I recently had a tender conversation with a spouse whom I have mentored through a few difficult situations related to ministry.
Her husband is a second career pastor. His first congregation, while he was in seminary, warmly and enthusiastically welcomed him and his family. They were very supportive and encouraging while he navigated the demanding path of papers, tests, and family and church responsibilities. Following graduation, they moved to a rural church that was completely different. There were inadequacies in the parsonage. Getting needed repairs was a constant battle. And they expected the spouse's presence at various church events, which was complicated by the lengthy and daily commute to her job.
The "final straw" occurred when her husband was hospitalized, but the church thoughtlessly required him to preach within a few days of discharge -- two weeks sooner than recommended by his doctor.
I listened to my angry and frustrated friend for nearly forty minutes. She concluded by saying, "Someone needs to tell ministers and spouses not to expect 'a red carpet to heaven' when they begin life in ministry."
I knew that I had to pray about what to say to her. I surely did not want to offer her empty platitudes. She'd already heard too many from the congregation. So I suggested that she and her husband talk with their DS. I reminded her that a DS can be their advocate when church members avoid or prolong making necessary changes such as parsonage repairs. A DS can help a congregation sort through needs and expectations placed on a pastor and spouse. Finally, a DS can substitute or get a substitute for a pastor on Sunday, when the pastor is ill or dealing with critical personal circumstances.
Additionally, and most importantly, I encouraged her to keep her walk with God alive and vital. God is ever present to help us and hear our concerns. I also suggested that she contact three or four pastor spouses for support. I described my good experience with a book group I attend with a group of spouses. I confided that the discussing the book is really secondary to our opportunity to share our personal lives and places in ministry.
While no one gets "a red carpet to heaven," we do have God's graceful invitation to walk on a "red carpet of life." A carpet where we can travel with our Savior on the road that leads to life.