Lessons Learned From a Ministry Wife

I thought I'd play along and join Kelly's SUYL Link up this weekend because it's all about being a ministry wife.  And unless you've never visited my little blog before, you already know that I am one :) But now that I've got a few years under my belt, I thought I'd share some things I wish I would have known going into this life of ours...

Today my husband is a full time Youth Pastor.  His new title is Preaching Pastor to Students, meaning he teaches all of our students from 7th-12th grade, but he still oversees all things Junior High!  We've been at our current church for 6 years now and we love it.  My husband was not in full time ministry when we met, but it wasn't very long before I realized that was definitely where he was headed and if I wanted a future with him, then I was headed there too!  I was 23 when we got married and I defnitely had NO idea what I was signing up for.  Would I change my mind if I could do it all over again???  No.  He is doing what he loves to do, but more importantly, he is fulfilling the calling that God created him for.  I'm so grateful that he loves being a Pastor and although there have been lots of ups and downs, I know he couldn't imagine doing anything else.  So generally speaking, no, I wouldn't change a thing...except maybe all of my preconceived ideas about what this life was going to be like!  ha ha :)

If I could sit down with my 23 year old self, here are some of the things I would say to her, before she said "I do" :

-Youth ministry is incredibly FUN!  And demanding.  Your schedule will never look like anyone else's schedule.  Sometimes that is a blessing, but sometimes it's hard.  Learning to be flexible and embrace a non-traditional life is a discipline that will take time and experience to adapt to.  Surprises and interruptions are a constant part of being in ministry.  It's not always easy to roll with the punches, but it's a good idea not to hold on to anything too tightly.  Ministry brings lots of changes, which can be good but also unsettling and challenging.  Cling to Jesus and hold everything else loosely...

-One of the wisest things you can do is to immediately grow some thicker skin!  It is amazing how much criticism comes with loving someone in leadership.  There is nothing like having your husband's job performance be up for public scrutiny and having to shoulder the burden of being his cheerleader even when it feels like you're standing alone.  I learned the hard way that I cannot handle knowing all of the complaints or criticisms that come across his desk.  Early on I always wanted to know what people were saying but I quickly realized that I could not worship when I was so irritated or offended by the mere sight of someone who had been less than kind to my man.  Thankfully, God has grown me in this area and He has equipped Travis to discern what is helpful and what is just hurtful.  Hard seasons come and go in ministry life, but no matter where we find ourselves, the only way to be free of being hurt is to cling to the reminder that we answer to the Lord first.  If He is impressing something on Travis than we are wise to obey, no matter what other people think of us.  It doesn't always feel good to be in the eye of the storm but God will protect and defend you when you are faithful to Him. 

-It is good and healthy to develop friendships and support from fellow ministry wives on staff, but it is also a blessing not to be taken for granted.  Go deep with other wives, for the sake of staying connected to the Body and encouraging one another from a familiar place.  Keep it centered on the Word and how best to support your husbands and kids, so that it doesn't become a trap for gossip or anything that might cause division in the Church.  If you love each other with lots of grace, it's an incredibly rich blessing to stand with other ministry wives.  Make time for each other as often as you can! 

-Don't hold too tightly to your involvement once you have kids of your own.  What you once did, you will not be able to do after you have a baby.  In time you'll be able to participate in various ways, but for the good of your own family, it's important to pull back and devote yourself to the Lord, your husband and the kids.  Your kids are going to grow up feeling like they have to share their Dad, so it's critical that they don't feel that with you too.  Give them as much stability as possible and look for ways to plug in as your time and your own calling allows.  Be in agreement with your husband in this and pray about everything!  It's hard to find your footing for awhile but the Lord will show you what or if He wants you to do something in the Church... 

-Remember that your greatest ministry opportunity is actually within the walls of your home.  No one will love and care for your husband like you will or should and you cannot minister to other people if your own marriage is in shambles.  It's a dance to be available to people (esp students) in this digital age of constant access, while never letting your spouse and kids feel like they are secondary to ministry.  Go to great lengths to make life at home worth coming home too and make sure that no one gets more of your time than they do.  Even the Church. It's so easy to let this slide, but it's critical that it doesn't for the sake of everyone.  Don't make a living investing in other people while neglecting the gifts God has graciously given you.  The kids will grow up and leave one day, but hopefully you'll still have many years together.  Make sure you take care of your marriage now so that you'll enjoy it later! 

-There is NOTHING more important or worthy of your time and devotion than the Lord.  He is everything and in Him are all things.  Make Him your greatest pursuit and He will be faithful all of your days.  When you are hurting from all that life throws your way, including people in the Church, go to Him first and pour out your hurt.  He's a safe place to land.  When sacrifices are necessary and feel unfair, remember what He did for you and the great inheritance sealed for you on that great day.  When the nights are lonely and you shoulder the parenting alone, believe Him when He says He never leaves you and will give you the strength you need.  And when everyone else loves the Pastor but you, cling to the Covenant He established between you and choose to love. 

A dear Pastor's wife who was also a friend, once told me that when ministry was going well, it was often easy to engage and be involved.  But when ministry was hard and she was struggling, she stayed faithful for no other reason than this...God was worthy of it.  Serving Him, being obedient to Him, worshipping Him, dedicating a lifetime to all pales in comparison to what He's done for me.  On my worst day, He is worth all of it and then some.  I wouldn't change this life for another one and I wouldn't give up the privilege of being married to a Pastor for all the money in the world or the house of my dreams or the vacation of a lifetime.  I love this life and I'm thankful for it.  I'd be lying if I didn't say that I don't always have a great attitude about it or that I don't feel like I live up to what other people expect me to be.  But at the end of the day, for all that I lack, God gives more grace and unbelieveable blessing...

And He is worthy of everything I offer Him.
So grateful to be a Ministry Wife!


His Doorkeeper said...

Stephanie, Your insights are one of the best I've read yet!! You are certainly right on track for a ministry wife. Travis is a blessed man! God is good!


Unknown said...

Hi Stephanie, I love your blog...Beautiful. Very good post I did not notice how long you have been in ministry...but you sound seasoned.
I agree that we should minister to our own family's need first. We my husband was first sent out I made the mistake of putting women needs above my family. Looking back most of those women have moved on and I will have my husband and children forever and they need me. I love what you said about seeking God. I have always had a very close walk with him...on 1-24-12 our sixth child was stillborn, it has tested me to the core. However I am pressing in and will use this pain for good. Thank you for sharing, I did a post about pioneering a church in CA. if you would like to see what it has been like. If you do stop by would you mind leaving a comment on the good the bad and the beautiful...I am in a baby loss blog contest to win a memory box for my Jonathan

Darla said...

What wonderful wisdom! Way to have a godly perspective.

Faith said...

What a great post. You are such an encouragement to me. Love your heart!

Jill said...

hi, stephanie!

i stopped by from kelly's korner. i love your post...very true!

we spent only a few years doing the youth pastor was rough! but i think all areas of ministry can be hard at times.

thanks for the great post...i'm your newest follower :)


Laura said...

Yes! You are so right!!! Such wisdom. I've done college ministry for 11 years and would tell myself all the same things. Great post.

Stopping by from Kelly's. Nice to "meet" you.

Kathy said...

Stopped by from Kelly's link up. Your post is filled with so much insight and things similar in my life. I got married young also (at 18) and we went right into youth ministry. We did that for 4 years before pastoring (now we have been pastoring almost 11 years).
Thanks for Sharing!