Category Archives: Identity
Last week, the pastor asked my husband and me to meet with him in his office. He started by telling us that there are a few people who are unhappy with the youth ministry and he named some areas that he feels need improvement. He told us that we need to be more consistent or my husband may be facing a formal reprimand from the personnel committee. My question is this: What do I have to do with this meeting? The church doesn’t pay me as an employee. I felt like I was a little kid being called in to the principal’s office! I was so stunned by the whole experience. I didn’t know what to say at the time, but the more I think about it the more offended and hurt I am. I’m not sure what to do at this point. Do you have any advice?
Dear Slapped Hands,
Girl, you know I have advice!
#1) I agree. What do you have to do with this meeting?! Why were you called in to it if you are not employed by the church?
Sounds to me like someone has some boundary issues. Either the pastor has made an assumption that he is getting “2 for the price of 1” or the lines have been blurred as to who is in charge of the youth ministry. In either case, these boundaries need to be clearly defined for you and for your pastor. You and your husband should honestly evaluate how big of a role you are taking in the youth ministry leadership. Have you been taking on responsibilities that go beyond being a volunteer in the youth ministry? Are you doing things for your husband that is really a part of his job? Is there any way that you have projected an image that you are sharing job responsibilities or did the pastor overstep by calling you in to his office?
#2) Where is your husband in all of this?
It’s up to him to protect you from these kinds of confrontations. If he didn’t do it during the meeting, he absolutely should now go to the pastor and make it very clear that you do not work for the church. It doesn’t matter how the boundaries have been blurred or not blurred, there is no circumstance where a spouse should be evaluated, criticized, or chastised by the church leadership for the pastor’s job performance.
#3) Be cautious how you proceed now and in future churches.
It seems like things are getting sticky in your current church. Since your husband’s ministry is being called into question, you may want to take a few steps back until things cool down so that you don’t get caught in the crossfire. In the future, you and your husband will want to make it clear to potential churches that you are a volunteer, not a part of a package deal. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be an integral part of what is happening in the youth ministry, but it does give you and your husband the freedom to remind pastors and parishioners that your service to the church is volunteer and should be treated as such.
Now some salve for that sting…I’m so sorry that you have been hurt. I promise, the sting only lasts for a little while and then the redness will start to fade away. Praying this hurt heals quickly.
My husband is a full-time paid youth pastor. At every family gathering, we hear the same question, “When is Mike getting a ‘real job’?” How can we make the family understand that this IS a REAL JOB?! Urrrgh! I’m taking someone down if I hear it one more time!
Hittin’ Below the Belt
Dear Hittin’ Below the Belt,
Repeat after me…Serenity now…Serenity now! 🙂 Put away your boxing gloves for a minute and consider something with me. When you were on the other side of the pew as a church member only, what did you think the staff did for work? Did you imagine that they worked more than a couple of days a week? Did anything about the staff EVER cross your mind at all unless they were in front of you during church? The reality is this: unless you grew up in a ministry family, you don’t have any idea how much time, energy, effort, or pizza goes into youth ministry! You don’t know about the midnight crisis phone calls from parents. You would think it was a joke if someone told you that they were “working” while on Facebook. Taking 40 teenagers to an amusement park looks like the easiest way in the world to make a living! It’s on the other side of that church bus key where you discover what it really means to WORK in youth ministry. Give your family a break. Take some hits on the chin for Jesus. The reward for your work is coming from Him anyway and He knows from personal experience how demanding full-time ministry can be.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Colossians 3:23-24
I am a very opinionated person and I’m not afraid to speak my mind. Can someone be too mouthy to be a pastor’s spouse?
Dear Big Mouth,
Good News-there’s no mold; God calls all kinds of people to be pastor’s spouses…even the mouthy ones! I don’t think that you have to go through a personality lobotomy to be a ministry spouse. God uses all that we are for His glory.
However, having said that, I do think that it is important for ministry spouses to consider that they have a much bigger influence and responsibility than the normal person in church. As a ministry spouse, your opinions not only represent you but can be mistakenly assumed to be the opinions of your spouse, your spouse’s ministry, and/or the whole church staff!
Consider your audience when you give your opinion. Is this something that might influence their spiritual life negatively if I say it? “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Colossians 4:5-6
Use your mouthiness as a vehicle of grace. It’s an honor and a trust for God to give ministry spouses such a big of a sphere of influence. Be who you are. God chose YOU for this role, not some mousy, shy, fading flower. Trust that He knows what He’s doing.
For the last three years, the only thing people at church have called me is “brother John’s wife”. Seriously, I don’t think some of them even know my first name. There are days when I feel like I am losing my identity. I used to be a leader who was known for who I am as an individual. Since marrying a pastor, it’s like everything I do is judged in light of who he is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be John’s wife and I love serving God with him, but sometimes I feel like everything I am is getting lost in the bright light of his ministry. Will I ever just get to be ME again?
In The Shadow
Dear In The Shadow:
Being a ministry spouse does often force us to play a very submissive role in our church lives. I know that’s a hard place to be when you are used to being a leader. Having your spouse “on display” while you are noticed only for the role you play in your spouse’s ministry can minimize your identity as a person. But, I want to challenge you to think deeper about how much control you really have over your place in the shadows…
My question to you is this: Are you pursuing what God has called you to do or are you choosing to live in your husband’s shadow out of necessity or convenience?
Obligation to ministry is not good for you, your spouse, or the church. Be honest with yourself and explore whether or not you are perpetuating this identity loss by not seeking exactly what it is that God may be asking you to do. Are you fully using your spiritual gifts and talents in the church or are you doing just what is “expected” of you?
And here comes the hard part: It’s time to have a serious conversation with your husband. He needs to know how you are feeling and you both need to discuss how things are going to change so that you can truly express yourself as a person. This may mean simply taking up a hobby or participating in a class where no one knows who he is. It could mean volunteering in a different ministry area of the church than the one he administers.
It’s your choice to allow yourself to disappear. Start to redefine how you can express yourself as an individual in this ministry relationship. I feel confident that once you find that niche that you can call uniquely yours, people will start to know your first name again.