Benjamin Boersma–Staff Writer
They are everywhere.
They’re on the front lines in war zones. They help tend the wounded in hospitals. They work in distant places around the world or even across the street. They come to athletic events in sunshine and in rain. They come to school and community events. They visit the sick, the elderly, the homebound. They see people at their highest (and lowest) points. They are often seen delivering words of encouragement and warning, usually on Sunday mornings, but some speak on Sunday evenings as well.
This is the job of a pastor, and October is dedicated to appreciating them and their families.
“Being in a pastor’s family is not that much different than being in the average family, with the exception of my dad sometimes watching soccer at home while working,” said junior Nate Muyskens. “I like to think that I am just like every other person who has a loving father.”
“My dad was a pastor for about 50 years, in the Baptist denomination, but my mother was a Presbyterian,” said Dr. May Dengler, professor of English and co-director of the Kuyper Scholar’s Program, “She met my dad at college, so I grew up in the threshold between their beliefs.”
Both Muyskens and Dengler agree that being in a pastor’s family has its share of joys and demands.
“I don’t see my dad as much because of his work schedule,” Muyskens said.
Dengler also mentioned outside pressures.
“We had to deal with corruption in the church, jealousy, and different standards of faith within the denomination,” she said. But she saw many upsides, as well: “Churches and their members made us feel appreciated with invitations to dinner, gifts, and (more than anything else) words of encouragement,” she said.
According to an ongoing Barna study, most pastors enjoy their work. They love to preach, and they feel like they do it well. However, their job has challenges too. The same study also showed that their greatest frustration is a lack of growth and commitment in their congregations. They are also more likely than other adults to experience emotional fatigue.
“Pastors’ families are just as vulnerable as any other families to brokenness and problems but are openly attacked when things go badly,” Dengler said. “They need prayerful support instead of backroom criticism.”
Dengler also offered some practical ways to appreciate pastors.
“Remain faithful to the church, be honest in appraisals, and don’t sneak off when things don’t go as planned,” she said. “Invitations to dinner are always appreciated, as are cards and gifts and volunteering to help.”