Do People in Ministry Have to Hide or Retire to Have Fun?

by | Mar 26, 2024

I wrestled with the title of this post. I thought perhaps the title should be, “Do People in Ministry Have to Hide or Wait to Retire to Be Themselves?”

At times the pull to suppress yourself or at least tweak yourself slightly to survive and thrive in the ministry gets intense. People don’t understand the weight of that unless and until they experience it.

I don’t want to do anything sinful. But I do want to have good clean fun, and be open about it. I guess everyone’s perspective of good or clean varies, and in summary, I’ve discovered that everyone doesn’t agree on what fun is. I find myself in an ultra conservative environment, for the most part. And sometimes, in my opinion, it is to an unhealthy extent.

Our tribe gets spiritual results –.big ones. We get the kind of spiritual results many people only dream of. At the same time, we can be uptight. And, it wouldn’t be such a big deal if it weren’t killing us physically, emotionally and mentally, in some cases. It can be argued that  the spiritual results are worth the sacrifice of whatever we have to do to get them. I agree that spiritual results are more important than anything else but do we have to sacrifice fun to get them? Is this a necessity, or a way of life we falsely believe is a given for Christ-followers?

Must the playful side of us be hidden in order to last in leadership and ministry?

I’m don’t believe God requires this sacrifice.

Recently I listened to this podcast where Craig Groeschel interviewed Steven Furtick. Among many other insightful things, Furtick spoke of a leader’s playful side and how he personally uses play to create and succeed. As I listened, I thought to myself that many leaders don’t know how to embrace that part of themselves. Fun is pretty quickly beaten out of us when we begin in ministry, either through bad mentorship, or through criticism. We rapidly lose the playful side in order to be accepted and respected among the majority of our ranks.

I’ll Admit it, I’m jealous of Lindsay…

I look at my district women’s director friend Lindsay, who is one of the most successful and fun directors I know. She began her state-wide women’s conference in Arizona with thousands of women jumping up and down in the dark with glow sticks in their hands, singing a fun secular song that was popular at the time. The theme of the song was in celebration of a great night to come. The women were excited and rejoicing about what God was going to do at their conference. Women there are also being reached for Christ and transformed. I would have done the same conference opener as Lindsay, in fact I wanted to use her idea for an upcoming conference, and asked her for the details so we could pull it off. But, I decided that it wasn’t worth the backlash that I knew I would get from some. I thought of a few who I thought might walk out while it was happening. Additionally, I would have probably gotten some phone calls from pastors about it. I look wistfully at Lindsay and think, “Why can’t we do that? Why can’t we have that kind of fun?” Well, I guess we could, but I’d pay a price and is it really worth the stress? Is it really worth the emails and phone calls, and people deciding to not register the next year because of something so insignificant? I just let it go.

I get critical feedback when someone makes a joke from the pulpit  at our conference that is silly but not immoral in any regard, yet some key people find it irreverent. And, what people find irreverent is extremely subjective. And I ask myself…are Christian leaders really meant to carry this heavy weight of living according to what others find appropriate or not, on things that do not even borderline on immoral?

One of the Days I Melted Down

There have been a few times in my marriage that have caused a meltdown. One day when we were in our thirties, Larry told me he never planned on retiring from the pastorate, EVER. I was shocked, and instantly became depressed when he told me. I am not exaggerating that until we talked through this, I felt kind of hopeless. Getting stoked on work like I do, he didn’t understand why it made me so upset. He said, “I thought you’d always want us to keep working. You enjoy work.” We talked about it further, and I explained that I longed for at least ten years to be openly me without concerning myself with repercussions. While I knew this freedom might not come until my seventies, I was looking forward to that day. I know it sounds terrible, pining for your seventies when you’re in your thirties, but the longing to fully be oneself is a real one. We’ve had a lot of talks since then and arrived on some decisions about our future that I think we both can live with and be happy.

What is the Problem?

