Resources for Pastor's Wives
Full time ministry is an honor and also comes with challenges. I wish I could invite each of you over for a chat around our table or into the quiet of my gardens to talk pastor's wife stuff.
In the 25 years I've been a pastor's wife, I've had great moments and epic failures.
My goal for this page is to "chat" with you and share some thoughts from
my own life. I'm here to encourage
you and help you avoid pits I fell into.
Here are some articles just for you with practical ideas, humor, and a little wisdom I picked up in the trenches of ministry.
You are so dearly loved by the Father. He wants you to thrive where he's planted you. Let me help you a little with that.
Hectic to Rested
Hope for the Weary Pastor's Wife
Are you tired much of the time?
Does it seem like your church life uses you up?
Are you married to a ministry workaholic?
How do ministry families authentically rest? Since Sunday is a workday, where are our rest stops during the week? Honestly, some of the worst workaholics I’ve met are pastors. My husband, Ken, and I served under one lead pastor who didn’t believe in days off at all. Yikes.
God established rest as a kingdom principle for all his children, including people in ministry.
A great temptation for pastors and their families is to work themselves to a frazzle because the work is never done. The needs are unending. Still, God wants us to live in his rest and model that for our congregations. May I encourage you to consider again, God’s ideas on rest? My hope is that by reminding yourself of these scriptures, you will give yourself permission for regular, refreshing rest.
God introduced rest in Genesis 2.
Did God need to rest because creating wore him out? Nope. So why did he rest? Matthew Henry says in his commentary. “God did not rest as one weary, but as one well pleased.” God stepped back for a whole day and enjoyed what he created on the other six.
God rested after he restored order from chaos.
God transformed a world that was “formless, empty and dark." (Genesis 1:1) God calls pastors to speak into lives bombarded by the disorder that Satan constantly creates. In all we do, we create pathways for people to come away from the dysfunctional and sinful and live beautiful, light-filled, God-ordered lives, right? We can’t honestly teach or model what we don’t live out ourselves.
Man disrupted God’s original rest and order.
When God created Adam, he gave him enjoyable work to do. Before sin, work was joy. Genesis doesn’t talk about Adam and Eve specifically resting on the 7th day, but we can assume they did, because that is the pattern God set for Eden. I picture the three of them walking and talking together admiring all the gorgeous trees and plants, accompanied by various animals who joined the conversation. (Eve wasn’t at all surprised when the serpent spoke to her) When Adam and Eve sinned, the damage to the cycle of work, rest and fellowship with God was catastrophic.
Through Christ, we get to enjoy an Eden-like intimacy with God again. We get to partner with him in work that matters. Whether we are a pastor, chemical engineer, homemaker, waitress, doctor, health coach or third shift tool and die maker, our work as God’s children takes on a meaning different from unbelievers.
How we work and how we treat our coworkers can give people a glimpse of Eden, especially when we produce the luscious fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Even on Sundays and Wednesdays, our big work days, if those of us in leadership keep our focus on the audience of One instead of all the nuts and bolts of the ministry itself, we too can be refreshed.
God put rest in the ten commandments.
Rest was such a priority to God, he made it law for the Israelites. God is always trying to help his people recreate Eden-like experiences, finding beauty, rest, order, and joy in His presence all day, every day but especially on the Sabbath. As leaders of God’s flocks, rest MUST be a priority for pastors and their families. Weary shepherds will struggle to care for sheep, especially difficult ones.
Jesus sat down and rested at the right hand of God after his earthly ministry was completed.
In Hebrews 10 Paul does not say that Jesus stood next to God after his ascension. He sat down. Not only that, but a footstool was also prepared for him. Did he need to rest up after his earthly ministry? Nope. He followed God’s pattern of rest.
Jesus is now our Sabbath rest.
Jesus’ sacrifice perfectly fulfilled the law so we could rest from the work of trying to perfectly keep the law. In Hebrews 4 Paul warns us not to be like disobedient Israelites who were not allowed to enter the promised land. He invites us instead, to enter a lifestyle of rest through Jesus.
I encourage you to start to examine where your places of Sabbath rest are in your schedule and your husband’s schedule. Pastoral couples who do not honor this principle faithfully are prime candidates for burn-out, bitterness, marital infidelity, addictions, and a host of other troubles.
In part two of this series, available on this page, I’ll share my story of transitioning from hectic to rested.
Hectic to Rested
Confessions of a Former Workaholic
When did being a workaholic get upgraded to a virtue in the church?
