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!