I knew everything was about to change, and there was nobody I could tell.
I may have been surrounded by hundreds of people I did life with…Bible studies, baby showers, weddings and community events… but I had never felt so alone.
I’ve told this story before, but I want to tell it again, this time from a different angle.
During the months when I knew John was going to be stepping down from the lead pastor position at Infusion Church in Escondido, California, I suffered from a lack of deep and long-term connections. There was no person I trusted to tell what I was going through — not even my sister, and I tend to tell her everything. Early in our church planting ministry I had gone through a phase where I told the people of the church everything, and it hadn’t served me well. Now I told people nothing, and that wasn’t working, either.
If you are a pastor’s wife, you probably understand this dilemma. Tell too much, and people jump all over you. Tell too little, and you feel isolated and alone.
The problem is, sometimes there are things you don’t want to reveal about your family or husband. We can’t pay our rent this month…my husband isn’t paying attention to me the way I wish he would…my husband’s faith is shaken and he is really struggling…my kids are making terrible choices…I am feeling so depressed… and the list of possible sins or struggles we don’t dare reveal goes on. As pastor’s wife, you don’t want to be the one to make people question your family’s commitment to Christ or your husband’s leadership. You don’t want to make a bigger deal out of your trials than you should. So you keep quiet. When your family calls and asks, “How’s everything going?” you answer as simply as possible. “Things are fine. We’ve been busy.”
This tendency needs to change for the well-being of your own family and soul. I don’t mean reverting back to my early behavior of having a fire hydrant for a mouth. I mean, there has to be a way to have someone in your life who can handle your truth. It is essential to have someone in your life who you trust with your deepest, most painful prayer requests. It should be someone who can see you and/or your husband or kids in an honest light, and someone who won’t gossip or judge. We are all sinners saved by grace. That means, pastors and families in church leadership will have struggles and dark moments.
I have two rules about finding this person or persons to confide in. Your go-to person cannot be a family member, and it cannot be a person who goes to your church. Why not, you ask? Because as a pastor’s wife, your life can change at any time. If your husband gets a calling at a new church, you’re going to have to move and start over. If your husband takes a new leadership position in a new city, you’re going to have to move and start over. If your husband fails in some area, you don’t want your family to judge him harshly. So, if it can’t be someone in your church, and you shouldn’t be telling your sister every detail of your life, who should it be?
I believe the answer lies in networking with other people in the same position as you. If you are a church planter’s wife, there are enormous benefits from networking and spending time and pouring energy into the lives of other church planter’s wives. But, you barely have enough time to get the kids to school, go to work, and take care of your family. I know. However, the benefits you will reap from putting yourself out there to a network of women who are going through the same thing as you will be huge. Other church planter wives know what it feels like to rip your family out of the city you love to start a new ministry. Other church planter wives feel alone, and feel judged at times. Other church planter wives get the fact that your husband works more than full time and occasionally (or frequently) doesn’t receive a pay check. They know. They have been through many of the same things you have been through. Get connected to these women who know.
I have a new role with an organization called Gospel Ventures where I can help you get connected to other women in your area. Get in touch with us, or find other women around you and get connected. You won’t regret the time you spend doing this. Having other women who understand you and pray for you will strengthen you in your ministry. It will help you with the long race God has called you to run.
I’ll end this post with a scripture to encourage you. When God used Paul to build the early church, he was in the habit of sending people to different churches to see what was going on, and how they were doing. In connecting with other women in ministry, you are acting as the early church acted. You are knowing others in ministry and being known by them, too.
In Paul’s final greetings he tells the church,“So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.” Ephesians 6:21-22 ESV
I encourage you, dear planter’s wife, listen to how others are doing. Tell your story, too. Be encouraged by others in ministry. It will bring peace and unity, and in your darkest moments, you will know prayers are being whispered for you. Praise be to Jesus!