Dear Preacher’s kids….

“Now, it came to pass that when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel…. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice” (I Samuel 8:1-3).

Let’s talk about the offspring of the Lord’s shepherd, those sweet little lambs birthed into his beloved family in order to enrich their lives, to bless the church and to provide a fresh palette on which the preacher and his lady can demonstrate all it means to grow up in the fear and nurture of the Lord.

Those little monsters who terrorize the congregation with their out-of-control behavior.

Those darling babies and toddlers who are smothered by the loving attention of the entire congregation, and for whom teenage girls compete as babysitters.

Those juvenile delinquents who run up and down the aisles of the church and treat the sacred buildings as their own personal playroom.

Those teenagers who look so angelic on Sunday and test their parents’ patience during the week, the subject of ten thousand stories in deacons’ homes, who exasperate the seniors in the church hoping for a little peace and quiet this Sunday.

They put the gray hairs in their preacher-dad’s head and the great stories into his sermons.  They put the the lines in their mom’s brow and the thrill into her heart.

They occupy the major portion of their parents’ prayers day and night.

God bless ’em.  We love our PKs.  Our preachers’ kids.

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Good things to say to a preacher’s wife (and why saying them is a good idea).

The preacher’s wife (Marlene is not her real name) who suggested an article on 59 things NOT to say to a preacher’s wife ended by suggesting that we follow it with a positive piece listing good things to say to the wife of the minister.

Marlene got us started with this list:

I am praying for you. We love you.
Thank you sharing your husband with us.
Thank you for sharing your lives with us. We love you.
I do not want anything from you but friendship.
Let me help. We love you.
You have such great kids.
Let me know if you need anything. We love you.
I overheard this compliment.  “You are a success at (insert career
choice here).We love you.”
I really missed seeing you this morning.
How do you feel? We love you.
We appreciate what you bring to the church.
WE WOULD LOVE TO PUT YOU ON STAFF SO YOU CAN SERVE THE LORD
FULL TIME!!!!!!!

Those are all nice.

All right. That was Marlene’s list.

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What not to say to a preacher’s wife

(I wish Margaret were here to help with this one.  As my wife of over 52 years and through our six pastorates covering 42 years, I suppose she heard it all.  As of January, 2015, she’s now resting in the arms of her Savior. In her memory and in her honor, I send this forth to encourage church members to bless this dear lady married to the shepherd whom God sent to your church.  Please see the disclaimer at the end.–Joe)

“Encourage one another and lift up one another….” (I Thessalonians 5:11, somewhat, and a favorite line in an old chorus)

“You cannot use my name.”

That’s how the typical private note from a preacher’s wife begins.

Marlene introduced herself as the wife of a pastor. She had come across our article from a year or more ago on “59 things not to say to a preacher.”  Back then, I had solicited input from Facebook friends and ended up with that number of comments which preachers do not need to hear and which affect them negatively.  The article got a good bit of play and drew more than a fair share of controversial reactions.

Preachers loved the list. And so did their wives, incidentally.

There’s a lot of hurt out there.

Marlene appreciated the list, she said. But she added that I had quit early. We need a list of what not to say to the wife of a preacher.

So, I asked her to get me started.  Here is her reply:

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Why you may not want to marry a preacher

“Do not be unequally yoked…” 2 Corinthians 6:14 (a reference to Deuteronomy 22:10 where Israel is told not to plow with a team composed of an ox and a donkey).

We all agree that Scripture teaches believers should not marry unbelievers.

But, would it be an unequal yoke for one called into the ministry to be wed to a Christian who resents his calling and resists the demands that this life places on her?

Surely we can agree that not everyone should marry a preacher.

(The obligatory disclaimer: In our denomination, preachers are men. I know some women pastors in other denominations and respect them very much. But I know nothing of the pressures they face. Thus, for me to write for their situation would be highly presumptuous. Please do not write accusing me of sexism or prejudice against women. Thank you.)  

When I began this list a few days ago, mostly I intended it as a light-hearted piece since I’m a preacher and love pastors and their families.  Any woman who marries a called servant of the Lord should feel special to Him, I’m thinking, and she needs to know what she’s getting into. And then, I decided to ask for help.

I invited Facebook friends to suggest reasons why someone “might not want to marry a preacher.”  I expected soft answers. Oh my, the responses.

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My single biggest regret from a lifetime of ministry

I invite you to read this opening to my journal dated October 1980.

I was 40 years old and Margaret was 38. We were in our 19th year of marriage, and pastoring the First Baptist Church of Columbus, Mississippi.  Our  children were 17, 14, and 11.

