Often times I hear pastors' wives complain. Complain about everyone's expectations of how they should act, complain about about the lack of money, complain about how often their husbands are at church, and complain about ___________ (insert gripe here). Our current church is the fourth one we have served in since being married. I don't think that we have been involved in freak-of-nature churches. They have all had some good and some bad. However, I really haven't "too" much to complain about. Yes, there are some irritating people (aka heavenly sandpaper) at church, but those people are at all churches. Frankly, they are everywhere--not just at church. We knew how much Robert was going to get paid when we agreed to go to a church and he didn't go into the profession to make tons of money, so that hasn't been an issue. My husband has a good concept of priorities and boundaries and he has put his family before his job, so that hasn't been a problem. I have had moments of frustration with being married to a pastor, but really not too much to complain about. I'd be frustrated on occasion if he were a doctor on call, or a businessman who traveled, or a police officer who risked his life each day. There are gripes, complaints, and trade-offs in every occupation.
What no one ever talks about is the perks...and there are a lot of them. Let me describe a few that we have had over the years:
*In Texas, we had an older couple in the church who babysit a 9-month-old Adam ALL DAY LONG for free while we prepared to move to Missouri. They also fed us lunch and supper. They helped us with a million little things like home improvement, meals, etc. and we just a huge source of encouragement for us. They are now in their 80s and we still get a Christmas card from them every year.
*In Missouri, we needed to travel from SW Missouri to Abilene, TX and while we had a 4 door sedan, it was a compact car. Our boys were a year old and just shy of 4 years at the time. We had a church member voluntary loan (and insist) that we take his new Suburban to Texas. We had enough room to pack all of our baby paraphernalia and ride in comfort. This same person was an ER physician. Once my husband had bilateral pneumonia AND influenza at the same time. Our infant and preschool-aged sons also had double ear infections and bronchiolitis. I was overwhelmed with breathing treatments and medication schedules. Dr. Church Member (CM) came over to our house every day for a week, giving Robert antibiotic and steroid shots. He then had to wait around for about 30 minutes to make sure that Robert didn't have a reaction to the megadoses of drugs. Robert would have easily ended up in the hospital if it hadn't been for our friend doing housecalls and going above and beyond the call of duty, all gratis. He was ministering to us in significant ways.
*In Louisiana, we had church members give us their vacation/retirement cabin in North Carolina for a week so that we could have a vacation. It was a beautiful modern log cabin with three bedrooms, a stocked kitchen, all sorts of video/DVD equipment and movies, and a huge wraparound porch all on rolling hills with a stream running through the property. It was in the middle of nowhere on the NC/VA border, but a very short drive to Boone. It was one of our best family vacations ever! The kind where you come back actually rested. We slept late, napped, canoed, swam, fished, and just enjoyed time together. We picnicked on a large flat rock in the stream. The boys were pretty young and spent one entire day throwing rocks in a river. It was a free respite. Our only requirement was to sign the guest book and to pray over the house for the next people who would stay there. You see, these people used their vacation home as a ministry and offered free throughout the year to ministers and their families. What a blessing!
These are some big examples, but there are a million other smaller perks. We got discounted dental visits in Texas. We got free veterinary care in Louisiana from a church member and paid cost for meds. I had to see a CM cardiologist in Louisiana and he didn't charge for the full EKG/stress-test workup, even though I had insurance. We've had church member as realtors and they have given us discounts on their percentage. We've had people keep our kids for free so we could have weekend getaways when our kids were little and we had no family living near. We've had people house and host us at their houses when we have gone back for visits. We've gotten gift cards, tickets to concerts and sporting events, meals paid for, and surplus from people's gardens. We've been taken to the river, to New Orleans, to state parks, and on other grand adventures by people in our churches. We've had people bring meals when our babies were born or when I had surgery. We've had people offer to run interference or take on jobs that weren't theirs during tough times. My kids have gotten to hang out for the day playing video games with Ten Shekel Shirt. Jeremy Camp came over to our house and took a shower after playing a concert.
In addition to things that church members have done for us, we got a free week at a bed and breakfast in Amish Country, Ohio through Pastors Retreat Network. This was a weeklong retreat for spiritual renewal that was absolutely awesome and is supported by donations. Churches have paid the way for my husband to get to do mission work in Belarus and Nicaragua, as well as sent us both to conferences and times of renewal and rest.
So there you have the secret scoop--the stuff that no one tells you. There are many little and big perks to serving in ministry. Sure there are irritations, as with any job, but there are so many incredible ways that we have been blessed by too many people over the years to even count.