I’ve been dating a wonderful man for the last several months. He is currently in school and is training for ministry. We have casually spoken about marriage. I really think he is a great guy and I can see myself married to him, but I’m a little nervous about the whole ministry thing. I’ve read through some of your blogs and I don’t know if I can do this. I want to be with this guy, maybe for the rest of my life, but I’m not sure I want to be a Pastor’s wife. Am I just overreacting?
Miss Cold Feet
Dear Miss Cold Feet,
You are NOT overreacting. It is right for you to listen to that nervous inner voice telling you to pay attention and question your ability to live a ministry lifestyle. A lot of people ignore that voice because they think marrying the man is separate from marrying the ministry. It’s not. Ministry is a “calling” and people are not easily separated from a “calling”. If you get sick of church people and you beg him to become a plumber instead, it will never change what he believes God has asked him to do. If he gets fired from a church and decides he never wants to be in ministry again, it will not change what God has asked him to do. If he has truly been set apart for ministry, there’s nothing you or he can do to change God’s call on his life. It will affect every aspect of your marriage.
You need to seek God’s will for your life before you get any more involved with this man. Fast and pray. Have other people pray for you. There’s only one question that you need to be asking of the Lord at this time and it’s not, “Can I make it as a pastor’s wife?” You need to ask God, “What is my calling?” If God has called you to ministry, He will give you all you need to be a pastor’s wife. He will equip you and shape you into the woman He intends for you to be. He will give you a heart to sacrifice so that people can hear about Jesus.
You are fortunate that you still have a choice whether or not to marry this guy. Many women marry the man of their dreams and then years later find themselves shocked to learn that their husband wants to be a pastor. (But that’s a letter for another time.) You still have a choice. Choose wisely, Grasshopper. This is the rest of your life.
What’s your calling?
Study I Timothy 3 and Titus 2 for insight into the ministry lifestyle
Just got hired as a full-time youth pastor 8 months ago…it’s my first ministry position and it’s out of state. Also, just got married 2 months ago, so everything is still very new for my wife and me. On top of getting married and moving to a different state, she is also finishing up her bachelor’s degree in secondary education – she is student teaching full-time. Oh and there’s this whole new thing of what it means to be a youth pastor’s wife.
We absolutely love being married…it’s everything we dreamed it would be! However, my wife is having a hard time adjusting to this new life. We are in our early 20’s and like most churches there are very few people our age. We spend most of our free time with teenagers or people who could be our parents!
Our biggest struggle right now is we feel alone. We have no family within 5 hours of us and no real friends within 5 years of us. I hate thinking my job as a youth pastor is hurting the emotional health of my wife. I love teenagers and helping them grow in Christ, but I love my wife more – much more. Any advice for us at this unique stage of our lives would be awesome…thanks so much!
Yep, you have done it! You have just invited the woman that you love more than anything on earth into the front seat of the biggest, baddest roller coaster anyone has ever experienced. And not only do you have her in the front seat, but she’s not sure that the restraints are really locked in place. Coming out of the chute and riding up the hill was kind of fun and exciting. But at the precipice of the first plunge where you both can see the reality of how deep this coaster goes and how long, twisted, and harrowing your ride will be, you start to experience your first thoughts of regret. Yikes! Let me off!!
I’ve been riding that rail for a while now, and let me say to you that it’s going to be ok. Give yourselves some time to adjust. You have experienced enough change in the last few months to overwhelm anybody. Your sensitivity and concern about how your wife is adjusting to the ministry lifestyle is the first step to holding her hand and helping her feel secure during the ride. But also recognize that you can’t secure her in the cart by yourself no matter how strong you are. You can’t be your wife’s only source of support and friendship. If you are going to survive this ride, you both have to develop a support system to help hold you in place when the ministry lifestyle turns you upside down and corkscrews you through the twists and turns of life. I wish I could tell you that once you make it through the first plunge that everything is easy from then on, but, you know roller coasters, on the good ones the ride is usually exciting and unexpected from start to finish. The ministry lifestyle is the same way. Every stage of life will be filled with these kinds of loop de loops.
Below, I have a few questions for you to answer. I hope that they will not only help you to find a support system no matter where you go in ministry, but also help you to figure out how to embrace your wife on the roller coaster ride of your new life together. And if you both can figure out how to hold on tight at the beginning, you might just enjoy this exhilarating and terrifying, heart-stopping, spectacular ride that we call ministry.
- Do you have a group of friends from before marriage and moving that you can connect with via Skype on a regular basis?
- Do you have friends or mentors from your former church families that you can call up when you need to hear a familiar voice?
- Are there any other YP’s in your area that you could invite over for dinner?
- Have you considered befriending a YP from another denomination? (I bet some of them have wives that can relate to your situation!)