The first entry in the book is dated October 9.  However, the paragraph above that reads:

The month of October got off to a poor start around the McKeever household.  I announced to Margaret that until October 27th, there were no open days or nights.  The month was filled with church meetings, committees, banquets, associational meetings, speaking engagements at three colleges, a weekend retreat in Alabama, and a few football games. She cried.  Once again, I had let others plan my schedule in the sense that I’d failed to mark out days reserved for family time.

I ran across that book today, read that paragraph, and wept.

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No two marriages are alike, but some are amazingly like yours

“They made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah” (Genesis 26:35).

No marriage is perfect.

The union of two godly well-intentioned disciples of Jesus Christ does not guarantee a successful marriage.

And even the successful ones–however we would define that!–in almost every case had their ups and downs.

So, if you’ve been feeling like a failure because a) your husband spends more time at the church than at home, b) your wife isn’t nearly the cook or housekeeper your mom was, c) you and your spouse argue, d) you have each lost your temper and said/done some things you regretted later, or e) all of the above, then….

Welcome to the human race.

I’ve been reading William J. Petersen’s book “25 Surprising Marriages: Faith-building Stories from the Lives of Famous Christians.”

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10 things the preacher’s wife can give him no one else can

“D. L. Moody found in his wife what he termed his balance wheel.  With advice, sympathy and faith, this girl labored with him, and by her judgment, tact, and sacrifice, she contributed to his every effort.”  (quoted in “25 Surprising Marriages” by William Petersen)

The pastor’s wife is in a unique position.

She is close to the man of God but she does not come between him and God.  She is privy to a thousand things going on between him and God, but must not insert herself into that process.  She knows this man as no one else in the congregation does and can counsel/advise him as no one else is able, but she must know when to speak up and when to be quiet.

In many respects, she has the best seat in the house and the hardest job.

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Why a man needs a wife. (Why this man does, at any rate.)

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing” (Proverbs 18:22).

My friend Dr. Fred Luter, pastor of New Orleans’ Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, has an interesting way of introducing his beloved Elizabeth from the pulpit.  He calls her “the love of my life, the apple of my eye, my prime rib, my good thing!”

Elizabeth has heard all that only a few thousand times, but she beams each time, as the congregation laughs and applauds.

My dad, Carl J. McKeever, who loved mom, Lois Kilgore McKeever, every day of his life, would say, “My rib is the best bone in my body.”

When the great C. S. Lewis married Joy Davidman, she moved into his house near Oxford and looked around.  His home, called “The Kilns,” hadn’t been redecorated in decades.  “The walls and carpets are full of holes,” Joy wrote. “The carpets are tattered rags.”  She feared that moving the bookcases might cause the walls to cave in.

Joy was soon bringing in decorators and workmen and turning that pile of rubble into a home worthy of its distinguished resident.

Who can calculate the worth of a good wife?

I was thinking this week about this.

My friend Randy is burying his wonderful wife of 53 years today.  I participated in Charlene’s funeral on Monday, and they were transporting her body to Florida for burial.  My heart goes out to Randy and his family. This distraught husband has some lonely and tearful days and nights ahead, and there is nothing to do but to go through them.

His big house will have never seemed so huge. And so empty.

Yesterday, I saw a dermatologist.  I told him, “I don’t have any particular reason for coming except I no longer have anyone to spot something on my back or neck and tell me I should see a doctor about that.”  I said, “Would you mind looking me over?”

Two years ago, I had skin cancer and surgery, so I’m vulnerable.  The doctor spotted a pink area above one eyebrow. “We’ll keep an eye on that.”  I’m to return in six months.

They say widowers and other single men live shorter lives than married men.  If that’s the case, I think I know why.  A wife will see that a man eats right, and that he sees his doctors as necessary.

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How I gave my wife her new best friend–and helped myself at the time

Dottie came to me for counsel.

I was her pastor and she was battling depression, she said, and had dealt with it for years.

I listened and realized something vital.

My wife and Dottie had a lot in common.

So, after the visit had gone on for a half-hour, I said, “Dottie, there is someone I want you to know.  I’d like you and my wife to talk.  Now, Margaret is not a trained therapist, although she’s a far better counselor than I.  But she knows what you are going through because she’s battled depression, too.”

She assured me she would be willing to meet with her.

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What to do, pastor, when you are the victim of a rumor

“Why would you rather not be wronged?…..For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:7,20).

In 1990, after a preacher had served only seven months and tore the church up twice, I arrived as the new pastor.

I  was not the excited new kid on the block as with my previous moves. This was different.

I had endured a brutal three years in my former pastorate and thought perhaps the Lord wanted this broken church (to which I was coming) and this bruised pastor (moi!) to help one another heal.

Some years later, I learned a preacher in our area was telling people that I had torn up this church because of some serious immorality.

I sought him out and asked if he were really saying this.

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