We have been watching all of you. And we are encouraged.
A lot of polls and articles in Christian magazines report that the pastor in the USA is overworked, over tired, and on the brink of burn out. These facts may all be true of some or even many, but often these articles paint a picture of the pastor couple that is full of negatives. We see a very different picture that is full of positives and promise.
Perhaps we just see a different kind of pastor in the retreat setting. I don’t think there is a way to “poll” the answer to that statement. We can say this; the couples who come are from over 93 denominations, 35 states, and 10 countries. They are all ages and have shepherded a congregation from 1 month to 50 years.
The variety is huge – the commonality is simple. Because they are called to serve, by a God who knew full well what He was doing when He called them, and how they could not do any of it without Him; there is a vast difference between the pastor who is shepherding the flock and the person who is (or thinks he is) in command. So that makes it simple – a pastor knows he needs time away – a person who feels he is in control has no need to get away to talk to God.
So the following is what we observe:
- Pastors know that they're second in command – it is God’s church – no one else’s
- Pastors are more polite than any other “people group” we have every dealt with
- Pastors are more grateful and express that gratitude honestly and humbly
- Pastors have a drive to learn, read, excel, and grow that is amazing
- Pastors are often very critical and aware of their own shortcomings
- Pastors feel torn between serving the church and their family
- Pastors often expect their spouses to understand more than those spouses can
- Pastors receive more direct, confrontational criticism from those they are trying to serve, knowing full well that these critics cannot be "fired" and simply replaced by "hiring" another parishioner
- Pastors' wives are resourceful, patient, and creative
- Pastors' wives often feel that they do not fit the “mold” of Pastor’s Wife
- Pastors' wives are often lonely and long for close women friends
- Pastors' wives are protective of their husbands and children
- The very best thing you can give a pastor’s wife is time alone with her husband
- Both pastor and spouse are sleep deprived
- Each longs to laugh, be prayed for, sleep, be cared for, and hear from God
When the pastor couple *catches up on their sleep* and begins to hear God’s still small voice for their own lives, then we see amazing changes:
- Couples can see each other through God’s eyes instead of their own veil of tribulations.
- Being separated from the church offers an opportunity for a distant, honest viewpoint that is more ready for solutions from God and not men
- Each person can begin to grasp how much God loves them; just as they are – just where they are – just who they are
- The place of Holy space gives grace to every face
One of the days during our retreats we give each couple some questions to talk about with each other:
1. What do you believe God has uniquely gifted you to do?
2. Tell me, [in the last 6 months] about what activities that you have been engaged in have stoked your passion?
3. Are you in a place where you can do more of what stokes your passion?
4. If you are not, what do you need to do to change this?
One pastor wrote that when they got these questions, his wife easily shared the answers to these questions while he felt numb and unable to even identify what he believed God had gifted him to do. Through the rest of the retreat and on into the next 6 months this pastor wrestled with this dilemma. They talked and prayed and finally received an answer that not only let him stay in his senior pastor role in his church, but also find a way to have others take over so much of the routine things that bogged him down, giving him the freedom to do what God has equipped him to do.
Another pastor’s wife called our retreats, “A way to push God’s reset button”. She suggested that you run to your Bible and read Psalm 139 to grasp how much God really does love you.
So we see clergy a little different from the polls. We see people trying to change the “bad stuff” in their lives and focus in on the wonder and high privilege of serving the God who loves them, by taking time to ask Him for His help. Sometimes we get to see Him answer their prayers -- the look on their faces when they get those answers is priceless. We also are privileged to hear about how God called each one into ministry. Each couple unique – each call unique. It gives us a view of the pastorate in America that is encouraging, hopeful and gives reason to pray for all of the churches and their shepherd-leaders.
If you are a pastor – thank you.
If you are a pastor’s spouse – thank you.
If you are in a congregation – thank you for praying for your pastor and spouse.
Some couples have only attended a retreat once; others come back for a second or third go-round. Each retreat is 5 days so we really get to know you. They are free of charge, so there is no excuse for you to delay taking the time away with Jesus.
Dwayne and Rita Hanon founded the Cedarly Pastor's Retreat Center, and later Broomtree Ministries, answering God's call to provide pastoral couples a place to recharge and reconnect with God and each other. My husband and I have had the pleasure of attending both retreats under their leadership. I'll never forget hearing Dwayne speak to our congregation, reminding us that God commands us to rest, and for good reason! If you've never taken a retreat or sabbatical, you should -- might I suggest once every 7 years?