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Story of an Ex-Pastor's Wife

I write this story in the hope that it may encourage others that they are
not alone, and so that hopefully I can begin to move on from this place.

My husband and I both grew up knowing the "call of God" on our lives. I
believed I would grow up to be like my parents, with a ministry helping
people in need. I was going to be a pastor's wife, and we would help the
hurting people who had been so abused by life. My husband grew up believing
he would be a Senior Pastor, with a great thriving church, touching and
changing the lives of all around us.

Within a year of our marriage "David" had left his job and enrolled in Bible
College to follow 'the call' upon his life. I was pregnant with our first
child and we were full of hopes, dreams and visions. People marvelled at our
faith, but to us it wasn't faith, it was the just the next step in God's
plan for us.

After college David was offered a position as Assistant Pastor at a
Pentecostal church on the other side of our city. We were so excited. By now
we had two young children. During discussions with our prospective senior
minister we expressed that we did not feel youth ministry was right for us,
as we were a young family who could not be dragging young children out at
all hours of the night. We felt that our ministry was a joint ministry, not
just David and a pious wife tacked on the end.  He assured us that family
was a major importance, and that we would be out no more that two nights a
week. We trusted this man as he had earlier been my husband's pastor and
family friend. I was a little unsure as I had heard this man was quite arrogant. 
However, my husband's family knew him personally, and so that seemed to 
be a more valid 'reference'.  So we packed up our house and moved to the 
other side of town.

Before we moved over the Board offered to pay the bond on the house we were
to rent, almost $1000. We understood that when we moved out they would get
it back. They also were going to give us petrol money every week. When we
asked about the wage, the pastor just told us it hadn't been fully discussed
yet but not to worry they could pay it in fringe benefits so it wouldn't
affect our family benefits etc.

Imagine our disappointment when we arrived at our first service and the
senior pastor wasn't even there to greet us! He had gone away for the
weekend. However, a board member and her husband took us to a fast food
restaurant for lunch and then proceeded to infer that David had done the
wrong thing by telling our friends that he was going to be the Assistant
Pastor! We were a little unsure but assumed we were simply being
oversensitive. Things rapidly got worse. The pastor told us we needed to pay
back the bond money, and they would be happy to put our petrol money towards
the loan each week. This left us feeling a little queasy, as we had budgeted
with the petrol money, and had thought the loan would be paid back when the
bond came back from the Real Estate Agent.

Then we discussed wages!!! What a shock. Having not been told our wage, we
budgeted on what we knew to be the base wage for pastor's starting out. We
were very uncomfortable when we were told the board had agreed on an amount
that was significantly less than the base salary. So we were now $80 short,
per week, on our budget. We said nothing as we felt that, although
disappointed, we were not in this for money, but for the love of God and the
people.

Then we started the work. For my husband's first two weeks, the pastor was
out of the country. What were we meant to do? We had many calls from hurting
people who told us that the pastor never visited them, he didn't care for
them, never returned phone calls. He was never in the office, never visited
people, so where was he? This man had told us that everyone adored him and
that they wouldn't welcome us because they loved him exclusively, and yet
the people were telling a completely different story! We felt overwhelmed,
confused and completely unsure of what to do.

I was also hurt when I spent a day helping the church secretary with her
children, while she was at the church office. I took them to their school to
get books, bought her lunch and generally did a lot of running around. The
next day the Snr Pastor's wife rang David and asked if I could not take my
children into the office in future because this lady had complained that it
was a church office and not a crèche. I felt so betrayed, I had spent my
time, money and petrol helping her out and then she had complained about me.
This was just the beginning! These women treated me so kindly in front of my
husband, but looked down on and isolated me when he wasn't around.

Then the pastor came home from his trip. He asked me where I wanted to be
involved and I told him anywhere but with an instrument. Suddenly, I was
playing guitar for the next six weeks in a row! Then we were introduced to
the church as "David and Elly, you can call them whatever you want, but they
will be helping out with the youth". It was now very awkward as we had been
told we were assistants, not youth pastors, and the church didn't know if we
were pastors, helpers or what. Guess what, neither did we!

