Publisher: Grail Quest Books
Author: Rev. Christopher Thoma
Perhaps you do not recognize yourself doing it. Perhaps you do not acknowledge the effects. Perhaps you think you are alone, without hope.
Rev. Thoma’s Ten Ways to Kill a Pastor highlights various ways in which congregations, laypeople, other ministers, and friends can slowly, but surely, destroy their pastor, or any minister at a church. Thoma concisely and effectively illuminates how the people surrounding a minister can tear him and his family apart in ten short stories. These stories are not of any one pastor or congregation, but are “stories born from excruciating experience” that speak on a handful of ways a pastor can be destroyed. This book is brief enough to be read in an hour or so, but each story is as engaging and thought-provoking as the last.
This short book is not meant to condemn churches or their people, for as the foreword lays out, “no church calls a pastor with the desire or goal to destroy him and his family.” But the book also reminds the reader that a pastor, or minister as the case may be, is not God. Many times the people that surround the pastor lay on him and his family burdens, requests, expectations, and guilt that no person can handle, let alone for the entirety of their career. While this book does not condemn, it does seek to highlight in the layperson’s mind how they might be unintentionally tearing their minister down and how to instead work to build them up.
Additionally, this book seeks to remind ministers, and especially pastors, that they are not alone. They may not have learned these things in seminary and had no way to prepare for them, as the author notes. But Rev. Thoma reminds his fellow workers in Christ to keep in mind that God helps and comforts His servants in their time of need. Our father is always with us, including you, minister. This book was written by a pastor for pastors. It was also written for pastors wives and their families, for lay people, for those who are studying to become ministers in the church and their families.
Some of these stories are going to hit close to home for many readers, either as those who have done some of the “ways to kill” or have fallen into them. For those who have experienced some of these topics , this book may be an emotional read. But this book ends in hope, for we rely on the God of all comfort.
While I, as a minister’s wife, have experienced many of “ten ways” in my own life, none have struck me more than what is addressed in the first chapter. Between my husband’s six-month internship and our eight-ish months at his call, I have noticed a growing desire to want people to know my name. I have always been known as “so and so’s” daughter” or sister. Now I am the DCE’s wife who no one actually knows. So far, besides the couple of leadership people I met when he was first called, only one person has introduced themselves to me and asked me my name, to know who I was.
People also attack your days off, sometimes without thinking. “Seven days shall work be done and the seventh shall be the sabbath rest.” When is our day of rest? “Protect your day off” had been a phrase often heard lately, mostly after my husband went nearly a month without a day off (for the third time). “Rumblings” (code for gossip) also comes around from time to time. These are things my family has thus far experienced, and they are addressed among others in this pertinent book. This is not to complain but to perhaps show how often and how quickly churches and beat up on ministers and their families from a wife’s perspective.
Fear and loneliness are easy to fall into during these times. This is another reason Rev. Thoma wrote this Ten Ways to Kill a Pastor. For while these troubles are encountered frequently and widely, often ministers do not know it or do not know what to do. They feel alone. Thus, his concluding prayer is that God would sustain His workers and their families and for us to remember He who cares for us. And again, while this book is not a judgement, it does aid in bringing laypeople, and other ministers, to recognize the ways they may be tearing their ministers and their families down.
Whether you are a congregant, a minister, a wife, or a friend, I encourage you to read this book. My husband and I found it helped us recognize where to put boundaries in our lives and how to serve better. I am hopeful that it will be helpful for you as well. My prayer is that you will find ways to encourage and build up your minister and his family, or perhaps you will find hope and comfort through Rev. Thoma’s stories and in our Heavenly Father, who cares and comfort us even in times of trouble.
Blessings to you and yours,