I noticed a friend of mine post her stack of books that she’s reading, to make others aware of the literature she’s currently consuming. People enjoyed reading her recommendations. I’d love to do this myself, but  I don’t show my stack of books. I’m brave enough to, but it’s not worth the fight. If I shared the stack of books on my nightstand, it would immediately create a controversy. Mind you, I’m not reading anything inappropriate. It’s just off the beaten path from what many conservative evangelicals would believe people should read.

My husband and I go to the movies. Friends of ours “check in” at the theater and share with everyone that they are there to see the latest greatest feature film. I often ask Larry not to check in or post. I see what happens to other ministers who do. They are criticized openly with, “I can’t believe a Christian, let alone a pastor, is going to see this movie!” It’s really not worth the aggravation. So we keep our movie watching as well as our Netflix binges private.I have nothing to be ashamed of, I just don’t want the hassle.

My family/friends and I go on cruises. We have a lot of clean fun, but it’s outside the lines of what many of my conservative friends and acquaintances would do. I let my family and friends know, “Don’t post this. What happens on the ship, stays on the ship.”

Spotify made a list of my top songs of most listened to, and asked me if I wanted to share it with my friends online. I chose not to. A lot of my friends shared their lists but I did not. I knew the backlash would not be worth it, although I would have loved to have joined in the fun of comparing lists.

Some may argue, “Is it too much to give up sharing stuff like this, for the Gospel’s sake?”

The Gospel is worth anything and everything.

But is this really “for the Gospel’s sake” or is it a decision made to accommodate some uptight people?

Is it a unrealistic expectation we have placed on ourselves or allowed to be placed upon us without pushing back?

Was this standard created by God?

It has been said of leadership that, “The higher up you go, the less rights you have.”

It is also said that, “you’ve got to give up to go up.”

I see the reality of this. It’s what a leader does to get along. You do it to survive, and especially to succeed. But,I wonder many times if we have placed unrealistic and unnecessary expectations on our leaders that God never intended? 

We hide some of our activities to avoid offending people, but what does God want?

When does a person go from endeavoring not to be a stumbling block, to being an approval addict?

Is this false standard of appropriateness responsible for cancer, heart attacks, a slew of stress-related diseases and untimely deaths? 

Isn’t it crazy to expect someone to hide their fun or who they really are and what they really do, for 65+ years?

Why don’t we talk about this more?

This is What You Can Do for Fun…

A couple in our previous church came to Christ and shortly thereafter made an appointment with my husband. One of the questions they asked him was this… “Pastor, when we were unbelievers and out in the world we did this, and this, and this, and this and this to have fun. We want to know…what can we do now?”

Larry said, “You can eat!”

The thing is, he was serious.

This explains why so many Christians including myself are overweight. It doesn’t make it right. I believe we need to honor God with our bodies. And I know there are changes I need to make. I’m just stating fact that it’s why a lot of us turn to food. Overeating is accepted by the church and those we lead. It’s the one pleasurable thing that most people even in the church have no issue with, even if people overindulge. So, we don’t get called out for it, most times. You can post your food photos and nobody says, “I can’t believe you’re doing that…you’re not only a Christian but a pastor and you are eating a triple hot fudge brownie sundae after the photo that you just posted of your humongous plate of fettuccine alfredo!” Nope, nope, nobody calls you out on that. They just say, “Yum! Recipe please?”

Questions I have…

Did God really intend for us to have to hide so much just to survive or to spare ourselves of unnecessary backlash and stress?

What if we felt the freedom to not only share our Spotify list but to dance to it out in the open, instead of eating our way to pleasure?

Is this one of the hidden reasons why people in the ministry love retirement so much?

Have we put a yoke of bondage on ourselves in leadership that we were never meant to live with?

Have we put a price tag on leadership that God had nothing to do with?

I have more questions than answers today.