- Is there a YP association in your town, neighboring city, or state? (Have your wife check out www.leadingandlovingit.com for a virtual ministry spouse community. Take her to your next YP conference, and let her connect with other spouses. www.conference.youthministry.com has an excellent spouse tract that also continues to meet on FB –“Married to a Youth Pastor-Wives Connect Group”. You can friend the FB group even if you haven’t attended the conference yet.)
- Is it worth one night a week of your busy schedule to join a Para-church Bible study where you can connect with others your age?
- Is there a hobby that you both can participate in that may connect you with other people your age?
- Have you too quickly disregarded the support and influence of the older friends that you have in your church?
- Have you connected with the other staff members and their spouses? Have you considered inviting them to do something social with you?
- Are you taking regular days off? Are your days off truly “black-out” days from church work?
- Are you giving your wife your leftovers or is she getting the same man that she met before you took the ministry position?
- Is ministry occupying every aspect of your life or do you and your wife have very definable boundaries where ministry is not allowed in? i.e. day off, vacations, regular private time together
- Have you ever discussed with your wife what she wants her “role” to be in ministry? Are you helping her to define God’s unique role and purpose in ministry or have you and/or the church been defining that role for her?
Do you ever want to disappear? Live off the “grid”? My kid said to me the other day that our family was “weird”. When I asked what he meant, he said, “you know, because of the ministry-thing”. I didn’t even know he was old enough to realize that our lifestyle was different from other people much less that he would attribute it to ministry! It made me want to call it quits and be like normal people. Go to church when I want to, not when I have to. Have one boss instead of a whole congregation full of people who think they can tell our family what to do and how to live. Choose where to live based on family connections or how good the schools are in the community not on how close we are to the church.
How easy normal people’s decisions must be…only thinking of what THEY WANT TO DO, not even considering “what does God want” and “where can I best be used”. I know that leaving it all behind is all a fleeting fantasy though because the truth is I’m committed. I couldn’t walk away from what I know God has called our family to do even in my weakest moments. God sacrificed so much for me, the least I can do is give Him my life. Even if it makes our whole family weird!
Dear Mrs. Oddball,
How my heart resonates with yours! And I’m embarrassed to say how often I have to remind myself not to “sit in the seat of scoffers” because their way is not God’s way. I blush to admit that I forget that my “reward is in heaven” and that I shouldn’t “lose heart” because the “momentary affliction” that I experience in this world is not as important as the things that God deems as “eternal”. Or even to confess to you how many highlighted passages I have in my Bible that refer to how God repays those who “secretly slanders his neighbor”.
Yes, I do sometimes share your fantasy of going dark, escaping my commitment to God, and living like “normal” people. Heck, I’d even take living like most Christians! But, just like you, God’s grace always calls me back to reality. And then I think, WHY would I ever WANT to be normal!! How boring that life must be. Never living on the edge of knowing whether or not God was going to perform a miracle in your life today, always knowing that you can do everything yourself without His divine intervention. Choosing your own path and missing the excitement and adventure of letting God lead your steps even though you don’t know where you will end up. Sacrificing every comfort for the sake of sharing Jesus’ grace with the world and being allowed to see God transform a life right before your eyes while you realize that God is using you as His creative tool in that life.
No, I’m not normal. I’m a part of a peculiar people, adopted as God’s chosen one and I’m not willing to deny my heritage for any house in a nice neighborhood with a husband whose job is always stable and affords me to shop at the mall twice a week. I’m gonna let people say what they want to about me and my family because I know that there is really only One person that I’m accountable to in the end. And He says that He handsomely rewards Oddballs.
I am spent and used up. I don’t think I have anything else to give these people. They have taken all that I have and then some. I’m worn out and I’m not sure how to recover from this. I love serving in ministry with my spouse, but this church and it’s people have been such a struggle that I just want to go home, lock the door, and never come out again. But then, on the other hand, I know that they desperately need the Jesus we have to offer them. I just don’t know where I am going to find the strength to give them what they need.
Dry and Parched
Dear Dry and Parched,
You have arrived! Now, you are in the perfect place to do REAL ministry. YOU are empty. YOU don’t have any more to give. YOU can’t do it anymore. Now, GOD can work in you and through you to accomplish His work. There’s nothing left of You to get in the way of His Will, His Love, and His ability to meet the needs of this stubborn and contentious people. God says: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
God’s given you a blessing by letting these people wear you out. It’s only in our ultimate weakness that God’s power is perfected in us. He wants to give you the strength to finish this task. I can hear in your words that even though you want to hide, you still are seeking the strength to love and lead in this ministry. I only know one place to go when I’m at my end. Words that I have shared with others a million times take on new meaning when I don’t have anything left in me to give. Go to God’s Word. Drink deeply from His well. It never runs dry and you will be refreshed. I’ve listed some familiar verses below for you to start meditating on today.
