Saturday, July 24, 2010

Is There Good Paranoia for a Pastor's Wife?

My last post, about negotiating relationships with church members, sparked some particularly interesting comments. Here are some highlights:

"We don't want to be completely paranoid, but we do have to remember that the congregation is full of sinners." (Susan)

"I learned as a pastor's kid that the people who were the nicest to us when we moved there were going to be the first ones to betray us later on. As a pastor's wife, I now live a life of distrust, fear, anxiety and paranoia. But then I ask, if everyone really IS out to get the pastor and his family, is it paranoia? The reality is, Satan is after the one who distributes God's means of grace--the pastor. His family is fair game too. Our problem is, how do we deal with this reality without going nuts?" (Kathrine)

"We've been here almost 7 months, and we haven't had anyone accuse us of anything we haven't done, spread lies to try and undermine [my husband's] authority in the church - heck, even try to be underhanded with each other! There are some really good churches out there - I'm praying you have found yours. I know finding ours has gone a long way in healing my kicked and beaten up heart." (MamaOnABudget)

Clearly, a lot of pw's find this tricky territory. I can relate to the paranoia Kathrine describes. That's precisely how I felt in the midst of the conflict at our last church. We had been so deeply hurt and the feeling that my husband was under constant threat put me on guard with everyone in the church. In retrospect, I can see that it was a very small group of people that had any grief with us. Let's say there were 500 people in the church -- 10 were angry with my husband, 100 were very supportive of him, and the other 400 had no idea what was going on in the church office.

Like Kathrine, I felt like those 10 people were "out to get" us. Now it doesn't seem quite that way. In fact, I believe now that they felt threatened by us. Somehow we posed a threat to something they considered essential about the church. They weren't out to get us; they were trying to protect themselves.

Susan is wise to point out that the church is full of sinners - including us and our husbands. I'm praying to be part of a church where we all freely acknowledge our sinfulness. That's one thing that was clearly absent in the leadership of our last church.

MamaOnABudget, how blessed I would be to live among a group of Christians who trust each other and their pastor! Perhaps we will. It has lately occurred to me that the goal of life is not to escape suffering. I want to escape it, and I will exert tremendous energy to avoid pain, but I am beginning to understand that when I cannot see past the misery God is still trustworthy.


  1. Jane, I have found that it IS very difficult to open up to parishioners. More times than I'd like to tell you, I have really felt close to one and shared something that has come back to "bite" my husband..sometimes YEARS later.

    Unfortunately Katherine, my older ones have learned this is true. We are very careful now. We are ourselves, don't get me wrong, just I am not quick to say the first thing that comes into my head.

    In our current church..we have found more folks to be HAPPY that we are are kids and we were people before ordination and continue to be..sharing in the struggles of life. I never thought this situation could happen. (Still have one or two who spread lies, but it is easier when the lies are seen for what they are, lies.)

  2. When you're in the midst of turmoil, it's easy to only see the turmoil. Now that we are on the outside looking in(released from call because of church's finances), we can see the supportive people. The people that knew what was going on and praying for us and the people that loved us for who we are. I know that I will be "gun shy" when going to a new congregation, but my constant prayer is that God will guide me. I'm praying for you mp as you make this transition.

  3. I so appreciate this discussion! It is fascinating and encouraging to me to hear how you all think about your relationships with church members.


  4. I just found your blog and wanted to say that I love your profile picture! That is so great. My heart aches for you as I read what you've been through. I have mixed feelings on how open to be with church members. I'm typically a very guarded person but I've learned to be vulnerable and thankfully it was okay. We were in a small church plant for 10 years where we had a group of young, authentic believers and seekers. It was refreshing to be myself and married to my man, who yes, was the pastor of our church but he was my husband first. It was okay to admit you were a sinner at that church. It was a safe place to stumble and get back up again with encouragement from the Body. We have also moved churches in the last six months and I'm feeling guarded all over again. I women are that way by nature....we're always checking each other out and deciding whether we can trust the other person. It takes one to step up and share their stuff (to a degree) knowing there is a risk involved. I've not been bitten in the pastoral ass yet but there's always a chance I will be. I have found it vital to pray and ask God for wisdom and discernment in sharing struggles of the heart with others.


Thanks for using this space to share your encouraging words.