So what does that mean for me?
I'm an outlier.
While there are a few different definitions for "outlier," I am going with the statistical one, which is: a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample.
Here's what I want to "talk" about. In her blog post, Rochelle wrote about speaking at a "Leading and Loving It" conference for pastors' wives. She shared and 139 stated this:
“My husband is held responsible for things over which he has no control. . . My husband takes criticism for his sermons and it gets personal…Someone in our church is gossiping about my children…People criticize every parenting decision I make…I am expected to listen to everyone else’s stories about their kids, but no one asks about mine…People in my church are interested in what I can do for them, but no one is interested in me…My husband seems to have increasing responsibilities but not an increasing salary…Sometimes I resent the church because my husband misses social and family gahterings (sic)because he has to tend to a family in our church…There is a woman at our church who dresses provocatively and flirts with my husband (That’s right, ladies, we see you.)…Sometimes I listen to my husband preach and I resent that he sounds so holy when I know his sin-side…I have trouble finding friends…Sometimes I wish we were not in ministry…I am so lonely…I feel like I am doing life alone.”Now I'm sure that none of the PWs said ALL of that is true for them, but at least some or most of those statements. I'm going to deconstruct them one by one for me personally.
1, My husband is held responsible for things over which he has no control. . . My husband takes criticism for his sermons and it gets personal.
Have these happened? Absolutely! He has been held responsible for things that weren't in his job description, that he didn't know about, and that someone else was supposed to be doing. Why doesn't this get my hackles raised? Because it happens to every person in the world. I am a professor and I took a group of students to Brazil for a study abroad program two years ago. On the course evaluation form two students gave me negative marks for the weather. Being blamed or held responsible for things outside of a personal realm of control are a fact of life for being humans and living on earth. Just deal with it.
As for getting criticized. Oh, that happens too. We had a family pull out of being a host home at the 11th hour because the title and theme of the DiscipleNOW was "Jesus is for Losers." (He is!). They didn't like it. He got an anonymous irate letter because he used the word "fart" in front of teenagers. Some people delight in being petty. Some people have legitimate concerns and it opens the door for discussion of bigger, underlying issues. When you have a large group of people there are diverse opinions, ideologies, backgrounds, etc. so it is a simple fact of life that not everyone is going to agree 100% of the time. Reframe it as an opportunity for growth and personal reflection. I also have learned this truth...When my husband has been criticized, I usually take it much more personally than he does. Therefore, it's really my issue to deal with.
2. Someone in our church is gossiping about my children…People criticize every parenting decision I make…I am expected to listen to everyone else’s stories about their kids, but no one asks about mine.
To my knowledge, this has never happened. Now if people have gossiped, it was totally behind my back and I was oblivious. That news never made it back to me. While certainly not perfect, my children have been pretty well behaved and we have, as of this writing, not had to deal with any kinds of crisis issues. However, they are not grown yet 15 and 17 years old), so that realm of possibility remains. However, people have always asked about my two boys, commented on them, told me funny stories about things that they said or did in Sunday school, VBS, nursery, etc. If anything, esp. when they were very young, I felt like they were doted upon, given special gifts, had offers of free babysitting, etc. No one has ever conveyed unrealistic expectation upon me as a mother or my children's behavior. I have always felt supported and nurtured in parenting at every church we have served.
3. People in my church are interested in what I can do for them, but no one is interested in me.
Again, nope. Since I have made an effort in general to get to know people and know about them, the favor is generally returned. I really don't know what else to say about this one other than being involved with others usually returns full circle in my experience. If it doesn't, at some point then I think you have to tell the other party that your needs aren't being met/reciprocated if you truly want to develop a relationship with them.
4. My husband seems to have increasing responsibilities but not an increasing salary.
Yes, but this is the case for almost everyone else in the world (os at least the US) too. Again, in my job, my responsibilities (course load, research expectations, committee work, etc.) has increased and with statewide budget cuts, my salary has decreased by 10 %. That's life and it doesn't just happen to pastors.
5. Sometimes I resent the church because my husband misses social and family gatherings because he has to tend to a family in our church.
If that's the case, then I think the husband has his priorities screwed up. This isn't the fault of vocational ministry. This is a problem with the pastor's thinking, Messiah-complex, workaholism, or something similar. My husband has always been clear that OUR family comes first. All of the churches at which we have served have been strong advocates of that as well. If a pastor's family is not a well loved and cared for priority, then there is no way he can be an effective minister.
