The Real Life Behind the Pulpit

If you are not a Pastor, it would be difficult to relate to the stress that such a calling can bring to you or your family. This week my heart was saddened upon learning of the suicide of Pastor Andrew Stoecklein, Pastor of Inland Hills Church in California. I’m sure you are wondering how someone, who stands behind the pulpit each week, encouraging others, could commit suicide. But Pastors face depression, fear, anxiety, and all the same problems that his “sheep” face. Why? He is man. A real man with a heart to serve others, to preach the good news of the gospel, and to inspire those around him to live according to God’s Word. A man that not only worries about his own family but all the families that call him Pastor and even some who don’t. Life behind the pulpit, rewarding yet stressful.

“Pastor Andrew Stoecklein appeared alongside his wife to inform the church about the personal issues he had been facing over the past several months. He also took the opportunity to address the absolutely devastating mental health crisis that continues to plague our nation.” –

My husband is the Pastor of a small congregation at Strong Tower Church. This requires him to work a “real” job during the week. So after working all day at his job, running kids to soccer, helping with dinner and chores he grabs his bible and begins to prepare for Sunday morning. During all this, he receives text messages from those who need prayer, emails that need answered, and phone calls all hours of the night. Let’s not forget the sick he visits in the hospital, food he delivers to the elderly, and people calling him asking for help. The list never ends. Recently we have noticed a disturbing trend. So many families who serve in the ministry are falling apart. They simply buckle under the expectations of the “sheep”. But I am convinced this is not the life that God planned for those who stand behind the pulpit.

So how can we lift up our Pastor and his family? (I’m so glad you asked!)

First, you need to understand your Pastor is human. Please take him off the pedestal, his family depends on it. My hubby is awesome, but he does yell, get frustrated, can be snappy with his kids, and even whines on occasion. He’s human. Every Sunday morning after getting up with the sun to pray and maybe after fussing with the kids not to make him late, he stands behind the pulpit with a smile and an encouraging word. That’s the real life behind the pulpit.

Second, please give his poor wife a break. If your husband is a Pastor you sometimes get the leftover version of your man after you have shared him with everyone in the church. If your husband has a small congregation then you are probably cleaning the church, teaching Sunday School and are acting as his personal secretary. While he is greeting people, you have chased your kids (begging them to behave and not get dirty), helped prepare the worship songs, and introduced yourself to all the visitors. Yes, Sunday mornings are busy but that’s the real life behind the pulpit.

Lastly, extend the same grace to his children that you expect him to extend to your children. For some unknown reason there is an expectation placed on the Pastor’s children that no child will ever be able to live out. His kids fuss during church just like everyone else’s children. They get in trouble in Sunday School, have a bad attitude now and then, and can be rotten to the core. But being a PK (pastor’s kid) isn’t so easy. While their friends are out playing they are mowing the church yard, helping clean Sunday School rooms, and setting up sound equipment. They don’t always get their dad’s full attention because they must share him with the congregation. Our Church is a second home to my children. Don’t get me wrong, they have good memories too. I mean, who else gets to play tea party with the communion cups (oh my, did I really confess that?), float around the baptistery after cleaning it and eat all the leftover Hershey bars after the youth bonfires. That’s the real life behind the pulpit.

If you live in a pastor’s home, you have the right to remain silent because anything you say or do may be used in a sermon illustration.

Walter and I have made a major decision in our life to love the Lord. We put the Lord first in our lives and then our family and then the Church. This is not always easy for my husband.

We have also made some huge mistakes in our life. And so I feel I can give some advice to all our family and friends who are experiencing life behind the pulpit

My advice for everyone experiencing life behind the pulpit

  • To all the Pastors, feel free to turn off your phone! (just hand it to your wife if you need help).

  • Not every “emergency” requires your assistance.

  • And it’s not your fault if people choose not to attend church.

I once told my husband that God never called him to breed sheep (only sheep can breed sheep). He is called to preach the unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ. If the Church grows, or even if it doesn’t, keep preaching. So that when you stand before the Lord you can honestly say you did what you were asked to do without reservation.

Pastor, remember that although all the other women in the church love you and think you are perfect, they don’t live with you. Make time with your wife, just her, and not just in the bedroom. I have to admit this is a strong point for my man. He really values our marriage. I am usually the busy one but, he refuses to take “maybe next week” as an answer. He just informs me that he made dinner and hotel reservations and we are going away for the night (I love his surprises)

And Pastor, if you have been blessed with children, make sure they know that they are more important to you than anyone in your Church. We always seem to have time to help other parents with their kids, time to talk to a troubled teen, and always have a smile for some young person on Sunday morning. Shouldn’t your children get that and more? Walter and I have been criticized for spending “too much time” with our kids instead of running off to another church conference or social gathering. But our family time is limited and we want to make sure we give our best to our children. They are just as much living behind the pulpit as my husband.

To all my friends who share their man, I have one piece of advise for you (well, lots of advise but this is the most important)

Make sure your man knows he is not loved just because he stands behind a pulpit each week. That his “position” has nothing to do with your love. That it is okay to fail, it’s okay to get frustrated and when he feels like he is drowning, it’s okay to cry. I know it sounds crazy, but women love men who carry a position of authority. He gets told how wonderful he preaches, how “blessed” they are to have him, and I know women who stand in the prayer line just to have the Pastor’s attention.

Yes, I know I know but it’s real folks. And after giving all of himself on Sunday morning, he is vulnerable. He is exhausted both physically and emotionally. So make sure he knows how proud you are of him (even when the sermon could have been just a little shorter) and how much you support him. I know that goes against what society tells you. They want you to be your own woman. But if you want your marriage to blossom I encourage you to pour your life into your husband’s vision and run with it. And make sure you meet all his needs (and you know what I mean). Because I can assure you that Satan wants your marriage to fail and there is another “saint” waiting for you to ignore your man. That’s the real life behind the pulpit.

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