I have read quite a few articles in the past year about how churches can better treat their pastor wives. I am going to turn it around and share with you how pastor wives can better treat their church. I know, I might take some flack for that one. The truth is if we wallow in self pity about how hard ministry is, how we are Sunday morning single moms, and how we can’t be friends with anyone in the church–we can’t serve effectively. We will sink. Sometimes we have to look outside of the walls of our church and look deeper within ourselves.
1) Just because you tackle it alone Sunday mornings, please don’t think of yourself as a single mom. I know how it is. Baths, showers, finding clothes, socks, shoes, breaking up sibling rivalry–there have been times I have showed up to Sunday School emotionally exhausted. But we have a husband again when we return home again after church. Before thinking of yourself as a single mom, remember the single moms who are going at it alone every single day…not just Sunday mornings.
2) Don’t always expect people to pursue a friendship with you. Sometimes you need to make the first move. Have people over for pizza. Invite ladies to a movie. Meet at a park with your kids. Friendships sometimes takes some patience and some effort. Yes you will have seasons of loneliness, but some of your dearest friends can be sitting in the pew next to you. You might just need to work at it.
3) Venting might not always be the right way to handle your frustration. Ministry is tough and working with people can be messy. If you are struggling, where are you sharing your frustrations? Are you seeking the Lord? Is it burdening your husband too much to talk about it? Do you have a trusted friend? Do you know of a good counselor. While the Internet has its place, I have honestly found prayer, counseling, and sharing things with my husband and/or one dear friend the most helpful.
4) Remember the impression you are making on new pastor wives. Soon after my husband graduated seminary and we were officially a pastor’s family, I attended a pastor’s spouse conference. I was surrounded by some newbies, but also some seasoned PWs. One thing I learned very quickly was there was lots of frustration, depression, and strong anger towards the church. Had I not grown up as a PK and knew somewhat was I was getting into, I might have been anxious about my new role. New PWs needs lot of encouragement. Be careful what you say around them and the impression you are leaving on them. Watch this especially at conferences, facebook groups, forums and other churches etc.
5) Don’t be afraid to listen to other sermons or attend a Bible Study outside of your church. Don’t feel guilty about it. Except for two short years, my pastor has always been my dad, my supervisor, or my husband. Yes, there are some things about that situation that are absolutely wonderful. But I do enjoy listening to other pastors and once in awhile attending a different church.
6) If you are getting fired up, take a step back. Some of my most difficult times in ministry as a youth director and pastor’s wife are when I get upset about what I am not getting, what others are not doing for me, and how everything seems to be against me. This is a terrible way to serve especially if you constantly feel like a victim. Think about out what you need. More volunteers? More money? Better space? More time? Maybe a break? If you ask for what you need in a diplomatic way, you’d be surprised how people respond. If your need is not met, maybe it is time to take a step back.
7) You aren’t the glue that holds the church together. Many of the comings and goings of church members are totally out of your control. It’s hard to see people go. It’s even harder to not take it personally when there was some kind of conflict that involved your husband, or worse yet…you. Make amends, apologize, forgive…do what you need to do. And know that people will ALWAYS leave and knowing you can’t really control it is the first step.
8) When your husband takes a vacation, take a vacation from church projects too. I would recommend attending a different church that Sunday too.
9) Know you aren’t much different from other women. Sometimes we think we have it so hard because we’re pastor wives. Don’t forget about military wives, doctor’s wives, or small business owner’s wives. And your husband is not the only one who works on Sundays.
10) Most people don’t mean to offend you. Sometimes they just don’t know better. The older generation might have a different view of the pastor wife and her role versus the younger generation. It also may vary culture to culture. While comments or criticism hurts, take it with a grain of salt.
11) Remember the joys and write them down. Unfortunately so many pastor wives discussions are problems. Think of the joys and keep “a joy journal.” Maybe it’s something simple like a smiling baby in the nursery or a choir singing at Easter or the chance to pray with someone in need.
12) Parsonages are not all bad. Everyone regardless of what home they live in deals with repairs and updating. Sometimes pastor families have the advantage of someone else taking care of the problem for you. Every church handles their parsonage a little bit different…some better than others. Don’t forget to show love to your Buildings and Grounds people–make them cookies at Christmas.
13) Maybe the problem is deeper. Are you dealing with anxiety or depression? Marital issues? Maybe your struggles in the ministry is a symptom and not the underlining cause. Counseling can help tremendously with that. Maybe you don’t know why certain things trigger anger or depression–maybe you can figure out why.
What it all comes down to is we have to have humble hearts if we are going to wade through the trenches of ministry.