Summer is coming to a close and fall is just around the bend. October is my favorite month of the year for many reasons (football anyone?) but one of them stands out for our family. If you are in ministry, chances are it is your favorite, too. Why? It is Pastor Appreciation Month! Luke and I consider ourselves supremely blessed to serve a congregation who takes this event to heart. Among the expressions of affection we’ve received are home-cooked meals and goodies brought to our house, gift cards for dinner out and home improvement, notes of encouragement, a gift certificate from my favorite hairdresser, and various treats for the kids.
All of these things are tokens of gratitude for our entire family and believe me, we have no doubt our congregation loves us. However, our hubbies need applause and inspiration the other eleven months of the year too.
Hold that thought as I share a question from Bethany. She asks:
“How can I be a better encouragement to my husband in his ministry? I know I was never meant to give him the guidance that only God can, but he gets down sometimes. I want to not only uplift his spirit in those down times, but to also spur him on to do his very best as God’s instrument.”
As the wife of a minister, one of our primary roles is to provide refreshment between October’s when the days can sometimes feel long and thankless. Here are seven practical ways you can give your husband an extra boost just when he needs it most:
1. E-Prayers/Text Prayers: It is a given we should pray for our husbands. But, consider what it would mean to him if he were able to read your petitions on his behalf! Send him regular texts or emails chronicling your prayers for him. If he doesn’t have a private e-mail address in his church office, set up a special account for him at a free email hosting site such as www.gmail.com. If your hubby is as tech savvy as mine, also be willing to teach him how to use it.
2. Plan a lunch date. Because Luke and I have four children, eating out is a Sunday-Lunch-Only event. However, now that all the kids are in school, we often meet during the day at a restaurant with a cheap lunch menu. Not only is it an inexpensive date, but we are able to give one another undivided attention as we catch up on what is going on in each other’s schedule.
3. Give full attention to his sermon prep. I don’t know about your husband, but mine is encouraged by my undistracted concentration during his sermon preparation. Each week he walks me through what he plans to preach on Sunday to organize his own thoughts and to ask for my input. I am guilty of listening half-heartedly at times. Nothing says “You matter” like eye contact.
4. Run interference for him. One thing that zaps Luke’s energy is pettiness. Sisterhood, can we agree that most drama originates in the female half of the species? When foolishness is brewing among the women, I do my best to quash the problem without Luke having to become involved (and many times not even aware). On those occasions when he’s caught on Sister A is ticked at Sister B, he is always grateful to be relieved of the awkwardness that is a conversation with warring women.
5. Make home a relaxing place. Keeping it real, making a peaceful home has really been an area where I’ve been convicted of many times throughout life. Our out-of-control schedule has often resulted in bad attitudes and a stressed out family. And Sunday mornings, are you kidding me? As the wife, whether I like to accept the mission or not, it is my job to change the mood in my home. On Sunday mornings, television is not allowed. We turn on Christian music to set the tone for worship. Just this past week, I’ve started to get a handle on overflowing drawers and closets and have started some meal planning so we can hopefully have more dinners at the table in the coming weeks. I’ve also refused some activities we would have otherwise loved to attend because I recognize over-scheduling is at the root of all the other chaos. (Edited to add: Since the original writing of this article, I have begun working full-time outside the home. Let’s just say this topic deserves a full article and I am going to add that to the list of ones I have running in my mind. Tips anyone for keeping all the balls in the air?)
6. Keep his Sundays sacred. I have a hard and fast rule not to nag Luke on Sundays. I’ve done it in the past and can testify that a good fight before he is supposed to preach is a true Spirit dampener. I’ve had to pray long and hard about it, but I can honestly say God has enabled me to release Luke to do his thing on Sundays without resenting him for leaving me home with the four kids to get ready by myself. Whatever it takes, resist giving in to feelings of self-pity on the Lord’s Day. In other words, suck it up. Obviously, I’m not trying to minimize how hard it can be to feel like you are going it alone. However, there are six other days of the week to have that discussion with your husband. Sundays are off limits.
