Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, marriage, ministry, prevention, wife | Posted on 19-02-2014
When I tell regular church people that ministry marriages are often stressful and difficult, they find it hard to believe. Their disbelief extends even further when I tell the people in the pews that the most stressful issues between pastors and their wives is the ministry itself, they think I’m crazy.
When I tell the same thing to most active pastors or fallen pastors, they most often say, “You’re right.”
When I wrote my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” I knew there were problems with a lot of ministry marriages, but when I did the statistical research, I was shocked myself. Here are a few stats that I dug up (full citations available in the book):
- 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses are discouraged and dealing with depression
- More than 40% of pastors and 47% of their spouses report they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations
- 77% of pastors said they felt they did not have a good marriage
- 30% said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner
- 81% of pastors report insufficient time with their spouse
- 64% report communication difficulty with their spouse
- 46% report sexual problems
- 80% of ministers believed pastoral ministry affected their families negatively
- 33% believed ministry was a hazard to their family
- 37% confessed to having been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church
So what’s happening? Sure, ministry is difficult and it comes at a price. There is persecution and weariness. But should it come at such a great cost to the minister? Is proper ministry supposed to be tearing apart the family?
I don’t believe so. I submit that it’s possible that what many pastors are doing isn’t what God equipped them to do. They’re frankly doing too much under their own power. They’re attempting to do the work of an entire church body when they’re only equipped to do the work of the pastor or head elder.
In turn, the pastor spreads himself too thin, has little time for his family and wife and leaves himself open for marriage, ministry, and other types of failure.
I’d like to add a few more reasons why ministry marriages fail. There are things I’ve witnessed over the years that have happened which could be avoided or prevented.
1. Lots of pastors spend so much time doing the work of ministry that they forget about the why of ministry. They start doing programs and laboring so hard over contacts, visiting, networking and growth that they forget about the Christ who promised to build His church. They forget that in the beginning when they started, all they knew was that Christ called them – an imperfect person – to simply preach the Word. Somewhere along the way, things got added to the workload and they made things too difficult.
2. Lots of guys when they got married weren’t pastors. Therefore, their wives didn’t really marry a pastor. Now, I know what someone will say, “God equips the wife like he equips the man.” Listen, it’s a little harder than that. The stress and difficulty of being a pastor’s wife can be overwhelming. And when a woman marries a guy who one day is an over the road truck driver and the next he’s a preacher? Yeah, it can be a little confusing for his wife.
She’s going to need some help easing into that role with grace. She’s going to find her role that God has designed for her within the ministry – and it may not be the exact same as every other minister’s wife. Unfortunately, if she’s forced into a role unwillingly by a church, it can cause undue stress at church and in the home.
3. Sometimes, a ministry couple gets to a place where they just can’t talk about church anymore. I’ve talked to a lot of pastors whose wives have said, “Stop complaining to me about the people at church! They’re nice to me and all you do is complain!” Why does the pastor complain to his wife about problems at church? Honestly, he often has no one else to talk to or vent his problems to. And his wife does get weary of hearing him complain and puts a stop to it. Unfortunately what her husband hears is, “I don’t care about your problems. Go find someone else to talk to.” It’s never good when the ministry couple stops communicating.
4. Over time, there can become a lack of intimacy in the marriage. There are two types of intimacy that need to be maintained. First, spiritual intimacy. Many pastors can get so worn down spiritually during the week that they just don’t feel like having prayer time or spiritual time with their wife or family. And if spiritual intimacy is lost or they stop communicating, then physical intimacy will also suffer.
So what can be done? Pastors, if you’re in trouble, you may not even realize it. Too often, we’re trying to fix other people’s problems and we don’t realize that we have serious issues of our own. How is your marriage? Are you communicating with your wife? When was the last time you had a night out? Are you attracted to another woman? Do you treat your wife as well as you treat other women at church?
Has your wife ever warned you about spending too much time at work or shown concern that you might need help? Are you staying extra hours away from home because you dread going there? Are you increasingly angry at your family or find yourself aggravated more?
Friends, don’t let this get out of hand. Talk to a friend. Talk to a fellow pastor or an associational leader. I’m here and I’ll listen to anyone who needs help. If I can’t help I can probably find someone who can. There are others out there to listen. Be honest with your wife. But know that the worst thing you can do is ignore the problems.
*EDIT: I am sorry if you read this when George Washington’s farewell address was somehow posted at the end. Don’t ask me how that happened.
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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