I don't know either. I do know that it isn't God’s pattern. If God was a workaholic, he wouldn't have rested on the 7th day. If you haven’t already, please read Part One of this series. It’s a little longer than this article but it’s a good reminder of some of the foundational verses concerning rest and work. Wish I’d walked out those verses in my younger years. Some of you sweet sisters are involved with and in charge of waaaaaaaaay too many things.
That has to stop.
Chronic exhaustion used to be my default setting. I didn’t know how to live in the rest and peace of God (Hebrews 4). I’d go, go, go, until I collapsed with a flu, cold or extreme fatigue. I didn’t understand God’s principles of rest at all. Never even heard the idea till I was in my forties. How sad is that? I don’t want you to waste any more years living that way or anything that looks like it.
Simplifying an over-committed life is not easy. Everyone will not support your decisions. Remember though, God is on your side. If you share your heart with your spouse, I believe they will be too. I know my husband, Ken, was thrilled when I got off the work-collapse-work-collapse merry go round.
First, I needed to step out in faith and ask God to help me believe and walk out truth that was new to me.
I believed that God did not want me to live in exhaustion anymore. Jesus did not live that way. It made sense to me that God didn’t want for any of his children to be hamsters continuously spinning their wheels.
By faith, I laid all my ministries and dreams before God and opened my hands. I invited him to put in and take out of my life whatever he desired. I literally laid on the floor with my hands up, crying out to Him.
By faith, I listened to Father for specific directions about which of my responsibilities and commitments needed to change. Some needed to go away completely. Restorative activities needed to be in my schedule weekly. I seriously did not have a single restful hobby until I was in my forties. Everything I did in my free time, I managed to turn into work that drained me, instead of refreshing me.
By faith, I obeyed what I heard God say and started stepping down and back from some ministries and roles. I did this in a proper way, agreeing to stay put for a specified amount of time until my replacement was found.
By God's grace, I endured the disappointment, and anger of people from whom I pulled back. I kept treating them kindly. To them, it all felt so personal. “Why is she stepping away from MY committee, MY cause, etc.” Lots of tears and hurt feelings during this stage. Seriously, don't be a diva during this stage making it all about YOUR rest and YOUR needs. None of them forced you to over commit but they are now paying a price because you did.
I trusted God to change my thinking and lifestyle patterns. I knew I couldn’t do it. Developing habits of rest and refreshment was like learning a new language. I knew I would fail if I tried to just power through and would turn that into work like I did everything else. I promise, if you open yourself like this to God he will lead and teach you just like he did me.
I learned to listen better to God before I said “Yes,” to anything. Now, I never enter something new without taking at least a night, often longer, to pray, listen to God, and talk to my husband. Sometimes great opportunities simply aren’t YOUR things to do right now in God’s overall plan. Good things and God things are different.
People who loved me for me, not the work I could do, never stopped supporting me, even though some of them were disappointed not to work alongside me anymore.
God will also use a season of simplifying as a filter for people
who only valued your production value.
I pray this helps you sweet ones who know you’ve got to make a change but dread the process. I won’t kid ya, parts of it were a hot mess, but it was worth it. My family bore the brunt of me giving all my best energies to ministries, volunteer work and even friendships. I didn’t often have much left for the people in my house.
It’s so worth it to establish patterns that mimic Christ’s work and rest flow. Your family and husband will be so blessed to have a more peaceful mom and wife.
Hectic to Rested
How to Share the Work with Others Like Jesus Did
One of the biggest traps pastoral couples fall into is
trying to keep their fingers in every pot in their church, so that things are done “right.”
This is tempting! Some multi-staff churches do this by insisting that a pastor be in charge of every ministry, committee, event, etc. Ken, my husband, and I both struggled with micro-managing volunteers. in our early years. We wanted everything about a church to show off God and his kingdom in the best ways possible. Not a bad goal, except when pastors and spouses take on the lion’s share of achieving it.
The fruit of micro-managing is worry.
You’re stressed about how your church will look if a volunteer screws something up.
You’re stressed about turning off lost people or visitors.
Worst of all, pride often stalks micromanagers.
Micromanagers become fearful of how their church reflects on them.
This is especially true if you are the only pastor or the lead pastor. All bucks stop at your desk and it’s hard when they are bad bucks because of a poorly trained volunteer or one with a sinful attitude.
Jesus never micro-managed.
He created space for his disciples to learn, make mistakes and grow. He corrected them when they missed the mark.
We MUST do the same. Discipling our church members is more important than our church programs and worship services being great.
