One of My Biggest Regrets

They’d never seen me mad before and it startled everyone in that church board meeting.  I’d raised my voice and threatened to quit, which I thought was quite restrained of me considering that I wanted to rip the tables and chairs out of my path to put my hands on the guy who had just spoken critically of my wife.

I later apologized for my anger but every week when I saw that guy in church, I had to resist the urge to grab him by the lapels, pin him to the wall, and express my feelings.

It was several years ago and my former wife and I have gone our separate ways. However, I still feel a bitter rage wash over me when I think of that moment.  To be fair, my anger is not from that one instance and it’s not just at that one person (although I hope never to see him again).

One of the biggest regrets I have is how much I expected my family to contribute to my professional ministry.  I made my kids come to the church activities and I pressed my spouse into service.  Whenever I went to interview for a new job, my family had to be interviewed too.

I was raised in a minister’s home and so I never thought it inappropriate for a church to have expectations of the preacher’s family.  But it was pointed out to me recently that no other organization can expect an employee’s family to participate in his or her profession.

A few of my churches treated my wife and children decently but most of the years were grim for the family, where they were used up with little recognition. I’m angry at myself for allowing it.  If I had it to do over, I would tell my family that I did not expect them to participate in any church activities—worship, classes, potlucks, VBS, etc—unless they wanted to.  And I would tell my church leadership not to expect anything of them.

To all my minister friends, I encourage you to do what I failed to do and protect your families. Release them from obligation to participate in your profession with you.


See David Mercer’s new website:


10 thoughts on “One of My Biggest Regrets

  1. I think you know we adored Kathy. I hope she knew it. I also hope the man was not one of our flock. It is still not uncommon to have people mention your positive affect on them and your beautiful sermons , not to mention your voice and music.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello David – I was very interested in your current comment, I don’t have children but there always seemed to be an expectation of my husband, from me as well, but I would add to your comment that on retirement there is also a problem, the expectation that the retired minister take up a “place” in the church, be available, maintain a strong preaching/pastoral ministry, act as minister when the in situ minister is not available ……. and the comments like “you don’t retire in the Lord” were thrown around, and that expectation isn’t just from within the “church on the ground” but from colleagues on high, using the “ordination is for life – thus ministry is”! My answer was/is always “if you worked for the local store and retired on Friday, would you rush back on Monday to take up the role again, with no pay, no contract, just the expectation that you would of course turn up………… but of course that’s different because it isn’t the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You speak for so many of us post-Christian former pastors who regret putting our families through all that. Thankfully, they were resilient. (Yours probably picked up quite a few very good things from you, David.)

    Liked by 1 person

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