Now that we have completed the first year of church planting and I can look back with perspective on one of the hardest years of my life, I hurt for those who are going through the first year without this understanding. I wish I had had someone to come alongside me and tell me these truths and challenge me to live them out. I pray that this will be of some benefit to a new or future church planter’s wife, unaware of the part she will play, oblivious to the enemy’s schemes, perhaps lonely and without a mentor or close friend.
Your ministry is primarily your husband (who happens to be a pastor). Being the wife that he wants you to be to your children and in your home may not allow you to be the incredible minister’s wife that you envisioned. You may have imagined yourself running the women’s ministry and heading up a Titus 2 program, or maybe you simply imagined yourself getting to church on time with 3 kids in tow (did I mention dressed nicely and hair combed?)! Either way, defer to your husband’s expectations for you and follow his lead. Communicate with your husband about your gifts and passions and find out how they can be used to serve the church and at what capacity you will be able to serve without sacrificing your family or spreading yourself too thin. Our husbands may keep us from the burden of our own unrealistic expectations. A faithful wife and mom finds many open doors for ministry without having an official title or position.
You share in their calling, you are their helpers in ministry, and you have a unique position to walk with your husband in this calling. While this statement is absolutely true, no one else but you, your husband, and other ministry couples know it. Some people will only see your husband and ignore you. You may even have people come over for a meal and talk to your husband the whole time. I have actually had this happen. It is very humbling to realize that only you and your husband (and a select few) know that it’s a shared calling and the part that you play. The enemy can even use this to make you feel like you aren’t as connected to your husband as you should be because of his line of work, saying, “You must not be connected since he keeps so much from you,” “You really aren’t a part of this calling,” and “He lives a separate life from you and the kids.” The enemy strategically attacks in this area with the goal of weakening the marriage and possibly creating identity issues in the minds of pastors’ wives. The call of God to plant a church is on your entire family, and He alone will bring the task to completion. God will use your specific gifts, imperfections, encouragement, support, prayers, and your commitment to the call to build your local church body. Although you may never be recognized from the pulpit for all that you do, we serve a God who sees, and He sees all that you do and all that you sacrifice, and He is honored by your selfless service to the body. Don’t allow the enemy to rob you of the joy it is to be your husband’s helper in the ministry and to see it as a unique position that is often undervalued by men but of incredible value to our husbands and to God.
You are qualified because God thinks so not because you think so. Feelings of insecurity will arise because you will be tempted to compare yourself with other pastors’ wives or women in the church who you feel are more prominent than you. The enemy will then come in and latch onto these insecurities and turn them into lies. At times, you will feel that you are not an adequate “pastor’s wife” because you are not as helpful to your husband (in the church aspect) as other women who serve the church. Stand on the truth of the Word in those moments. Your identity comes through being a daughter of Christ, recognizing that it is only by His grace that you are saved. Any good that you are able to do as a wife, mother, and church member is to bring Him glory. Any other motives are just another reason to run to the cross and continue on in thankfulness for the grace you are afforded. God may very well use our weaknesses to display His glory all the brighter. Praise God that recognizing our weaknesses is not in vain! Your identity should not coincide with being the church secretary or hospitality team leader. If you can do those things at no expense to your spiritual growth, husband, home, and family, and not cling to them for importance, then prayerfully consider doing them, but if those things are your lifeline and make you feel adequate, those things need to be reevaluated. Our role, whether in the church or in the home, does not define us; Christ defines us. In our new identity in Christ, we are covered in His blood and spotless, looked upon with delight by our Heavenly Father toward His daughter.
You should be a source, not a drain. You have the opportunity to offer comfort to your husband in a way that no one else can. They need us to be a source of comfort and respect, not a drain on their physical, emotional, and spiritual capacity. I had no clue that as my husband was shepherding me and the rest of our church, I would be the one safe place he would come to receive comfort, encouragement, and shepherding, essentially “pastoring” him through the ins and outs of everyday ministry, as one who knows him and will always be by his side. Many other people in his life will be telling him areas he needs to improve, ways he can shepherd better, and some may be critical of him. Will you be an additional burden in your husband’s life that he has to bear, or can you be the one person who is a source and replenishment to his mind, soul, and body?
You will have unique opportunities to minister to people in the church because of your husband’s position. You have a great advantage here. Many women will see you and simply because of who your husband is, come to you for advice, spiritual care, and prayer. Use this to your advantage and allow the word of God to soak up in you so that you will have His words to say in time of need. It is a great blessing and joy to minister alongside my husband in this way, as well. Often, we have people in need of spiritual care come over to talk with both of us. Especially in the case of women coming over, God has seen fit to use me to be His literal hands and feet by comforting cries with warm hugs, touches, and prayers over hurting women in our body, ministering to them in ways that my husband is unable to. God has a purpose and a calling for wives to come alongside our husbands. Let’s make good use of the opportunities we will have.
There have been various points in the past year where I found myself clinging to the call from God for my husband and me to plant this church. The call was more distant and fading into the background of our current trials. Surely, this wasn’t still the call, was it? I am so thankful that God, in His mercy, found it pleasing to give us the strength to endure. I can look back with thankfulness in the ways that God grew us, utilizing our circumstances to dredge up sin that would have otherwise stayed hidden until prompted by something else. My shortcomings and weaknesses were there all along, it simply took church planting to bring them to the surface. I pray that as your weaknesses surface, you will cling to God and His calling upon you and your husband as you journey through your first year of church planting. And the most wonderful news…
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.“ 1 Peter 1:6-7
Understand that while going through the first year of church planting or other trials, your soul, your marriage, and your identity have the potential to come out of the trial all the better for it. Don’t let this trial be in vain; allow God to make it a year of sanctification and refinement, which will result in more praise, glory, and honor due to Jesus now and in the last days. No matter how smooth or rough our transition into planting a church is, there will be trials along the way. We can rest knowing we don’t have to worry, strive, prove, be in control, fear, look elsewhere; we can find hope and rest in God, the same God who called us to church planting and sees it through.