Pastors and their families work on Sunday. For many people it’s just a day they choose to attend church, but for pastors and their families, while we enjoy being there, it is also our job. Choosing to not be at church on Sunday is like choosing to not show up for an important meeting scheduled on Tuesday at 9 AM. Pastors’ families have more responsibilities than many people realize. It is an honor to serve along side my husband in this ministry, however, our love for Christ and His church means that we have responsibilities and obligations that must be met on a day that for a lot of people is just another day of the weekend.
We work on Sunday.
I remember when I was in high school and I got my first job. I worked as a hostess in a local restaurant not to far from my house. When I got my first schedule I remember looking at it and being disappointed because my new boss had scheduled me to work Sunday mornings even though I had made it clear that I would be attending church with my family. When I brought it to his attention he told me he had done several interviews the day I was hired and he must have gotten me crossed with someone else. Once he had looked back over his notes he said it was an easy switch and that I would be able to have my Sunday mornings off to attend church but I would be needed to work in the evenings. It was a win/win situation because for me attending church at that time of my life was a choice. I had a desire to be there. On the few rare occasions when my boss or a co-worker needed me to step in and work on a Sunday morning re-arranging my schedule and missing Sunday morning service didn’t really hurt anyone or anything. No one was relying on my being at church that week to ensure that things were done. No one expected me to run the service, counsel those who need an ear to listen, visit those who couldn’t attend for the day, or any number of other duties.
When my husband made the decision to accept a call to a ministry position before we were ever married I quickly learned that while Sunday is called “a day of rest” for those in ministry Sunday is anything but that. Sunday is the busiest work day a minister and his family has to experience. Another thing that many people don’t realize is that my husbands job is not just his. It is also a job that belongs to me and there are obligations that come with this job for me as well. I understand that there are ministers wives out there who do not see the life path we are on the same way, but we feel that my job is to be alongside him in our ministry. When there are people who are hurting, who are in need, who are asking questions, many times I need to be there along side him to share the perspective, or the burden or just to simply be there. So for many ways, for Dusty to be the most true to what he is here to do, we BOTH accepted the call into ministry in different ways. To say these things are not my responsibility or are something that I should just tell people I am not going to do that would be unresponsive to the job description.
Pastors and their families do not have the same weekends as you.
A few days ago I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with quite a few of our friends. Throughout the day as activities and events moved along there was a lot of words tossed out like:
“When are we wrapping this thing up?”
“We gotta get this show on the road. I have to work tomorrow.”
During those conversations when I would attempt to commersate with those who had to be at work on Sunday morning by saying “Yeah, I get that. We do too.” I was looked at like I had 3 heads attached to my body. It was as if for some reason everyone we were spending time with just forgot that Sunday is the busiest workday for Dusty and I. Even though their weekend was basically coming to an end just as ours was, because we happened to be going to church to do the job we do and because from the outside looking in we are done by noon or just a little later, that perhaps we aren’t actually going to “work”.
Our time is not our own, we are constantly on call.
But the truth of the matter is that our “weekend” consists of whatever spare moments we can grab between sermon writing, counseling sessions, Sunday school preparation, visitations, and any other crisis that might happen to pop up on a given day. Many spare moments for us consist of discussing the theme of an upcoming sermon to make sure the point is made, to make sure that it is presented in ways that are clear to the congregation. We truly cherish those moments as well even though they are not REALLY couple or family time.
You see, our time really isn’t ours. Very rarely is the schedule that I set because I am actively choosing most of the things I have to do. Schedules are often set for team or committee meetings, ministry events, children’s activities, and lunches or dinners that we as a family have to attend. These are things that are out of my control but they still go on my calendar. That is often compounded with phone calls, text messages, or emails from congregation members who experiencing crises and need the comfort of their pastor to be on hand. Many who are outside of ministry, and even some who are in the ministry field would argue that none of these things should affect the spouse and family. I agree that if you have a job where you manage people in a company that say, makes socks, or if you wait tables at the local diner, or even if you are the CEO of a large corporation, your job may be largely unknown to your family, and certainly if you go off to work to talk to an employee about something going on in their life that is affecting the job, it would be inappropriate to take your significant other along for the meeting. However; in ministry that is NOT how this should work. We don’t do what happens in most of the workaday world and simply go our separate ways into our own work world and come together over a meal from time to time to share what we did at our work today. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t attend EVERY function that Dusty is involved in but I DO have responsibility in making sure that needs are being met in our congregation. I DON’T get to just say, “nope tell them to come back in a couple weeks when I am feeling more like dealing with their crisis” any more than Dusty does. Or, “hey that doesn’t sound like much fun so lets just not”.
Spontaneous trips are often impossible and vacations can have a cost.
So this means that deciding to just hop in the car and take a quick trip is almost impossible. Deciding on a fun “weekend” get away just doesn’t happen because we live our lives “on-call” 24/7.
Does that mean we never get a vacation? No, not all all. Everyone needs a break sometimes but the cost of those vacations have the potential to be very high. While I would LOVE to take a few days to just hang out with some of my friends I haven’t had the chance to see in a while, I also have to decide if the ONLY vacation time we get would be better spent with our children away from all the noise is a better use of my time. I have to take into consideration how my time is best spent because I just don’t have a lot of it to divvy up.
Pastors and their families love what they do, but it’s also their job, not just a hobby they enjoy at church every week. We have responsibilities, obligations, and job duties just like everyone else does. Sunday isn’t just a casual choice for those of us in ministry to attend. While a lot of people in the world use Sunday as a day to prepare themselves for the coming week ahead for those in ministry Sunday is their Monday. So in the future, when reaching out to your ministry friends about when they might have time to hang out late on a Saturday night or if they want to take a weekend get away trip, just remember their weekend isn’t quite the same as yours. It’s not that we don’t want to, but often times we just can’t.