Recently a Pastor reached out to me with this question, “I pastor a good church and love helping people grow closer to the Lord. Although my wife has decided to stop coming to church she doesn’t want me to stop pastoring. How will this affect the congregation and should I step down as pastor?”
When a pastor’s spouse stops coming to church, the situation can be quite complex and often stems from various causes. Sometimes, it’s because they need to care for sick children or they themselves are unwell and need to rest. Other times, it could be that advancing age has made regular attendance difficult for them. And though it’s uncommon, there are unfortunate instances where the spouse might be going through a crisis of faith or have been hurt by the church members.
Understanding there may be other Pastors or Church Leaders out there whose spouses may also make this choice at some point, I share here my response to him. If you know of another Pastor or Church Leader struggling with this same or a similar situation, please consider sharing the link to this article with them.
Pastor, I’m so sorry to hear that your wife has decided to stop coming to church. It’s never easy when a family member takes a step back from the congregation, especially when one is in a leadership position, and more importantly, the Pastor of the church. Your question is twofold so first let’s consider the impact on the church. This situation can have various effects on the congregation, both directly and indirectly. Let’s dive into how it might impact your church and what you can do about it.
- Congregational Reaction: The members of your church may react in different ways. Some may be concerned about your family’s well-being, while others may be confused or disappointed. It’s essential to address these concerns with openness and transparency. Share your feelings and reassure them that your commitment to the church remains strong.
- Leadership Credibility: As a church leader, your personal life is often under scrutiny. Your wife’s decision to stop attending may lead some to question your leadership, the effectiveness of your ministry, even your walk with the Lord. This is a natural response, but it’s important to remind your congregation that church leaders are also human and face personal challenges.
- Impact on Your Family: Your wife’s decision can be a source of stress within your family. It’s crucial to prioritize your relationship with her and seek understanding and support. The congregation should see that you are working through this situation with utmost grace and love.
- Church Dynamics: The absence of a pastor’s spouse from church can alter the dynamics within the congregation. It might affect social interactions, events, or the perception of your family within the church community. Encourage your congregation to continue showing love and acceptance to your wife, regardless of her attendance.
- Opportunity for Growth: Every challenge presents an opportunity for growth. This situation can be an opportunity for your congregation to display unity and support. It can also serve as a reminder that the church is made up of imperfect people seeking God’s grace and guidance.
- Prayer and Counseling: Consider seeking guidance and prayer covering from fellow pastors or church leaders you trust or who’ve experienced similar situations. Professional Christian counseling, both for you and your wife, can also be beneficial in navigating through this challenging time.
- Community Outreach: Use this situation as a chance to emphasize the importance of reaching out to those who have drifted away from the church. Your personal experience can help others empathize with those who might be struggling with their faith.
Now, let’s consider your second question, “…should I step down as pastor?”
The congregation’s reaction to these scenarios can vary, and the decision on whether or not to continue pastoring through this is deeply personal. It should be considered with careful thought and prayerful consideration, recognizing that your role and journey profoundly impact your church members as well.
You have not shared the particulars that brought your wife to the decision she has made. I will assume there is no sin involved and no neglect on your part that may have influenced her leaving the church. (If either of these are present, I strongly urge you to seek counsel from your organization’s leadership. If you are not part of an organization, I urge you to find at least three Pastors that you know to be experienced and spiritually wise, then seek their counsel. Place yourself, your marraige and your ministry in their hands and allow them to help you and your wife through this time.)
You may be asked by the church leadership or you may decide on your own to step down as pastor at this time. I offer my prayers for God’s wisdom here. Should stepping down become necessary, you should know that this is not a setback or the end of your ministry. Rather an opportunity to leave the 99 to minister to the 1 that is most precious to your heart. Both God and the congregation will honor you for this choice.
Remember, as a pastor, you’re not alone in facing personal challenges. Your congregation should be there to pray for and support you just as you support them. Lean on other pastors, as well as the other leaders within your church, and together, you can navigate God’s accepted will with faith, love, and understanding.
If you’re looking for more resources to help you address this situation further, you will find some valuable insights in the articles of Preachit.org’s blog that discuss maintaining a healthy work-life balance and handling personal challenges in ministry. Additionally, you might consider sharing relevant sermons or blog articles with your congregation to help them understand the complexities of life in ministry.
Stay strong, Pastor. Your dedication to the Kingdom of God is admirable. Remember, people are watching you closely right now. They are noticing how you are responding to this situation. They too have family that has left the church. How you respond and prayerfully maneuver this incredibly delicate situation may well be the best sermon you ever preach. If you demonstrate unconditional love and support to your wife, I believe that your congregation will stand by you during this challenging time.