A trade brought Ben Zobrist to the Royals in the summer of 2015. He became a key part of the Royals Championship. Not only a good player. He was a devoted Christian, committed to the church. Loved his family. I hoped he would stay Royal, but he became a Cub the following season. Winning another championship (the Series MVP).
Then marriage problems developed. Which is not surprising – players travel for months on end. The startling part is that Zobrist left the Cubs mid-season, forfeiting 8million, to save the relationship. Only to uncover his was wife was having an affair with… their pastor. The pastor providing marriage counsel.
As a pastor this is more than frustrating. But not shocking. Time and again pastors prove to be the worst. I admit I am jaded. In high school our church’s pastor resigned after an affair. In two student ministry internships, one minister was having an affair, in the other it was the head pastor having an affair.
There are so many answers to the question why? Pastors on pedestals, empowered without accountability. Pastors without peers, lonely.
It could be argued that paid ministry positions will always be fraught with these dangers and temptations. But I think there is a solution easier than tearing down our current model (admittedly, I have a selfish desire to support my family!). And that is to establish an intentional pastor support group.
A group with eyes and hearts wide open. Empowered to ask the pastor accountability questions. To mandate retreats or sabbaticals (providing resources, getting recaps). To encourage the pastor to find professional counseling and to take away the shame of medication. This group would function separate from the personnel and yearly reviews. So it would not be about money, instead spiritual health. With hearts open wide, this group would love the pastor. With eyes open wide, this group would watch for warning signs.
There were many warning signs in the ministers I watched fail. One was searching for joy, another overwhelmed, another power hungry.** What if these early missteps had been noticed, then helped? Of course this would bless the pastor and his/her family. But it would also bless the church. The congregation would not experience the hurt of a failed leader. Even more, they would be more ably led. Not by one who was entitled, but by one who was healthy enough to serve.
I write this with a bit of hypocrisy… I know, typical pastor… because this idea is not implemented at Chandler. Only something I would like to experience.
** In high school the pastor set up a cigar tent in his back yard and bought a Harley. People thought it was cool, but it was really a mid-life crisis. More importantly, I was good friends with the pastor’s son. But the pastor never learned my name – when other’s parents wanted background checks before I hung out with their child. — The first internship, the minister was constantly late. Once he didn’t show up for an event and I had to wing a lesson. — The second internship, everyone in the office lived in fear of the head pastor. The fear was justified, as he soon fired the minister I interned under. Again, though on staff, the head pastor never learned my name.
Notice that two didn’t care to know my name, an involved, but powerless young person. This is always a red flag.