7. Be spiritually mature. This is a pre-requisite to being able to resist feelings of self-pity and neglect we just spoke of that can sometimes rear their ugly heads. I’m not saying they shouldn’t exist because our hubbies can become so ministry-minded they are no good at home. Obviously, that should never be, and I’m not at all suggesting you should remain silent if your home and relationship are suffering. But, I cannot tell you the number of ministry wives with whom I am acquainted who expect their husbands to be their Jesus. These men become the target of their wives’ own spiritual/relational neediness who consequently nag him any time a situation and/or meeting forces him to be away from home. Girls, if you want to truly encourage your husband, be filled in your own relationship with the Father so that you overflow on him instead of suck him dry every time he hits the door. Have girlfriends and outside interests to meet the relationship needs your husband wasn’t designed to satisfy. For Pete’s sake, maybe even release him to do something fun (play golf, watch a ball game with man friends) that he doesn’t have to feel guilty for doing. I love that Luke ministers as the high school football chaplain because I know he needs something he enjoys to relieve stress. I could pout because I have to go it alone at football games but I choose to be grateful God has given him the opportunity to minister and do something he flat out loves. Ultimately, he’s the better husband for it.
At the end of the day, our husbands need to know that we are on their side and support the work to which they are called. (And can I add this advice is not limited to ministry marriages?) Try a few of these seven things and watch his smile brighten!
**Once upon a time I wrote a series of articles for ministry wives based on common topics of email questions I receive. These articles were first published at Christian Women Online but I am reposting them here for those of you who may find them helpful. I would love to hear some fresh conversation on these subjects!**
An anonymous sister asked,
“Few people realize the dilemma of a pastor’s wife. Her husband is the ONLY preacher/pastor that she ever has! This is great, if he is a good preacher, but what if he is not that great a preacher? Is she doomed to spiritual starvation and boredom as she sits through his sermons each week?”
By asking if she is “doomed to spiritual starvation and boredom,” I am assuming this pastor’s wife is looking for permission to attend another church where she perceives she will be neither spiritually hungry nor bored. I find no biblical support for making this move.
Let’s turn the tables on this one. Let’s say you love to cook and find great joy in preparing meals for your family. Imagine now that your husband informs you that his mother’s cooking is much better than your own and, in order to satisfy his hunger with the best food, he will start eating supper at her home every night.
It’s tempting to respond with, “YES! It’s pizza tonight, kids!” However, before you do, truly consider what his decision would do to you as a woman. Personally, I would be devastated to think I had really tried and my husband chose the better meatloaf at the expense of my dignity. I believe this is the same concept as leaving your husband’s church for another just to find “a better meal.”
Two phrases stuck out to me in the initial question: spiritual starvation and boredom. I think there are ways we can avoid either without taking the drastic measure of seeking nourishment outside the family.
1. Go to church full. Early in Luke’s ministry, he and I served in a church that did not have the greatest of preachers. He was an excellent pastor, but his teaching skills were lacking. I remember clearly Luke and I concluding that God was preparing us for servant leadership by getting us used to feeding ourselves instead of expecting someone else to do it for us. Luke has stated many times over the years that a Christian will never survive on one thirty-minute sermon per week. The purpose of Sunday worship is to come in to God’s house overflowing with what He has revealed to us through a week’s worth of personal study and prayer. If we come in starving, we will still leave with a growling belly.
2. Don’t force your husband into a role he isn’t meant to fill. As much as I love Luke and his teaching, his sermons are not the meat of my Christian walk. I love to hear him expose a passage for my deeper understanding and discipleship but he is not God to me, nor does he seek to be. If I seek spiritual fulfillment based only on how effectively he demonstrates his calling, then yes, I will always be disappointed and perhaps even bored. However, our joy as pastor’s wives should be found in upholding our husbands’ ministries while exercising our personal gifts.
3. Be honest about your reasons for not following your husband. I read several forums in preparation to write this article and it’s obvious there are many reasons pastor’s wives choose not to attend their husband’s church. The most common scenario is a woman being deeply attached to a congregation where she was a member before her husband was called to minister. Because of her long history and love for that body, she is hesitant to depart.
To this Scripture only says one thing: Leave and cleave. (Genesis 2:24) Your place is by your husband. Period.
Another reason is the wife not believing her husband is truly ‘called’ to ministry and that he is perhaps pursuing it in vain ambition. Also noted is that she knows that her husband is not the man he proclaims to be in the pulpit and she refuses to reinforce the lie.
