A sweet young lady whom I have never met before, called and asked me to go to coffee.
She is a young pastor’s wife in the area, which makes her and I bonded by the sisterhood of ministry wives. Of course, I said yes to her invitation. As we lingered in a small cafe’, she relayed to me her season of life with two young children and a husband who works long hours as a youth pastor. She asked questions about balancing home and church, about her role in ministry, her husband’s demanding job, and the isolation that comes with being a mom of little ones.
My mind swirled back in time, familiar images and old feelings returning. I remember those days, for they were difficult. I read once in a clinical psychology textbook that the hardest positions (emotionally) within the church are lead pastor and youth pastor. No argument here. I won’t go into all of the details as to why, just know that I am sympathetic to the wives of those men. And if you happen to be in those positions and have young children, it can be downright overwhelming.
Yet now that I am beyond that season, I can look objectively at how well I did or didn’t handle it. By God’s grace, I did some things right. And grateful for God’s grace, there are some things that I wish I had done differently as an associate pastor’s wife.
1. I wish I would have sought to build a stronger relationship with our lead pastor and his wife.
For whatever reason, I held the common underlying assumption that the pastor and his wife should take the initiative in developing relationships amongst the staff. While this is absolutely true since they are the lead shepherds and set the tone for the organization, it is not to the exclusion of the responsibility of other staff members to love those they partner with, both those that are over them and those for whom they are responsible. Looking back, I should have invited the pastor and his wife over for dinner, asked the pastor’s wife to coffee to seek her counsel, and taken every opportunity to love on them. Relationship drives influence, and relationship is especially helpful in influencing up. Investing into relationship with our pastor and his wife would have grown our love for one another and strengthened our influence together in ministry.
2. I wish I would have been more creative in my problem solving, instead of getting lost in the struggle.
Hunkered down at home, waiting for my husband to get home from a late night youth event, feeling like a single mom as I got my babies ready for church, or being unable to participate in ministry activities that once brought me joy can make it hard to have a positive (or proper) outlook about the church. With emotions jumbled and survival mode in full gear, problem-solving capacity begins to dwindle.
But this life, this difficult life will not last forever, and there are things that can be done to alleviate the hard.
- A junior high girl makes the perfect mommy’s helper on a Sunday morning. She would love to work out the details with you over a warm cup of cocoa and receive special attention from you as she helps carry your children into church, or pick them up from the nursery, or watch them as you visit with the congregants.
- Lots of ministry can be done in your own home, at nap time or after the children’s bedtime: discipleship sessions, girl-time ice cream socials, note writing, phone calls. Ministry make look different than what you were used to, but it is still important ministry.
- Embracing the season may mean spending more time encouraging moms of other young ones instead of trying to keep up with a high schooler’s schedule.
- Designate one day a week as a technology free day, so that your husband doesn’t have to face “emergencies” on his day off.
- Entertaining doesn’t need to be a full sit down dinner, but can easily be coffee and scones, or pizza, or just a simple dessert.
- Date night can be putting the kids down at 7:00, eating take out laid out on a blanket in front of the fire.
We just need to get creative. Every problem has a solution if we will have eyes to see. I did some of this, but I wish I would have been more intentional about identifying the difficulties and seeking to take charge of them instead of allowing them to take charge of me.
3. I wish I would have pursued some type of counseling.
I don’t necessary mean the lay-on-a-fainting-couch kind of counseling, but simply that I would seek once a month the counsel of an older godly woman who was impartial to my ministry situation (i.e. outside of the church). It is important that a pastor’s wife know herself well, first of all, and counseling can help with that. (Counseling also give you helpful tools to help others who are hurting). Moreover, it is as equally important that a pastor’s wife have at least one safe person to talk to, someone she can share everything and anything with. It might be a professional counselor, or it may be another pastor’s wife, either retired or from another church. Being able to share situations and process them with someone else helps to give perspective and relieve the burden of ministry. (An important note here: I believe that this is to be done in conjunction with getting to know your own lead pastor’s wife, not to the exclusion of).
Although I wish I would have done some things differently, God’s perfect wisdom allowed me to experience the things I did in the way that I did. However, if I would have had an older ministry wife give me this type of counsel, I would have heeded it. I think.
I am thankful for my sweet new friend who is willing to learn and grow. And, I am thankful for all the associate pastor’s wives who live in partnership with us for the sake of the gospel. You all are a gift.
Your sister and advocate,
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