So, let me share a process we learned from several teachers, about how to share leadership and responsibility with your people.
So they can grow in Christ.
So they can experience the joy of serving freely without you looking over their shoulder.
So you can stop doing so much and rest more.
This method takes time. That’s why many don’t use it. They live with a false tape playing in their head that keeps saying, “Oh, it’s just easier to do it myself.” In the short run that is entirely true. Jesus would have been way more efficient without the disciples. But efficiency wasn’t the goal. Love and relationship were his priorities. If you treat volunteers like Jesus treated his, you will grow passionate, committed servant leaders. Leaders who are confident and creative. Here’s the steps.
I do it and you watch. Keep your eye out for people who can replace you in things you are currently doing and ask them to join you. As pastoral teams, our goal is to equip the body of Christ, not do everything for them. I’ll use my husband’s former church security team as an example. Once Ken found someone with the right gifts and skill sets for the team, he invited that individual to follow him around for several Sundays.
We do it together. In this step the potential security team trainee got his own walkie talkie and began to actively participate in the duties of the team. He still remained with Ken or another experienced team member for several more weeks. He also needed to start attending regular training sessions with the rest of the team.
You do it and I watch. At this point, Ken would allow the new security team member to travel on their own and have some lower-level responsibilities. Everyone else on the team listened to them and watched them. Ken watched them from a distance or in the security suite on the video monitors.
You do it on your own. If the trainee handled themselves well in all the above steps, they were allowed greater, more sensitive duties, for example in a nursery area, or as a floor manger. They were not actively monitored by anyone anymore.
This can be a slow process and many pastors and leaders jump ship out of frustration when volunteers screw up. It’s so easy to revert to micromanaging. Remember when James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven on people who didn’t treat Jesus right? Volunteers will mess up sometimes. You deal with it. You don’t micromanage them.
Please don’t stress about volunteers. Take your concerns to God in prayer. Why? Because you’re obeying Christ by discipling and training people up in his ways. Even when they mess up, he will care for you and help you untangle messes. We need to stop worrying about our reputation and our church’s reputation and instead do the work of training up volunteers that we can trust to represent Christ.
Some people are happy to be unthinking, dutiful sheep but is that really what you want? Don’t you want people to grow up in their God-given gifts? Sure, Jesus’s disciples were a hot mess a lot of the time when he was here on earth but look what happened after Jesus returned to heaven. Those guys turned the world upside down. If something happened to remove you from over the top of your volunteers and ministries would everything collapse, or would things grow?
If your absence from a ministry means certain doom, you are not discipling your volunteers, you are micro-managing. Stop it. This is not what you are called to do.
Did you ever consider the idea that by insisting on having your hand in too many places you aren’t able to do the things God designed for you to do really well?
Jesus knew what his calling was and understood his mission with his disciples. Together they changed the world. How about you and your volunteers?
Finding the Courage to Stay Put
Staying Planted When You Want to Run Away
Are you and your spouse secretly fantasizing
about leaving your current church and
Come on, it’s just you and me here. You might be surprised to know that many people in full time ministry dream of greener pastures in other churches. This was a favorite hobby of mine on rough ministry days.
Here’s the problem people in ministry discover when they leave a church before it’s God’s time for them to go. When you’re outside a church looking in, all you see are the beautiful green pastures that are filled with crops of healthy ministry. All kinds of programs to feed the happy, contented congregational flock who are grazing and working in that church.
Once you are inside that new pasture, on the working end, you find out there's just as much sheep manure as there was in your last field.
Church hopping is not just a problem with laypeople, it’s a problem with pastors too. In one church where my husband, Ken and I served, in over a hundred years, only one pastor before us stayed longer than three years. Mature congregations are not produced by that kind of ever-changing leadership.
Healthy congregations grow naturally when pastors and their spouses put tent stakes down deep to whatever place God has called them and do not pull them up until God says so.
Hey, I’m not judging anyone. Years of my ministry passed before I had a handle on this and started getting some inspiration and courage from Moses and Nehemiah. Ken and I also hung out with some local pastors who had been in their churches for decades. We picked their brains and listened when they shared their successes and failures with us.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned from watching churches and pastors for many years. Satan is always trying to ruin pastors and their ministries and will use any means he can. Much of the time, he uses strife and division within a church to wear a pastor down. Sometimes it’s financial hardship or membership numbers that refuse to climb.
Much of the time it’s the exhaustion that comes from wearing so many different hats, working long hours and struggling to maintain quality days off and vacations. Unfortunately, deaths and tragedies do not respect vacation plans.
