Katie Bell: Our pastors are real -- Here's what you don't see, from a lifelong pastor's daughter

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I have been a pastor’s daughter all my life. So many of my childhood memories involve my father, the church, and his ministry. One of my earliest memories is walking into my parent’s room one Sunday morning before church. As I walked into the doorway I saw my dad pacing back and forth, referencing his notes and preaching his sermon for the perfectly pressed suits in his closet.

When I was young I didn’t pay too much attention to his job, other than the fact that everyone knew my name and everyone wanted to shake dad’s hand after services. I was never bothered that we were always the first to arrive or the last to leave the building – I loved playing hide and seek in the pews and the nursery with my friends while my parents did their thing.

When I was in high school, my dad’s profession sometimes struck me as an inconvenience, when well-meaning church members gave me unsolicited advice about something I was wearing or a boy I was seeing. It wasn’t always fun to have to be at every church potluck or youth event, and I found myself annoyed when we were late to my favorite place for Sunday lunch because dad had been cornered after a service to talk with a member.

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As it can be at that age, I was in my own little world. I didn’t see the heavyweight he carried in his role. I loved hearing him preach and I was in awe of his ability to share the Gospel, but naively I assumed it was all very easy for him.

Now I’m older and maybe a little wiser, married to a pastor and seeing my father’s lifelong ministry in a brand new light. There was so much I didn’t realize or grasp about my father’s ministry until I grew up.

He’s been a minister for 40 years now and I think back on how he was done so much to be the hands and feet of Jesus. He has conducted countless weddings and funerals, prayed with widows, sat with families before surgeries and been the person to make the call no one should ever have to make after a terrible accident.

For 40 years, with the help of my wonderful mother, he has served others and answered God’s call on his life to be a fisher of men. He loves sharing God’s great love and I dare say he’s one of the best, but like most pastors, there is so much you don’t see.

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You don’t see the hours upon hours he spends studying.

You don’t see how he still gets "nervous sick" every Sunday morning, unable to eat breakfast, because he wants to speak the truth boldly and in love.

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You don’t see how he gives every bit of his energy teaching and preaching and greeting and counseling all day every Sunday so then he crashes hard that night at home.

Church, I’m here to challenge you today to take a few minutes and write your pastor a thank you note. Shoot them a text. Bake them your famous cookies. Buy them coffee. Shake their hand after services.

You don’t see the countless hospital visits made.

You don’t see the hours spent in the funeral home.

You don’t see him leaving his own family to rush to the hospital to comfort another family.

You don’t see the hours spent praying with members.

You don’t see the house calls made to talk with couples on the verge of divorce.

You don’t see the vacations missed and trips cut short because a church member was sick or even passed away.

You don’t see the weight he carries that extends far beyond Sunday service.

It’s hard to see sometimes but let’s all remember, our pastors are real. They are not immune to Satan’s attacks because of their title. They are flawed humans striving to be a little more like Jesus every day and to make this world a better place. They carry their own burdens and oftentimes, the burdens of so many.

They lose their tempers, they fly off the handle, and sometimes, they want to throw in the towel completely because sometimes, the weight feels too heavy.

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Words fail me when I think about the string of suicides involving high-profile pastors at large churches this year. While I don’t have a hard and fast solution, I do know that we as the church must do better. We need to do more to show our pastors we are here for them.

Church, I’m here to challenge you today to take a few minutes and write your pastor a thank you note. Shoot them a text. Bake them your famous cookies. Buy them coffee. Shake their hand after services. Pray for him and his family daily. Do something to say “thank you” and show them how much you appreciate them for the things you don’t see.