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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Annie Answers Tired Pastor's Wife

The following "advice column" was in our local paper Sunday:

"Dear Annie: When my husband came to this town to be the minister of our church, the elders told him they had no constitutional way to persuading a pastor to move on if they were not satisfied with his work. They asked him to sign a contract that would expire in seven years. My husband balked at this, saying it would not show good faith on their part or his. He also told them he never stayed in a church for more than seven years, so they didn't need to worry.

We have now been here for fifteen years. My husband resents anything he has to do for the church, and spends most of his time working at a homeless shelter he helped found. We have lost a number of devoted members of our congregation in the past five years because my husband insists have time to counsel them.

I have suggested that, since he is so unhappy, it might be time to move on. He responds that he's invested too much time and energy in this community to pick up and leave.

The people of the church used to be welcoming and involved. Now, our congregation consists of disinterested, lethargic and mostly elderly people. Counseling is not an option, because my husband does counseling and feels he knows best. He blames everyone and everything but himself for the slide our church has taken.

I have been very supportive, but I wonder if this is the best way to respond. What should I be doing?--Worried Pastor's Wife"
    It gets better, as Annie gives her advice:
"Dear Pastor's Wife: You should be convincing your husband he'd be better serving his church if he allowed someone else to take over as pastor, and he can then devote more time to the homeless shelter. Your husband is in deep denial, and more importantly, his avoidance of his duties indicates depression.

If you can't convince him to leave, we recommend you seek counseling without him. And his church ought to seek legal help."

A couple of my observations:
    no consititutional way to pursuade a pastor to move on... How about Spirit filled, prayer soaked, God honoring honest dialogue?
    he never stayed in one church more than seven years... Unless your church is in some unique transitional phase, it seems foolish to hire a man who already has an exit strategy. Once more, if he was planning on leaving within seven years, why is it "not show[ing] good faith" to sign a contract for seven years? Wouldn't that be an improvement, stating you plan to atleast be around for seven years?
    We have now been here 15 years... Oops. If you came under the understanding you'd be gone in seven years and decided to stay for 15, does anyone else think in year 7-8 it should have been the time to sit down with the elders and see how things are going (if not sooner, obviously).
    My husband resents anything he has to do for the church... Ugh.
    Since he is so unhappy, it may be time to move on... Of course, happiness is our gauge folks.
    because my husband does counseling and feels he knows best... He does it, but hates it.
And Annie's advice:
    You should be convincing... No need to pray, be submissive and hope your humility wins over your husband, it's our job to become the Holy Spirit folks. Time to start convincing people!
    his avoidance of duties indicates some depression... No doubt true. But the "chicken or the egg question" must be asked...which came first, the rebellion or the depression?
    his church ought to seek legal help... If they want to directly violate I Corinthians 6, that is.

In all seriousness, it's easy for all of us to feel isolated and alone...even pastors. What's sad is that these people did not have an actual elder team that works with them and minister to them. Of course "Dear Annie" is going to give terrible advice, that's not where any church should be turning anyway. What's really sad is that this woman must not have had anywhere else to turn.


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