Also, don’t try to bear this burden alone. Seek out safe places to be real about the struggles you are facing. You need people who can pray you through this rough time in ministry. Your spouse needs to be one of them, but be careful that you don’t use your spouse as your only source of encouragement. Go to your support system. And if you don’t have one, now is a great time to start seeking one out.
God’s ready to unleash his power on you, through you, and to His people for His name’s sake. He chose you for this task and He will accomplish it. Thank goodness it’s not up to us! .You can do this because God can do this. And when His power is released, there is no complaining woman, power-hungry deacon, whiney teenager, fussy old lady, or exhausting senior pastor that can stand in His way!
Isaiah 40:31 Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
Matthew 11:28-29 Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Galatians 6:9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
Psalm 23:1-3 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
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 wife is on staff at a church. Any time she needs anything, I am there for her. I build sets, I haul stuff, I sponsor events, I even fill in when she needs a last minute volunteer to help with something on stage. I am very proud of her and I love being a part of what she is doing. How do I tell her that I need a break?
Dear #1 Volunteer,
When I read all that you do for your wife and her ministry, I’m almost sure I heard a collective “aaahhhh” from the ladies out there. Do you do dishes too?! What a blessing you are to your wife, her ministry, and your church!
However, no one can do it all, not even the perfect husband! It’s convenient and easy to ask our family members to be the “fill-in everythings” at church. It’s more difficult to ask a church member to make those sacrifices. But, in the long run, it will be better for you, your relationship, and her ministry for her to expand her volunteer base. At this point, you may not be able to just step out cold turkey. I suspect that she has become a little dependant on what you do for her. I would start by telling her that you need a break. Let her know that you love supporting her in ministry but you need to step back. Pick the one thing that you are most passionate about helping her with in ministry, and let her know that you will continue to do that one thing only. Make plans with her to take a total ministry break sometime in the near future. The break should have a definite starting time and ending time so that she knows you are not going to be gone forever! When you come back from break, you won’t need to be her #1 go-to-guy because she will have been forced to develop alternative solutions to her volunteer needs in your absence. This may be a little rocky to employ, but every minister wants their volunteers to be fresh and excited to be serving in the ministry. If you don’t step back now, you may begin to resent being the #1 Volunteer later. And that would be very disappointing for all the “aaahhhh” ladies who read this blog!
We have been in ministry for five years. For five years, my husband has been involved with the Christmas Eve service. Because of this, we don’t even start our holiday travel to see family until Christmas day. Everything is a big rush so that we can make it back to church for the next Sunday. This is the only time of year that I get to see my whole family. I love our church, but do I have to sacrifice my family every year at Christmas?
Missing Mom at Christmas
Dear Missing Mom,
In Matthew 10, Jesus talks about loving Him more than we love the members of our own family. I don’t think this means that we have to sacrifice everything for the annual Christmas Eve service! You need to draw a line. It’s ok to occasionally take a real vacation over the holidays. The congregation can lead more than they think they can. Give them the opportunity. If you have other pastors, let them rotate leadership for this one service a year. I think your congregation will understand. I bet not many of them have made it to all five of the last five years of Christmas Eve services. It’s good to retreat as a minister’s family. Take some time to step away and just be removed.
You didn’t mention where your husband stands on this issue. All of this goes for him too. Sometimes in our pastors’ zeal to serve, they forget to refresh and renew. When you are new in ministry, especially when you love your church, it’s really hard to step away for even a week to go visit family. Talk with your husband about your desire for some balance over the holidays. Even if he doesn’t miss your Mom as much as you do, he needs some Sabbath time as well!
What do you do when your spouse is on the staff of a church and you’re not happy with the children’s ministry? Our church averages about 250 people, is growing, and the children’s ministry is dying. The children’s minister has been with the church for a long time and is very set in her ways. There is very meager security in the nursery wing. Honestly, if I didn’t know the people in the nursery, I wouldn’t leave my children. Also, the children’s programs are dwindling in numbers and very poorly organized. I’m seriously considering taking my children to another church for weekday programs. Is that wrong? I am praying for the ministry, but I also want my children in a thriving program.
Dear Mama Bear,
When it comes to protecting the cubs, don’t ignore your instincts! Your first responsibility and ministry is to your children. If you feel uncomfortable with any issue in the children’s ministry, especially safety concerns, always protect your kids before you protect someone’s feelings. Now, having said that, know that you and your husband will face consequences for that decision. But let’s consider the sacrifice you’re making: kids vs. hurt feelings, kids vs. awkward silences, kids vs. questions from congregation, kids vs. questions from the pastor, kids vs. my husband’s job, kids vs. having to move. In my book, the kids win every time!
