I met Kay Warren at a pastor’s wives conference where we were speaking. She was upbeat, personable and brought a great message to the room that day. I didn’t know her son suffered from depression and I wouldn’t have imagined her family would experience the horrible grief associated with a suicide. But then, I would say that about most of the families that we have known who suffered that grief. I’ve thought a lot about Kay since hearing the news and I decided to use this blog post to ask all of you to pray for the Warren family and then pray for your own pastor’s family. I’m not a “pastor’s wife” anymore, we have a different type of ministry now, but this platform gives me a chance to say some things that you might want to know. I want to give you an inside look into the “fishbowl” that comes with being a member of a pastor’s family.
First, I would like to say that serving God is the highest privilege a person could have. I loved being a pastor’s wife and I loved the work associated with that job. But I can honestly say that it is a lot more difficult than most people realize. Jim used to say, “everyone wants me to slow down – until they want to ask me to do something for their Sunday School class, family or civic organization.” Pastoring is a 24/7 kind of job and the phone rings often, and the needs are very real and often immense. Pray that your pastor will have God’s discernment and leadership in his life. His choices impact a lot of people, especially his family.
My great sadness for the Warren family is that they are having to pastor a nation, while they manage their own grief. God has given them a huge platform and a huge witness. I think suicide is the most difficult grief a parent can face in this world, and they have to face it in front of a national audience. Some people will believe it their right to gossip, slander and label an illness as a moral failure instead. Pastor’s families are human and flawed – in other words normal. Let them be normal people who have an unusual job. My boys used to say, “How come our friends get to walk straight to Sunday School and we have to stop and talk to people in the hall?” (I told them they were lucky to have so many people who cared about them…but I also told them to take a certain set of stairs that would help them get to Sunday school a little easier!)
I would ask all of you to be keenly aware of the people around you that do ministry. I’m not speaking just of the church staff either. Picture your pastor, his family, the Sunday school teacher, the church staff, the leaders of other ministries, the seminary professors and anyone who openly professes to be a Christian – and see a very large target painted on his or her back. Every Christian who chooses to do the work of the ministry is choosing to mess with Satan, and the arrows are going to fly! Pastor’s are almost always on the front line of the army. Satan likes to take down Christian leaders because it usually impacts the people who were following as well. Please know that one of Satan’s favorite ways to impede the ministry of a pastor is to distract them with family problems. I was always so grateful for the people who told me they were praying for my family. I can’t know, this side of heaven, how much the prayers of those people protected my family. One day I will find them in heaven and express my joyful gratitude. Praying for your pastor and his family is Kingdom work. If you are older and unable to go and do as you used to…I just suggested a huge Kingdom ministry that you can serve.
One of my favorite groups to speak to are preacher’s wives. I tell them what I would tell you all as well. The single most important suggestion I could ever make is this: live your life led by the Spirit, strengthened through prayer and with the certain knowledge that serving God is the highest privilege in this world. Pray for Kay Warren, her family, your pastor’s family – and then pray that God will use you in a “front-line” ministry as well. It isn’t easy and it isn’t safe – but Rick Warren said in his book, “It isn’t about you.” Rick and Kay will live this life without their son, but they will join him one day in heaven. Their grief is real, but so is their hope. “Pray without ceasing” because one day, maybe soon, the “front line” will be replaced by the finish line. Press on . . .