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Pastors' Wives Retreat

Pastors' Wives Resource site provided by the Sunday School Discipleship Ministries International, a ministry of the Church of the Nazarene. We want to hear about your experiences, the lessons you’ve learned and how God’s Word and prayer supported and sustained you in the joys and challenges of parsonage life.

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But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses ... Act 1:8

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We want to hear about your experiences, the lessons you’ve learned and how God’s Word and prayer supported and sustained you in the joys and challenges of parsonage life.

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Unrealistic Expectations PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tom Barnard   

By Tom Barnard

I can’t remember the make or model of the car. It was nondescript. But the bumper sticker on the back of the car was anything but nondescript. The words made me laugh so hard I nearly caused an accident. Here was the message printed on the bumper sticker: Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed!

Can you relate to that? Have you ever wished for the end of deadlines? Have you ever felt like you had just about reached the point where you could begin to enjoy the view from the wall where you have been sitting, only to be pushed to the ground below? Has anyone in a position of trust publicly challenged your leadership immediately following (or prior to) a board meeting? It’s one thing to suffer a fall in popularity; it’s something else to be pushed over the edge by something—or someone.

Some years ago I conducted an unscientific survey among a group of professional ministers. The subject of the survey was stress. To the question, “What do you feel are the major factors which lead to stress in the ministry?” the most frequently listed response was, “Unrealistic expectations.” It was far and away the leading cause of stress for those who responded to the survey and was the answer that seemed to apply to everyone.

Dr. Archibald Hart, Fuller Seminary’s leading voice in identifying and healing people helpers, states: “Pastors tend to get overly involved emotionally. They tend to overextend themselves and then feel overwhelmed by the emotional demands imposed by others.”

The state of feeling overwhelmed by emotional demands imposed by others is called stress. Hans Selye, identified by Hart as the “father of stress research,” has defined stress as the “nonspecific response of the body to any demand.” He acknowledges that stress can be good (eustress) and bad (distress). Both make demands on certain parts of the body and tend to separate a person from normal resting equilibrium. Hart says, “Too much of either type can work havoc in your body.” Perhaps that is why experts define distress as “hurry sickness.”

How can stress be reduced? Christian psychologist David G. Congo suggests the following steps:

  • Gain a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Read widely and seek counseling help if necessary.
  • Surround yourself with a team of people who can assist you and carry the baton. You can’t do everything by yourself. Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 and refer to it frequently. Memorize and practice it.
  • Gain a clear sense of your purpose and priorities. Plan the direction you feel God is leading. You do this through strategic planning in your work assignment. Apply it to your personal life as well.
  • Be assertive in resolving interpersonal conflicts and differences. Take the lead in this. Don’t wait for someone else to take the initiative in healing a broken or damaged relationship.
  • Take time to relax and schedule recreational activities. Replace tiredness with renewed energy. Discover what relaxes you and schedule those activities regularly.
  • Structure changes in your environment to relieve the stress. Take action or adjust. If this does not resolve your situation, relocate. As someone said, “Either fight or take flight.” One is not necessarily better than the other.
  • Cultivate a relationship with other professional people in your field. Trust is more important here than counseling competency. Everyone needs a friend “who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
  • Trust God to do for you what you may not be able to do for yourself alone. Remember what St. Paul said: “God, who calls you, is faithful; he will do this.” (1 Thess. 5:24 NLT).

Adapted from “Tuesday Morning” for January 27, 2008. To subscribe to this free publication, send your name and email address to Dr. Tom Barnard at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Back copies may be read at two web sites: and


A note to Pastors' husbands –  

We welcome pastors’ husbands to visit this page and to provide insights into the needs and challenges you face. Let us know how we can minister to you and assist as you fulfill your supportive roles. Send your comments and suggestions to us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Until then, we welcome you to join the discussions and provide resources on this site...Read More

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Each weekday, Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries International (SDMI) meet for prayer. All requests will be presented to the staff, except those identified as confidential. We’ll pray for you, asking God to work and to extend grace and mercy...Read More

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