I really don’t think that taking your kids to another church for weekday programs will get your husband fired, but it might, so you have to be unified in whatever decision you make. This action will surely bring to light some of the issues in the children’s ministry. Be aware that you will probably influence other people to move their children as well. Protect your kids, but know that you will be disturbing the status quo and since no one has addressed the issue thus far, you are going to ruffle some feathers. There will be fall out and in that make sure that you “keep a clear conscience” by answering questions with “gentleness and respect”. (I Peter 3:16)
In all of this, Mama Bear, I can’t help but challenge you a little bit. I’m glad to hear that you are praying for the ministry, but I’m wondering how you are supporting the children’s minister. Could it be possible that because you see the issues in the children’s ministry that God might be asking you to address some of them? Is your children’s minister overwhelmed and in over her head? How long has it been since she has had encouragement and support? If this was your husband’s ministry that was failing, what would you need from the congregation? While I do think that it’s time for the teeth to come out concerning your kids, please don’t ignore that this minister may be facing some of the same obstacles in ministry that you deal with as a family. In your prayers, be open to God prompting you to act in ways that you aren’t expecting. Taking the kids out of the ministry may not be the only solution.
I just got out of the hospital after having surgery and I will be in recovery for 4-6 weeks. During my three day hospital stay, not one person from church called to see how I was doing. My husband is one of the pastors at church. None of the other staff pastors called either. We have three kids and don’t live near family. Soon, we won’t have any help at home. I’m worried about how my husband and I are going to manage during the recovery. DW, Why wouldn’t anyone call or offer to help? Who’s our pastor?
Wounded 2 Ways in Texas
My heart is breaking for you. I wish I could come over and help! Who knows why people do what they do but here are some thoughts on what might be going through people’s heads:
“I don’t want to bother her when she is sick.”
“I’m sure her family is there to help and I don’t want to intrude.”
“The pastors will take care of it.”
“What if she had ‘female’ surgery-I don’t want to make her feel uncomfortable.”
“I’m positive that someone has already organized meals for them.”
“I’ll call once I know she’s out of the hospital….oops, has it been that long!”
While service, outreach, and sacrifice probably come naturally for your family (you are in ministry), it’s just not the bent of most people to meet someone’s needs unless they are asked to do so. Should they have known that you needed help…YES! And I’m boggled by the inaction of your fellow pastors! I’m hurt and disappointed for you that the pastors at your church did not reach out to your family during this time. Pastors should be the first ones to respond when someone on their team is hurting and in need. Unfortunately, ministry families are seen as “able to handle it”. There is an assumption by other pastors that “they will understand how busy I am”. In the Good Samaritan story, it was the Priest and Pharisee who walked right past a battered and dying man lying in the road (I wonder if he was a pastor’s spouse).
Wounded, you have 2 ways to handle this hurt. You can carry it around with you and let it fester and infect everything you do in ministry for the rest of your service there OR you can prick it now and let the pain and infection drain out giving you the chance to heal by choosing forgiveness. We all miss it sometimes. People and pastors mess up. You know pastors aren’t perfect-you live with one! I urge you to choose grace in this situation. Holding on to this hurt will only lead you to bitterness.
And, ASK FOR HELP! Don’t assume that people will know you need it. You and your husband need to call, pester and do what you have to do to let people know that you need help. It may surprise you to see who responds and what bonds are formed within the church when the pastor’s family admits that they are human and in need.
My prayer is that healing in all ways comes quickly.
Why me? Why this? Why here?
Whiny in Washington
I don’t know. I can’t explain it. All of us get tired. The path is long and draining. Sometimes we don’t see our spouses for long periods of time and even when we do see them, we don’t connect like we should. The kids are unhappy. The church is dry. We seem to be being attacked from all sides. Questions start to pummel us: When will it be normal again? How much longer here? How do I catch the next train out of Crazyville?!
I used to indulge in these moments and wonder if we made a mistake. Is this the path you intended for us God? If so, then why is it so hard? In the midst of one of those moments, I ran across a little book called Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson. It revolutionized the way I thought about struggle and questions and God’s work in my life as a pastor’s spouse. I realized that difficult times aren’t always about taking the wrong path, they can be about patience, endurance, pruning, growing, and becoming all that God wants me to be. The path of struggle can also be a necessary part of the path towards fruit.
As a Christian, if I truly believe God’s word in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”, then I have to believe that all these “Whys” have a purpose. The whiny moments leave me with questions now but will ultimately lead me to a better relationship with God in the future. My only choice, and what I encourage you to do, is to abide in Him. In Jesus, there is comfort in the confusion, peace in the pandemonium, and a bulwark from the bombardment. In Him, you can make it through these “Whys”. Stop whining and start to abide. He is where you will find your answers.