.

For other ideas, please see the above links.



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