Then came the unspoken expectations. We had two young children. I was
expected to help with music, pray out the front with youth, be the perfect
pastor's wife, and look after two toddlers. This man told us that on a
Sunday, David was a pastor (whether he had a role in the service or not),
and not a husband or father. So I was expected to care for my children in
the crèche, remain spiritually fresh and then input into others at the
altar.. even if I didn't know what had been preached about. I soon felt
spiritually drained. When we discussed this with the pastor again, he
instructed my to buy preaching cassettes and listen to them at home while
looking after my children. He did eventually compromise and allow David to
assist me.

Then came the two nights out. There was Home Group, Music Practice, Prayer
Meetings, Youth, Training night, visitation and church twice on a Sunday.
Needless to say we either had a lot of baby sitters or the girls had a lot
of late nights. I was soon feeling like a terrible mother and it began to
put a huge strain on our marriage. I longed for David to take a stand and
say this was too much, his family came first, but no matter how many times
he confronted the pastor, nothing changed and he just talked over the top of
David. When David asked him about his role as the Assistant Pastor rather
than Youth Pastor, he told my husband that everybody were his assistants,
even those who took up the offering.

David begged me to be patient but I was exhausted, feeling guilty for my
children, and just felt like I couldn't go on anymore. He told me to cut
back and he would be the one to go out, but then I felt I wasn't supporting
him or fulfilling my role as a good pastor's wife. And I longed for him to
have time as a dad and a husband. David was caught in the middle of his
greatly admired pastor, now his boss, and a wife who he felt was not the
support she should have been.

Eventually it came to a head. I took one woman into my confidence, of whom I
had been assured by the pastor's wife would be a good trustworthy friend. I
also spoke to a board member who had asked me about my husband's wages. He
told me that the board were discussing our conditions and that they didn't
know what we were being paid. This was a shock to me as we were told that
our wage was the board's decision! Well somehow, this all got back to the
Senior Pastor. Although my friend had assured him that I wasn't gossiping,
and our conversation had been in the nature of confidence, this was
unacceptable to him.

He called in my husband, unbeknownst to me, and told him that I had betrayed
him and gossiped around the church about what a terrible husband he was. I
had apparently destroyed my husband's credibility within the church. I had
also allegedly talked to three other churches - although we still to this
day have no idea where that came from.  David was instructed not to tell me
anything of this as the pastor was seeking counsel as to what to do about
me. His options were to sack David, discipline me publicly, or expel me and
allow David to remain. When David told him that under counselling we had
made a promise not to keep things from one another, the pastor told David
that he was a higher authority and David was not allowed to tell me.

Three days later, after much tension between my husband and I, he finally
gave in and told me. I was furious and could not believe this man had
instructed my husband to break a promise to me. There was a very unpleasant
confrontation between this pastor and myself, where I was kicked out of his
office. We were instructed to meet with him in two days. When we arrived at
this meeting, we were surprised to see the whole board arrive and as a power
play, we were kept waiting for over half an hour.. mindless of the
babysitters at home.  Throughout this meeting various accusations were
brought against me, all of which were untrue. He then told us they would
need the weekend to discuss what should be done. We stated that we also
needed the weekend to decide if we would even be prepared to stay after such
terrible treatment.

The following Sunday when we met we made a mutual decision to leave. We
later found out that this pastor had approached the elders and told them
that we had marriage problems and as a result I had behaved inappropriately.
When he was questioned as to what I had done, he stated that to protect me
morally he could not tell them. This has left me dreading meeting any of
these people in the street. What do they think I did? People generally
assume the worst, if only I could tell them that my sin was in standing up
for my family against an abusive pastor and his leadership! As a final
"blessing" the pastor told my husband we would be divorced within five
years.

Two and a half years later, my husband is back in secular employment. We are
only now thinking of getting involved in the church again. In one way we
have not wanted to know about church, but as a deliberate decision for the
welfare of our children we have decided we must attend a safe church. We
still yearn for the things of God, but if that was ministry.no way! We are
slowly beginning to heal, but it has been a long road and it certainly did a
lot of damage to our marriage. My husband and I are closer than ever now,
but there are still issues to be resolved. We truly miss the fulfilment of
ministering to people but are very cautious of trusting people. And if we
were in the same position again would I support my husband? Yes, I would
support him, but I certainly could not condone the situation, as I did not
then. Where does that leave us? On a very long journey, but on one in which
I am determined to grow and learn.

 
rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
Email Jan and Rowland