These situations are tough at best. The Bible does not call us to submit to ungodliness. Honestly, I think the answer to this question is as varied as the individual circumstance. If marital strife, deceit, or heaven forbid, abuse, has you feeling you can’t sit in the same church body as your husband, then my advice is to seek godly Christian counseling to determine the next step. There are many low-cost or free resources available. The Parsonage (www.parsonage.org) is a ministry of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and is a great resource I recommend to find support for the pastor’s family.
I believe with all my heart God’s desire for the minister includes his entire family worshipping in one body. If you find yourself feeling empty, consider beginning a women’s Bible study group. You may just find that the measures you take to curb your own spiritual appetite will serve to feed others as well. That is true ministry and I promise, once embraced it will be the great thrill of your Christian life. In fact, I’d be willing to bet you’ll forget all about your husband’s lackluster sermons when you are pouring it out into the girls God has entrusted to your care.
Even if the man behind the pulpit happens to be your husband, ultimately, God is your pastor. I can’t think of another person more supremely qualified to lead you into righteousness than Him!
This past weekend I had the delight of serving the precious women of our Alabama SBC churches at the state’s Equip Conference. Equip is a great time to connect with old friends, make new ones and get some fantastic, practical training and encouragement for church ministry. It is sponsored by the Women’s Missionary Union (for those of you who know the lingo, WMU) whose leaders I count it a privilege to call friends. (I’m looking at you Candace, Pat, Becky, et al)
My workshop material was born out of the last year of my life where I’ve increasingly found myself with no time for Want To’s (ministry, writing, studying, church service, etc.) because I’m so bound up with Have To’s (job, cleaning, laundry, more laundry and did I mention cleaning?) All of our lists may have different particulars but the effect is the same – very little apparent time (we learned we have more time than we think) to feed the part of our soul that longs to be truly connected to God, our families and friends, and His people. This in turn can leave us us feeling a disappointed and maybe even grieved that life doesn’t look like what we envisioned for this season of our time on planet Earth.
I won’t rehash all the teaching but I did want to share a thought that was somewhat profound to me in dealing with the reality of having to be in certain environments or doing certain activities that don’t line up with where or what or with whom I would ideally be spending my efforts and hours.
I’ve been dwelling on the idea of displacement. Specifically I referenced the prophet Daniel who was living at ease in Israel when his people were overtaken by Babylon and deported to that country. He was appointed to three years of brainwashing which gratefully never took because he was a man of much more resolve than I ever hope to own. Daniel had a window in his upper room that faced Jerusalem (his true kingdom) and he never lost focus on the true reason he was in Babylon – to make God’s name great to a nation of self-indulgent people who bowed to golden statue fashioned as a mere man. To eunuchs with no family of their own charged with caring for four teenage boys that would not defile themselves with the king’s table. To a king whose boast turned him to beast. To a new king who couldn’t understand the handwriting on the wall. To co-workers who maligned him and had him unfairly punished because of bitterness and jealousy.
Daniel never played the martyr or lost sight of the fact that his displacement was simply the means by which God transported a faithful man to proclaim His Name to an unreached people. I think about our missionaries serving in places all over the globe – many of them connecting with individuals through jobs that seem unrelated to Jesus. But they were not sent to get wrapped up in daily stresses of being great medical personnel or English teachers or other civilian pursuits. The job is not the reason they are there….the people are. The work was simply the vehicle that delivered Jesus into their midst.
That simplistic thought may mean nothing to you but it was a game-changer for me. What if I began living a displaced life? Thinking displaced thoughts? This past year has in no way lined up with my fairytale delusions about what activities would characterize my days or what life and ministry would look like right now. Though I enjoy my job and adore my co-workers, being in a workplace has felt like a huge Have To until I realized any place He puts me can be a Want To if I realize where I am has nothing to do with the job but everything to do with Him.
Since the handwriting has been translated, He is teaching me to look beyond the daily office grind and not just see a job that consists of doing what I have to do but seeing people I want to serve who are looking for grace and peace and love and understanding and encouragement and Jesus in a place they least expect to find Him.
Just a peek through Daniel’s window and suddenly the Kingdom is much clearer.
I hope you can see it, too.