Last year around this time, I wrote a blog called “5 Things you should know about your Pastor”. It was by far the most widely read blog of the year, making it to countries all around the world. I was most surprised however, at how many pastor’s wives wrote me just to say, “thank you!” Some felt I had said what is so difficult for most people to say and others were just thankful for being understood. It’s a unique position that bears tremendous spiritual battle and sometimes, we just need to hear someone else say, “You’re not alone.”
My husband and I started our church 7 years ago with a few friends and a dream to reach a city for Christ. We worked tirelessly as others joined our efforts and we watched God build his church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Over the years of our church plant, we’ve learned a few things about how to not only survive “life in ministry”, but how to flourish.
- Take care of your family. One thing we consistently talk about in our home is that your faith has to become your own. My husband and I diligently teach our kids, pray with and for them, answer questions that they have about God and do our best to prepare them for this difficult world, but before long, they have to choose for themselves if they want to know God intimately as their Savior. I’m always sad to hear of pastor’s kids who have walked away from the faith, wondering if they had ever really known the God I know. You must cultivate a gracious environment so that your kids can ask you any and everything-even when they aren’t so sure about God. We’ve had some really good conversations after one of our kids has said, “How do I really know God is real?” or “What if I’m not sure I want to obey Him?” I’m glad they are asking “real” questions. This is a great opportunity to show them scripture and explain how our belief in God ultimately comes down to faith in what Jesus Christ did on the cross…and then we pray like crazy! (Hebrews 11:1) How sad if pastors spend more time equipping those in his church than in his own family.
- Take care of your physical health. How many pulpits are filled with overweight, unfit, and sedentary pastors? The answer is pretty obvious. If you’re going to lead others spiritually, you must set a good example by being a good steward with your own body. “The Biggest Loser” recently reported that 80% of America is obese. Our diets lack real nutrition and we live sedentary lifestyles. That’s a staggering statistic! Most of us have struggled with weight at one time or another, but let’s just be honest and admit that you can’t eat out 8 times a week (even for pastoral counseling or mentorship meetings) and expect to stay in shape, unless you make some healthy and intentional food choices while you’re there. My husband and I decided to challenge ourselves this Fall with our first full marathon. This was after he looked at a picture of himself with what he calls “a tire” hanging over his belt and decided he was “fat”. Now, we’re not only running together, we’re also dropping pounds together and it has been so much fun!
- Take care of your mental health. The more leaders I talk to, the more I realize how important caring for your mental health is. How can you lead well if you are discouraged, have pent-up anger, or anxiety consuming you? My husband is very open about discussing how anxiety nearly consumed him several years ago. It was a difficult time for us as a couple, but with the help of a few trusted friends and a counselor who will surely receive extra rewards in heaven, he is healthier than I’ve ever known him to be. Before we made it to Raleigh, some mentors told my husband, “Find a good counselor as soon as you hit town. If you don’t need them now, you will soon.” They were right!! My only regret is that we didn’t find him sooner! You can’t put a price tag on living in freedom!
- Take care of your soul. Many pastors and their families are notorious for being servant-hearted souls. But they get tired and simply can’t always give out. In order for a pastor and his family to be truly healthy, they need time away, time to decompress the stresses and frustrations of ministry life, and also time to be “fed” spiritually themselves. Besides a night or two here and there to nurture our own relationship, my husband and I try to get to some sort of leadership conference (together) every 18 months or so. I’d love for it to be more often, but we have young children. Those times away fuel us for months as other pastors speak into our lives from God’s word. I was so touched the last time we sat at a conference when a pastor named Ryan Gold from Denver, Colorado prayed passionately for us and for our ministry. I could barely stop the tears flowing down my cheeks as he said, “Amen”, because I couldn’t remember the last time someone had prayed for us in that way. We often pray with others, but to feel “pastored” ourselves was unforgettable! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a few people in every church made it their priority to humbly serve the pastors and their families by praying for them?
I am so grateful for the many pastors who are humbly serving the local church, God’s “Plan A” to reach this world for Christ. Please encourage your pastor and his wife by sharing this with them!