  1. Evelyn washington

    Dr Shrodes I can appreciate this message because so many people struggles with this ,first of all I know you know this, you will never be able to please everyone no matter what you do, the one to please is the Lord, and if you are enjoying yourself having fun laughing with your family and friends who says that’s wrong, God has made us free,and you know what you can do and what you can’t do because of the Holy Spirit in you He will convict us, I love to dance and sing and when ever I get an opportunity I do that, I listen to secular music I’ve even went concerts I love Earth Wind &Fire I celebrate there talents and the words of some the songs is talking about our God, whatever I do I do as unto the Lord and am going to please Him and I don’t care about what anyone say I have to give and account of me, and believe me sister, some of the ones that will come against you they are the ones doing every and anything they want to, but yet want to judge you, I say this to you be you be free obey God and love yourself, live life to the fullest because the more you give the more people will take from you and they’ll be living there lives and you about half dead because they are sucking the life out of you, you are such a blessing to me i love your boldness, I love your heart for God’s people and you are truly a woman after God’s heart , i know you don’t want do anything to hurt or disappoint Him you love Him, and the real true saints of God understands this because they already know, so
    the ones that’s coming against you it’s the ones thats trying to find fault in you to clear their own conscience, I love you and I so appreciate ALl the hard work you do because it ain’t easy. Am not a good writer I hope you understand what is I was trying to say to you you might have to read between the line lol, be bless you and your whole team keep of the great work love you.

    • Dr. Deanna Shrodes

      I am a huge fan of Earth, Wind and Fire! They are on my playlist. I do totally understand what you are saying! I appreciate you weighing in here…it means a lot to me. You are loved!

  2. Melissa B.

    I’m not a leader of many, but I hope to one day get there.

    I hate to think that the price I have to pay to be who God has created me to be, requires me to be less of myself and more like someone else.

    I agree that there is a line or a limit to the “fun” one may want to enjoy, but if even good clean fun is looked down upon because you’re expected to be a saint, then count me out!!!!

    The judgement of others in an organization is not going to dictate who I am.

    Our job is to reach the unchurched and how are we going to do that all the way up there on our pedestal?

    • Dr. Deanna Shrodes

      I totally agree with you. Pedestal life is NOT for me!

  3. Laura Flora

    Deanna I totally Get it…

    I was spoken harshly to about watching the Twilight saga years ago and all
    I was thinking about is one I was not obsessed with the movies or actors like alot of people where, I just watched them one time and was done ….

    I do have things I will not watch as in Horror nope not ever but I do like a good mystery every once in awhile…

    My favorite movies are Disaster movies I don’t know why I just love them from twisters, to astroids, to earthquakes,
    I have seen so many of those movies, I’ve lost count, one I watched not to long ago Tampa FL was the first place destroyed by an asteroid LOL…

    For music I Love Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry and can listen to their songs all day but of course I don’t because I love Christian music more but you better believe I’ve got Flowers and Used to be Young from Miley and Firework and Roar from Katy on all of my Spotify playlist…

    And As you know
    I love to dance first and for most for Jesus, but I also like to dance for me so a few weeks back I posted a dance challenge to Beyonce’s new country song and
    I loved it , hay I want to go Line Dancing one day soooo …. anyways the first comment I got on that was from a Christian woman condemning me for dancing to that for supposedly she said Beyonce is a witch and I am completely in the wrong dancing to that song… needless to say I deleted that lady’s comment and She Blocked Me on Facebook and guess what I Did Not Care!
    everyone else that has commented on it has good things to say…..

    For Books I of course want to read mostly Christian but I am listing to one now that is not Christian it’s about a Adlerian theory philosopher who talks about The Courage To Be Disliked and I really like this book …

    So I get it,
    I really truly do…..

    • Dr. Deanna Shrodes

      People have a lot of dogmatic opinions about all of these things.

  4. Natalie

    Totally understand and can relate. I “hide” a lot due to condemnation from people.(Nothing sinful or unbiblical) I’ve gone through a lot of physical issues the past four years due to stress!
    We have had people get upset over us buying new clothes, going to restaurants, and going on a yearly cruise as our summer vacation. It’s absurd!


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