With that said, has ministry ever caused my husband to miss family and social gatherings? Yes, but very rarely and only in special circumstances. I remember once when he was a youth pastor in Louisiana we were with our families in Alabama for Thanksgiving. He got a call on Thanksgiving Day that a young woman (not a church member, although her MIL and FIL were) had been killed in a car wreck. Robert had baptized her, married her and her husband, and done some counseling with them. He was the clear choice for the funeral and he was needed to help this 20-something year old father deal with overwhelming grief at suddenly becoming a widower and single father in the blink of an eye. We got in the car and headed back to Louisiana two days earlier than we had planned, missing time with our families. However, that is a rare crisis example and I was in full support of going back. A smaller issue would not have shortened our holiday stay.
6. There is a woman at our church who dresses provocatively and flirts with my husband (That’s right, ladies, we see you.)
Oh, yes! This has happened. Usually my husband has been clueless until I tell him and then he'll suddenly realize. Fortunately there has been the provocative dress as much as the flirting. However, when I alert my husband that my female radar has gone off, he is very respectful of that and works on distancing himself from the woman in question or directing her to other people. He has always been good about not being alone with other women, always leaving his office door cracked or having a window open when he is counseling women, etc. This has been more challenging as a church planter because he doesn't have an office and I can't always be there to be the third party, so he does all of his meeting in public at the same place.
7. Sometimes I listen to my husband preach and I resent that he sounds so holy when I know his sin-side.
This has never happened to me. It happened with a senior pastor we served under and I knew that he was a liar and involved in pornography. I had bile rise into my throat when he preached and it was a supreme act of will to sit in a pew every Sunday and listen to him preach when I knew what was going on. However, while I know my husband's "sin-side" better than anyone, I know how he really is in his heart. Of course he sins, like everyone else. And he tracks snow and salt on the carpet because he didn't take off his boots, leaves popcorn bowls around, and is slow to put away his clean laundry. (For the sake of full disclosure, I am a bigger offender on being slow to put dishes in the dishwasher, keep my sewing stuff and projects strewn about the house, and am a reticent duster.) But, he is a servant. He picks up the slack. He is an encourager. He is giving. He ministers to our sons and me all day, every day. He is the most compassionate, giving, and servant-minded person I know. He is always putting himself second and others first. That's what I know when he stands up to preach. Dirty socks kind of pale in comparison to that. And...I know that I'm no saint either. In fact, I'm the one who wrestles more with selfishness, judgment, and my big mouth.
8. I have trouble finding friends…Sometimes I wish we were not in ministry…I am so lonely…I feel like I am doing life alone.
I have posted previously on PW friendships here and here. For the most part, I think that PWs who have trouble finding friends are either: (1) not being friendly themselves, (2) not putting themselves "out there" and being vulnerable enough to develop a friendship, or (3) they have bought the lie that PWs shouldn't have friends in the church or can't ever have "real" friends because they can't fully open themselves up or no one else will ever understand the true experience of being a PW. I think it is not only possible, but a good thing to have friends in the church community. I also think it is a great thing to get into the community and have friendships there. Even during my SAHM years, I volunteered teaching ESL to Spanish speakers, volunteered in my oldest son's classroom, and took some courses (sewing, cake decorating) in the community. It takes effort, persistence, and putting yourself out there to develop friends. I would posit to a PW who feels like she is "doing life alone" that she bears at least50% of that responsibility. With that said, sometimes it take a long time to develop true friends...even years. We lived in Missouri for 3 years before I felt I had true, soulmate kinds of friends. It is more difficult to make friends in a smaller town where everyone has grown up together, known each other since kindergarten, and knows each other's life histories. However, it is possible with patience, prayer, and lots of metaphorical door knocking. (And sometimes other transplants to the area will make the best friends).
This post is already long, but this explains my outlier status. I also feel like an outlier because we have never been fired from a ministry position and 97.2% of all of our ministry experiences have been positive. We have left on good terms, with parties, gifts, and tears. We have kept in touch with friends from every part of ministry. When I hear about PWs who have had some terrible times in ministry, sometimes I feel guilty that we have had such good experiences, but then I remember that guilt is from the enemy. So instead, I am thankful that I am an outlier. I don't know why it has happened that way, but I am blessed.