Does anybody care about what a pastor’s family goes through?

If pastors can be victimized, how much more are their spouses and children? Often they’re the walking wounded, living out their days in silent confusion or anger, wondering why people who seemed at one time to like them suddenly turned away and began to ignore them. The family isn’t always aware of the things that occur in the church’s meeting rooms. Nor do they know what’s happening in the hearts of people who one day become angry with the pastor for something he said from the pulpit or a decision he made.

The wife who thought she had a friend for life is stunned to witness what looks like plain cruelty toward her. Even the pastor’s children notice that certain friends are now inexplicably cold. The family is a convenient way for someone to get at the pastor who displeases them. Taking a shot at his children is far less risky than going straight for him.

Moreover, if it’s rare that a pastor receives relief in the form of discipline of his antagonists, it’s virtually unheard of that the same concern will be shown for his family. There’s no mechanism for redressing the harsh treatment that comes their way. Committees don’t meet to handle the treatment they receive. Denominational officials don’t gather to discuss what to do about the abused pastor’s family. Often, therefore, they take hits that are even more severe than the pastor’s. Such hurts are easily swept under the rug. But leaders and their families reap the emotional and psychological consequences of it.

Children are made to feel that everything they do is a reflection on their parents. They have to be perfect. They need to know all the Sunday school answers. They’re failing their parents if they don’t live up to the congregation’s expectations of them, yet their peers aren’t able to connect with them, and see them as pious and judgmental.

Demanded to be perfect by the congregation, they’re set up for failure from a tender age. It isn’t uncommon for pastors’ children to lose their faith and never enter a church again. If the Christian behavior exhibited for them is malice, slander, and compromise of truth and decency, they will find something better elsewhere.

How does the pastor’s family deal with this hurt? Pretending it isn’t there or doing nothing about it in hopes that it will just go away doesn’t work. Some choose therapy, while others have regular family talks about it, and many just leave. For my money, the most effective measures have included frequent and long family conversations together with times of very frank and open prayer.

Such painful, highly personal opposition is either destructive or constructive. Conflict can divide or unite. The idea is that at the end of the day, the pastor and each member of his family emerge from the fray with closer bonds, greater faith, and determination to serve. The best way to reach this place is through the talking out, the praying out, even the writing out of the frustrations and anger. These go a long way toward healing.

How has your family survived a clergy killer?
What were the most effective measures you took? Or, how are you hoping to survive a clergy killer right now?