Whatever it might be that’s causing you to dream about how much better it would be in a new place, I’ve been there. Ken and I struggled with everything in the above list plus other challenges like chronic and serious illness and treachery and betrayal from within a pastoral staff.
Please don’t let Satan drive you out of your current assignment. Wait for God to lead you out in his perfect time and way to just the right place.
For specific ideas on courage in ministry and how to stand firm when your emotions are telling you to run away, check out part two of this series, “The Courage to Stay Put- Part Two- Practical Help,” on this page.
Finding the Courage to Stay Put
Practical Ideas that Work
So you’ve been daydreaming about leaving your church and finding a new ministry position?
Please read the first part of this series for some encouragement. I’ve been there and I truly understand. If you’re ready to armor up (Ephesians 6: 10-18) and stand and fight for the vision God gave you for your place, then this article is for you. This is just some stuff Ken, and I learned the hard way that might help you.
God is always doing something new. He wants to work through you. For God to do something new, Satan will be forced to give up territory where he has had power and influence. Working with God to redeem and take back things that Satan has stolen or destroyed (souls, churches, cities, and countries) will put you under heavy enemy fire.
Reread the front end of the book of Nehemiah for encouragement. It's a great example of strong leadership and courage amidst opposition. Like Nehemiah and Ken and I, and thousands of other pastors, you might experience some pretty demonic, hateful behavior. Don’t be surprised by it or take it personally.
Don’t Work Harder. Work Smarter
For believers, this means spending MORE time with God before you increase your time spent in ministry. He will give you strategies and insights that will make your hours far more effective and profitable. “
God’s plans and visions are better than your imagination.
Don’t quit on something when it doesn’t seem to be going the way you imagined it would. God is not bound by your ideas. “
Don’t run from division and strife.
Meet it head on and deal with it Biblically.
Key verses: Titus 1:10-11 and 15-16, Titus 3:10, Matthew 18:15-20,
Too many churches, families and organizations are held hostage by divisive people. In churches they criticize the leadership, often making the pastors their biggest targets. Sometimes they frame what they say in spiritual gobbledygook that makes them sound like the voice of reason and spiritual maturity. Other times they are straight up goofballs that are loose cannons in your congregation. Either way, they must be dealt with scripturally, not placated or ignored.
God has chosen you and your spouse to serve in that church, even though he used humans to bring you there. You are HIS under shepherd, and he expects you to handle your part of the flock as he himself would. The verses above are only a few concerning church discipline. In short:
Gossip, division, immorality and rebellion must be dealt with swiftly. These sins cause serious damage when left unchecked. Sometimes irreparable damage. So use whatever church structure you have in place whether it’s through your board of elders or deacons or through your pastoral staff and invite the offender in for a meeting to discuss their concerns. Your goal is not to “set them straight” but to turn an adversary into an advocate, if possible. It’s not always possible but you need to try.
Do not verbally assault your difficult person ever. Speak truth with grace as Jesus did. Lovingly confront them about their sinful talk and behavior with a witness, never by yourself. Go in with an understanding that often ugly behavior has its roots in their private lives and pains. Ask them why? Where is this behavior coming from? Is there something you’ve done to offend them for which you need to apologize and ask forgiveness? Why do they think what you are doing or saying as the pastor is wrong? You may be at fault here also. Own your part even if it’s just 3% of the greater problem. OWN IT!
If they are involved in immoral behavior, they must repent. They must also seek reconciliation with all those damaged by it.
People will not always turn from sin. They may refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing at all. Sadly, at this point, you will need to invite them to seek a church fellowship elsewhere where they can respect the leadership and submit to them. This sounds harsh but that is what scripture teaches. They cannot remain as part of your congregation. If they cannot respect your leadership, they need to go somewhere where they can.
This is a very brief overview of church discipline. I’ll be writing a more detailed article in the future, but the point remains the same; you cannot allow sinful behavior to chase you away from your calling. Stand and fight until God leads you elsewhere.
Pastors who stay put for decades are usually courageous and more conscious of pleasing God rather than pleasing people.
They have learned that people are people wherever you go. Every church has its troubles no matter how successful and peaceful they make look from the outside.
Also remember that God will use the challenges and difficult people of your church to shape YOU! Some of the most profound changes in my character and behavior came through the most painful experiences of people coming against me.
I promise that if you run away, like Jonah did, it will not go well for you either. Enjoy the other articles on this page that can help you thrive even in the most challenging circumstances. If God did it for me, he will do it for you!