Since becoming a pastor’s wife, I’ve never felt so exasperated! I have poured into and loved the women at my church through months of late-night phone calls and crisis counseling. Now I dread having to see them every week. Long story short, my husband and I agreed that it would be best for our family if I leave work to homeschool our three children. So last fall we pulled our kids out of their public schools, where several families in our church have their children. After a few weeks, I noticed that a few of the other moms at church were a little distant and by last November, discovered that I was the object of a lot of personal criticism and some very hurtful gossip. Our family’s decision is even affecting how some people in our church regard and follow my husband as their pastor.
We want to relate to our church members and live life alongside of them. But I truly believe that my children are spiritually and even academically better prepared for their teens and twenties if we have these formative years with them at home, especially since we can’t afford a private Christian school. What should we do? Do we put them back in public school? And if not, how do I work toward restoring a relationship to these women who apparently resent the way I’m rearing my children? How do I even go to church and worship with people that are criticizing me so viciously?
Your family is forever your first and foremost human responsibility. Husband and children should not keep you from honoring the Lord and sustaining your own spiritual life with regular devotional time reading God’s Word and praying for your own spiritual edification and for the needs of your family and congregation. However, part of your “ministry” is maintaining your household, helping your pastor/husband, and nurturing your children in such a way as to model biblical principles in the keeping of your home and in the relationships within your family (see Dt 6: 1-15; Prov 31:10-31; Tit 2:3-5).
Scripture is clear that the responsibility for a child’s education—spiritually and in every area of life—belongs to the parents. Well trained teachers in the classroom and godly leadership in the church, as well as your extended family and even neighbors who share your values, can all contribute; and you should welcome such help.
However, you and your husband must determine how your child is best educated.
In the age in which we live this decision is a crucial one. My granddaughters have been home schooled; they have been in Christian school; now they are in public school. Every year my daughter and son-in-love are investigating all their options and praying for the Lord’s leadership. As in your case, never has that decision been made lightly or for their convenience or even strictly on a financial basis. I have never met a pastor’s kid who applied for the position, but I have met many who could use a little help and encouragement in living out their assignment!
Now for a creative solution:
- Pray, pray, pray as you never have before! Pray for your children, for your husband, and for members of your congregation—especially those who are guilty of criticizing you. Ask the Lord to work in their hearts to give understanding, and ask the Lord to keep you free from bitterness toward them!
- Begin with your children a small ministry that fits into your homeschooling curriculum to members of your congregation. For example, when we were in the pastorate, I purchased a dozen of the mini loaf pans. When the weather was bad or as a special project, my children and I made banana and pumpkin bread in these small loaves and wrapped them in saran and then dropped them into zip lock gallon bags for freezing. When we were ready to deliver, we pulled them out and tied a simple strand of ribbon around each, punching a hole to attach a card that we created. Then together we went to homes of senior adults who were homebound or to the nursing home or to families who were hurting and delivered them! In our case, the seniors were feeling neglected by my husband because the former pastor had poured most of his ministry time into visiting them! My husband was trying to make inroads to young people and college students as well! Very soon the criticism stopped! In a project like this you have cooking, art, and serving others all wrapped up in one effort—and you are returning good for that hurtful criticism.
- Your husband should find tasteful and gracious ways to let the congregation know that you have made this decision together—not as a forever plan but as what the Lord has put in your hearts to do now. You might emphasize that your ministry commitments sometimes make it difficult to carve out family time. You have decided to see if this plan enables you to do a better job of that! You can also bring in the extra opportunities you feel will be open to your children because of this flexibility for them to add to the enrichment of their education. You could mention Susanna Wesley, who not only supervised the schoolwork of her children but assigned an hour of personal time weekly with each one. You do not owe the congregation explanations for every decision you make, but they are as “extended family” so that drawing them into your world makes them feel that they are sharing in your lives.
- Be sure that you and your children are very supportive of the church program. You worship to honor the Lord, so worship with joy—determined to focus on the Lord. Get up Sunday morning, saying “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it . . . . I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord”! Don’t let your attitude be driven by circumstances but rather marked by purposeful joy. Even when your heart is hurting, your will can move you in the right way so that you honor Christ—and then He will bless you!
Now for Dottie’s Dictum for Protecting PKs (Taken from my volume A Handbook for Ministry Wives, Nashville: Broadman and Holman, p. 80):
- Give attention to your child.
- Direct his heart’s desire to please Christ, not the church or even parents.
- Present a joyous attitude toward your ministry for Christ regardless of the challenging circumstances in which you work.
I remain yours in the journey,